'Bring Bennett Back!' Clayton High students rally to save principal's job

CLAYTON, N.C. (WTVD) -- A day-and-a-half after Clayton High School parents got that stunning email from district offices that the school's very popular principal, Dr. Bennett Jones, was being transferred, they've been up in arms.

But Wednesday night was all about the kids. A student-led event outside the school. A loud last-ditch effort to save their principal's job.

"We want to know why. Why our principal isn't here anymore," said Clayton junior Marcus Coats, one of the rally organizers.

Co-organizer Stephen Lines added, "We want our principal back. We want our principal back!"

And that was the rallying cry of the dozens of Clayton High School students who spent this summer night rallying outside their school chanting "Bring Bennett back!

Dr. Jones, after three years at the helm at CHS, was suddenly transferred to a district office position.

Students and parents insist he was unfairly forced out by the superintendent amid an ongoing investigation into alleged grade-fixing to keep CHS athletes eligible to play.

"With all the allegations, a lot of the community has split up, separated ways," Coats said. "But this is bringing everyone together as you can see."

Tuesday night, the Johnston County School Board voted to approve Jones' transfer out of CHS -- even as parents rallied outside to fight it.

And Wednesday night, they were back - signing on to a petition to present to the school board, carrying signs, wearing T-shirts with Dr. Jones' face, and bearing stories, like Mary Darlington and her son Caleb - who believe Jones' leadership at the school, like the "Comet Time" study period, turned his academic life around.

"For the first time in my academic life, I got all As," Caleb said. "So that really helped. I credit Dr. Jones with that."

Mary Darlington added, "When Caleb came into Clayton, it totally changed his personality. He is happy to come to school. And this is from a kid we had to drag out of the bed to go to school. And he loves it. And Dr. Jones is great with the kids as you can tell right here."

Johnston County Schools remains tight-lipped about why Dr. Jones was removed. The district is only telling ABC11 that it can't comment on confidential personnel matters.

We asked the rally organizer if he was hopeful the students' efforts could change the district's mind.

"If it doesn't it's still a voice," Coats said. "(Dr. Jones) can't speak publicly like we are. We're his voice."
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