Johnston County schools probe felon’s hire as teacher, coach

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SMITHFIELD — Johnston County Public Schools says it’s conducting an internal investigation into how a convict with false credentials slipped through its vetting cracks and become a social studies teacher and assistant softball coach at Cleveland High School. He was also an assistant varsity football coach.

Torains Adaryll Hughes, 40, of Garner, resigned last November without giving a reason. Johnston County sheriff’s deputies arrested him June 20 on a charge of obtaining property by false pretense. His first appearance on the charge is scheduled for July 18 in Johnston County Superior Court.

School system spokeswoman Crystal Roberts said Hughes began serving as a volunteer coach for varsity softball and football on July 5, 2017. From Aug. 14 through Nov. 17 of that year, Hughes served as a non-faculty assistant varsity football coach.

From March 19 to Nov. 2, 2018, Hughes was a social studies teacher and an assistant faculty softball coach.

“Johnston County Public Schools is unable to provide specific comments since this is a pending law enforcement matter,” said Roberts, who referred questions to law enforcement and prosecutors.

Johnston County sheriff’s Capt. Jeff Caldwell said his office conducted an eight-month investigation in which authorities put the pieces together about Hughes’ faked credentials.

Hughes attended Lafayette College but never received a degree. He also said on his application that he’d never been convicted of any criminal violations. But the sheriff’s investigation revealed Hughes had multiple out-of-state felony and misdemeanor convictions.

Board of Education Chairman Mike Wooten said the school board appreciates the human resources department’s handling of the situation.

“They were initially investigating this matter when it came to their attention, and reporting this matter to law enforcement immediately upon discovery of certain matters,” said Wooten. “HR will continue to assist law enforcement and prosecutors in any way either agency asks for.”

Wooten said the school system takes the application process for prospective employees seriously.

“All candidates must complete an online, statewide application to apply for positions available within Johnston County Public Schools,” said Wooten. “Once recommended, the district employs an outside vendor to perform background checks. The school system works with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction for licensure purposes. Candidates provide reference information through the application process. Human resources reviews submitted electronic reference forms and also conducts phone interviews to verify work experience and performance.”

The school district’s human resources department regularly reviews its processes and procedures for employment, said Wooten.

“In addition to working with our current background vendor, the department has been communicating with other vendors throughout the state to discuss their processes, procedures and costs as well,” said Wooten.

The outside vendor used by Johnston County Public Schools is Mount Airy-based Edwards & Associates.

A request for comment yielded an automated email response. Questions posed to the company were not answered in time for this story.