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13 shouldn’t have graduated Clayton High

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SMITHFIELD — Clayton High School graduated 13 students who lacked the required number of credits to earn high school diplomas during June commencement, according to Johnston County Public Schools.

District spokeswoman Delores Gill said in a Friday news release that 13 students who were declared 2018-19 graduates didn’t earn the state’s minimum requirement of 22 credits to receive a high school diploma. Johnston County requires 28 credits.

Gill said Johnston County reported its findings to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction on Friday.

The school system is contacting the students involved and Gill said “will provide resources to assist them in resolving the credits needed.”

“I regret the situation with these students and assure them Johnston County Public Schools will do all they can to provide them every opportunity to meet these graduation requirement,” said Interim Superintendent Jim Causby.

Gill said graduation data from previous years at Clayton High is being examined.

“Any other requirements which have not been met will be self-reported to the Department of Public Instruction,” said Gill. “It is a requirement of each school to verify their graduation data in a report to the state each year.”

The graduation issue comes in the midst of an ongoing effort by Clayton parents and students to have former Principal Bennett Jones reinstated.

Former Superintendent Ross Renfrow transferred Jones to a central office position on Aug. 12. Previously, the school system conducted a 10-week investigation into an allegation of grade tampering to make a football player eligible for the season.

Former head football coach Hunter Jenks, who resigned on Aug. 13, said Renfrow told him the day before that no wrongdoing was uncovered.

School board Chairman Mike Wooten had no comment.

“We still can’t comment on the Bennett situation,” said Wooten. “Just know that Dr. Causby has to have time to review all the information in order to make sound decisions. That is the reason for the additional couple of weeks.”

Wooten wouldn’t say whether the graduation issue will factor into the decision to reinstate Jones or keep him in his current role.

Clayton High School parent and Bring Back Bennett leader Kim Winslow said the group of Jones supporters is very disappointed.

“We are very disappointed because Dr. Causby said he would evaluate the information fairly and objectively,” said Winslow. “How could this be released without even speaking to Dr. Jones or verifying the information with Clayton High School?”

Winslow said the graduation issue only magnifies community members’ distrust in the school system and calls the investigation’s competence into question.

“The timing of this release is curious since we just called out the validity of the investigation at the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday (Sept. 10),” said Winslow. “From everything they’ve told the media and have told us, that investigation is still open.

“How do they release this kind of statement if the investigation is still open? They want this tried in the court of public opinion to cast doubt in hopes of the Bring Bennett Back movement backing down, but they are sorely mistaken.”