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Causby resigns, citing board interference

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SMITHFIELD — Jim Causby says he resigned as Johnston’s interim superintendent because he did not have the support of all school board members.

“I believe that there are members of the board who have fully supported me, and I appreciate them,” Causby said in a statement emailed to staff and students. “However, there are roadblocks and interference by others on the board which have impeded my ability to effectively fulfill my role as superintendent,” he said, without elaborating.

Causby thanked board Chairman Todd Sutton and board members Peggy Smith, Mike Wooten, Terri Sessoms and Tracie Zukowski, saying he had enjoyed their full support. Perhaps tellingly, he did not thank board members Ronald Johnson and Teresa Grant.

Johnson has said he suspects the schools of either committing or ignoring wrongdoing, including sexual harassment, and he has called for investigations. Grant, meanwhile, has called for a forensic audit of the school system’s finances.

Causby, a former superintendent of Johnston schools, returned to the county last September after the sudden retirement of Ross Renfrow.

“As I prepared for my arrival, I was informed that there were major budget needs, low morale and the need to return to a sense of normalcy for the students and staff of the system,” Causby said. “During my time in Johnston County Public Schools, I have aggressively worked to address these issues and was fully capable of bringing these issues to resolution.”

In other words, he didn’t need the school board diving into the details, and he told board members so.

“When I agreed to return to Johnston County Public Schools during this time of transition, I was clear that I needed to make decisions and oversee the daily operations of the school system, which was agreeable to the board,” he said.

Causby said he also cautioned the board that he would tolerate no interference in what were clearly his duties. “I ... discussed with the board ... that at any time I believed the board or individual board members would not allow me to effectively perform my job as superintendent that I would no longer agree to continue in this role,” he said.

His statement suggested that some school board members had lost sight of their role.

“The role of the superintendent is to operate and make decisions regarding the needs of the school system,” Causby said. “The role of the local board of education is to establish and adopt policies, budgets, and to oversee the governance of the system.”

Causby said he announced his resignation with regret. “I have not taken this decision lightly, and I continue to love the students, staff and citizens of Johnston County,” he said. “My long history in the school system has been one of the highlights of my career.”

Causby was to supposed to remain interim superintendent through June 30.

“I would like to thank the staff and administrators of Johnston County Public Schools, who I know work tirelessly each day for our students,” Causby said. “The students should be our focus, and I am hopeful that the board of education can begin to focus on the students, current needs and to move beyond the past to find a replacement who can provide stability to the school system.”

A couple of hours after Causby released his statement, Sutton, the school board chairman, issued one too. “It is with deep sadness that I accept the resignation of Dr. Jim Causby, interim superintendent,” he said.

“While this is a difficult time for Johnston County Public Schools, we ask for your support of the school system and our board ofeEducation as we take the necessary steps to move the school system forward.”

Sutton said he had called on one of Causby’s deputies, Brian Vetrano, to serve as acting superintendent.

“I remain positive and hopeful for the future of Johnston County Public Schools,” Sutton added. “I would like to thank Dr. Jim Causby for his tireless efforts to assist Johnston County Public Schools.”