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Johnston schools marginalizing African American administrators

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Honorable Chairman Mike Wooten, distinguished members of the Johnston County Board of Education and Superintendent Dr. Ross Renfrow, thank you for the appointment of this time for a statement of concern regarding the marginalization of African American professionals in the Johnston County school administration.

Good evening, my name is Reginald Holley. I am a member of the Johnston County Education Summit. The Summit is an informal think tank focused on student development and education achievement in Johnston County and whose members include clergy, business and civic leaders, along with two former members of the Johnston County Board of Education. Since its inception, the Summit has conducted a series of study meetings, including talks with Dr. Renfrow, Chairman Wooten, board member Ron Johnson and, just recently, board member Dr. Peggy Smith.

These discussions have related to the ongoing marginalization of African American leaders in the superintendent’s administration and the appalling exclusion of African Americans among traditional high school principalships. Further, we find most disturbing that the ongoing marginalization of African American professionals in our Johnston County school system not only places little value on African American professionals but severely undermines any efforts to achieve diversity throughout the school system.

There are numerous examples of marginalization of African American professionals in the Johnston County school system. Summit member Dr. Robert O’Neal, in his remarks to you April 9, underscored a searing example of a celebrated African American elementary school principal who had been marginalized and placed in the Superintendent’s Human Capital Department, which houses diversity and recruitment. Let me share another example of marginalization.

Here is the story of Ron Anthony — a young, gifted African American who arrived in Johnston County in 2006, eager to become a principal and excited to make a difference in our education system. And what a profound difference he made. In 2014, Ron was appointed principal at Benson Middle School, a campus then plagued by academic and resource challenges along with low morale. Mr. Anthony rallied the students, parents and community ahead of moving his school from a low- to high-performance campus. The school became the jewel of the community, an incredible source of pride — a phenomenal achievement.

All this before Superintendent Renfrow moved Mr. Anthony — against his wishes — to a central office job where he became a subordinate to a supervisor with less leadership experience and was given a position with a long and fancy title with a short and uncertain job description. Principal Ron Anthony delivered a stellar performance. Superintendent Ross Renfrow presented him a demotion. Yet another case of marginalization.

The Summit’s position is that this Administration’s record shows ongoing marginalization of gifted African American professionals. In an 84-member administration, it has only one African American cabinet head and only four members of color. Among the eight traditional high schools, there are no African American principals.

Distinguished board members, the Johnston County Education Summit believes that your compass is set on fairness and respect for all. Our request is that you align this administration on the same course and with urgency.

Reginald Holley


Editor’s Note: The Johnstonian News is publishing the writer’s full, uncensored remarks to the school board after the chairman required an abbreviated version to be read during the May 14 meeting.