Ross Renfrow gained two titles Monday – doctor, when he successfully defended his dissertation from East Carolina University, and superintendent of Johnston County Schools.
The county board of education chose Renfrow to succeed outgoing superintendent Ed Croom, who announced last month he will retire March 1, 2016.
“I’m humbled and appreciative to the board,” Renfrow said after the unanimous vote naming him Johnston County’s next superintendent. “I appreciate the trust and faith the board has in our ability to lead this district.”
Renfrow now serves as the district’s deputy superintendent and was the only candidate the board of education interviewed for the top post. His hiring marks the second consecutive internal hire for superintendent, with the popular Croom following a similar ascension when tapped to lead the schools in 2008.
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“The board wanted to go internally, if possible,” board chairman Larry Strickland said. “We held one meeting and discussed strategies for finding our next superintendent. We identified several individuals in that meeting, and David Ross Renfrow was quickly determined to be the best choice. His job as deputy superintendent has him handling a lot of the day-to-day operations, and we think he can lead us in a way that’s very similar to Ed Croom.”
Johnston County’s Board of Education might have preferred to hang on to Croom, who said he was retiring so as not to lose potentially thousands of dollars in retirement benefits, but felt Renfrow represented the best option for staying the course. Croom seemed pleased with the hire.
“This is a day any leader would be proud of,” Croom said. “Ross is instrumental in the day-to-day running of the schools. If I were to walk away today I wouldn’t worry about where this district is heading.”
Renfrow is a 22-year veteran of Johnston County Schools, but began his career in Wilson as a teacher and coach at E.T. Beddingfield High School in 1988. In Johnston County he taught at South Johnston and Princeton High Schools before moving into the administration of Corinth-Holders High School in 1998. He later served as principal of North Johnston High School, from where he’s a 1983 graduate, and Corinth-Holders. He’s been in the district’s front office since 2012.
“It’s not about the individual, it’s about the district,” Renfrow said. “This goes to show that one of our own can be superintendent – that doesn’t happen everyday. It speaks well for our school system, community and citizens.”
Renfrow said there were likely more similarities between himself and Croom than there are differences. But he said, in taking over the position, he would work collaboratively with those in the district and consider every option for bettering Johnston County Schools. Renfrow’s tenure looks to be one of significant growth to the district’s 34,000 student enrollment, but he said growth is one of those good problems.
“Growth is a great problem to have – I welcome growth,” Renfrow said. “Ultimately, we want what’s best for the students and want to do whatever it takes so that when they have their diplomas, they’re ready.”
Strickland said Renfrow’s compensation would be the same as Croom's when he took over as superintendent. That contract offers the state maximum for superintendents with doctorate degrees, $139,284, plus a local supplement of $20,000, for a total salary about $159,000.
Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, ext. 104; @jdrewjackson