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School board needs to regain public’s trust, candidate says

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CLAYTON — Kenon Crumble has one overarching goal if elected to the Johnston County Board of Education. “I want to regain the community’s trust,” he said in an interview.

In recent months, the school board has done much to erode trust it once enjoyed, including depleting the school system’s cash reserves, Crumble said. “It’s the taxpayers’ money, and it went missing,” he said, adding that money shouldn’t “just disappear without someone being held accountable.”

The board also lost trust, Crumble said, when it shrouded in secrecy an investigation into grade-fixing at Clayton High School, where 13 students received diplomas without the proper number of credits. “Thirteen students who received a diploma shouldn’t have,” he said. “The head football coach resigned. The superintendent resigned. The principal got transferred. Something happened.”

But no one outside the school system’s leadership knows exactly what took place, Crumble said. “Does the community know? No,” he said. “We all can speculate about what happened, but we really don’t know what happened because there was no transparency.”

“This is how you lose your community, Crumble said. “Had we been transparent, the parents, the students would not have been in an uproar. But we weren’t transparent.”

The school system’s leadership did a disservice to those 13 students, Crumble said. “I just don’t understand how, as leaders in this community, we failed the kids at Clayton High School,” he said. “Those 13 kids probably went off to college, and we had to reach out to their parents and tell them their kids didn’t graduate.”

In its investigation into grade fixing, the school system’s leadership also did a disservice to Clayton High Principal Bennett Jones, Crumble said. “They did two private surveys to the teachers behind the principal’s back, and that destroyed due process,” he said.

“You have a principal who says he was defamed and harassed. That’s a good possibility,” Crumble said. “It doesn’t seem like he received due process.”

“I’m flabbergasted to how the leaders can fail a community like this,” he added.

Clearly, the schools need new leadership, Crumble said. “There is so much going on in the school system, how do we fix it?” he asked. “To me, we start from scratch. We get leaders who can come in and uplift the community, uplift these families, support the students, support the teachers and put Johnston County public schools first.”

“We have a lot a work to do,” Crumble added. “I’ve never been part of an embattled school district like Johnston County schools, and it’s very unfortunate.”

While restoring the public’s trust in the school board, Crumble also wants to raise teacher supplements,. “Our teachers here are fleeing to surrounding counties because their pay is higher,” he said. “Johnston County schools are very attractive. They should have one of the highest supplements in the area, but it’s actually one of the lowest supplements within the area.”

Crumble said supplements in Johnston should be on par with those in the Wake County and Chapel Hill schools. “Our teachers are struggling, which is something that needs to be looked at,” he said.

If he were doing the hiring, Crumble said, Johnston’s next superintendent of schools would look much like Jim Causby, who was interim superintendent until he abruptly resigned, citing interference from board members.

“If Dr. Causby hadn’t come, could you imagine where we’d be right now?” Crumble said. “He saw what was going on at Clayton High School, he saw the budget shortfall.”

Also, Causby’s budget trimming likely saved some Johnston County teachers their jobs, Crumble said. “That’s an absolute no-no,” he said of laying off teachers. “We cannot destroy families because we did not project the budget the way we’re supposed to project it.”

Causby did the right thing in asking county commissioners for more money, Crumble added. “It’s not the teachers’ fault,” he said. “We cannot blame the teachers for this budget shortfall.”

In short, Johnston schools could use someone like Causby at the helm, Crumble said. “If we could get someone with the same pedigree as Dr. Causby, we’d be OK,” he said.

About Kenon Crumble

Born Nov. 11, 1977, in New York City, Kenon Crumble grew up on Staten Island. He holds a bachelor’s degree in information systems from Monroe College and a master’s degree in school counseling from Long Island University.

A resident of Johnston County for more than 18 months, Crumble is a school counselor with the N.C. Department of Public Safety.

He and his wife Jocelyn have been married for more than seven years, and they have two children, ages 6 and 5. Also, Crumble has three children from a previous relationship. Their ages are 22, 21 and 18.