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Schools probe allegation of grade-fixing on Clayton High football team

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SMITHFIELD — Johnston County Public Schools is investigating allegations of grade tampering to maintain a Clayton High School football player’s academic eligibility. 

School board Chairman Mike Wooten told the Johnsonian News that officials are taking the allegations seriously.

“Upon finding out these allegations, the board immediately directed the superintendent to begin his investigation and to leave no stone unturned,”  Wooten said on Friday.“Whether information of wrongdoings comes from a board member, employee, taxpayer, tip line, etc, they are all taken seriously and turned over for investigation.”

Clayton High head football coach Hunter Jenks said he couldn’t comment on an ongoing investigation.

“As soon as I can, I will be glad to sit down with you and tell you the facts,” said Jenks.

School board members Terri Sessoms and Tracie Zukowski said once the board was notified, they directed Superintendent Ross Renfrow to launch a thorough investigation.

The allegation has also been reported to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association. The NCHSAA policy states it’s “the responsibility of the principal to see that no ineligible player participates.”

The Johnstonian News contacted all school board members, Renfrow, school board attorney Jimmy Lawrence, Clayton High School Principal Bennett Jones, Comet Athletic Booster Club President Todd Moser and Clayton High PTA President Robin Williams and received no response. 

“This is a review of allegations of possible infractions within the school system; the review is ongoing, and we cannot comment on it at this time,” school system spokeswoman Crystal Roberts said. 

Wooten said the Johnston County Board of Education would not support retaliation against any whistleblower or witness. 

“The board would never knowingly support retaliation toward an employee for reporting illegal, unethical or immoral behavior,” said Wooten.  I will put the integrity and character of our current board makeup against any other board.”

Wooten promised transparency once the investigation is completed. 

“Normally, allegations are commented on after a complete investigation of the allegations that were made,” said Wooten. “I can assure you as board chair that the Board of Education will follow through to make sure Dr. Renfrow completes a full and complete investigation in a timely manner.”