A Beaufort County school superintendent finalist says he would improve test scores and graduation rates the same way he did in North Carolina -- by using technology to engage students and encourage creativity in the classroom to make lessons more meaningful.
"We changed the methodology in the classroom to personalize education," said Jeffrey Moss, superintendent of the 9,850-student Lee County Schools in Sanford, N.C.
Moss spoke Wednesday night during the first of three public forums for candidates seeking the school district's top post.
He has been praised for expanding classroom technology; establishing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curricula at all three middle schools; and with improving graduation rates.
Lee County, though, trailed statewide averages for the percentage of students at or above grade level on year-end and end-of-course tests, according its state report card.
Schools also lagged in meeting academic growth goals last school year, according to state data.
"As long as we're growing, that's good," Moss said. "When we stop growing, that raises the flags to determine what is -- or is not -- occurring in the classroom.
"What I do know ... is we need students engaged in the learning process," he said to a question about how he would to improve standardized test scores.
Moss would expand student use of technology, such as using a 3D printer, to the point they "can experience what its like to design, develop and make."
He supports school choice, including charters schools -- public schools that must meet all state and federal standards but receive flexibility -- so long as all schools are subject to the same rules.
"I think choice for parents and competition is good," Moss said, adding "give me the same flexibility as a charter school and ... you will see some tremendous things in our classroom."
He also said grade floors should only be used for the first grading period and only for extenuating circumstances. After that, "they (students) get the grade they earned."
Moss dismissed scrutiny over whether he cursed at two people at a political forum in October during a heated discussion of school finances. A video posted to YouTube shows Moss pointing his finger in the face of a parent who attended the forum, but it's not clear from the video whether Moss used profanity.
Moss denies using foul language, and the Lee County school board took no action following the incident. Moss said organizers sent the board a letter saying he did nothing unprofessional.
"I think the video was viewed by everyone outside of Lee County and very few inside of Lee County, because those inside Lee County knew exactly what happened," he said. "... Gentlemen in the audience said something to me and I told them they needed to get control of themselves."
Sun City Hilton Head resident and former school board candidate Bert Walker said he was impressed with Moss.
"He improved the graduation rate and decreased the dropout rate, which I'm hoping he can bring to this county," Walker said. "He was very articulate, well-spoken and knowledgeable. ... Obviously, a very long and strong background as superintendent."
The other finalists are Kathryn LeRoy, director of high school programs in Duval County Public Schools in Jacksonville, Fla., and Gloria Davis, superintendent of Decatur Public Schools in Decatur, Ill.
The board hopes to have a new superintendent under contract by the first week in March, board chairman Bill Evans said, although the selected candidate would probably not start until July 1.
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom