Three finalists are being considered to lead the Beaufort County School District. They are:
- Gloria J. Davis, currently superintendent of the 9,100-student Decatur Public Schools in Decatur, Ill.
- Kathryn LeRoy, currently director of high school programs for the 125,000-student Duval County Public Schools in Jacksonville, Fla.
- Jeffrey Moss, currently superintendent of the 9,850-student Lee County Schools in Sanford, N.C.
Beaufort County School District spokesman Jim Foster released the names Thursday afternoon. Each finalist will complete a second interview with the school board, meet district employees and participate in a public forum next week that will be televised lived on the Beaufort County Channel. Candidates will give a brief opening statement and then answer questions from live audience members and ones emailed by television viewers. The schedule of those forums has been adjusted:
- Moss' forum will be from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the district offices, 2900 Mink Point Blvd. in Beaufort
- LeRoy's forum will be from 7 to 8 p.m. Feb. 14 at the district offices, 2900 mink Point Blvd. in Beaufort
- Davis' forum will take place at the conclusion of the school board's Feb. 19 meeting at the Bluffton branch of the Beaufort County Library, 120 Palmetto Way. It is slated to start at 7:30 p.m.
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The public will be able to comment on the finalists using paper forms at the forums or electronic forms that will be posted to the school district’s website beginning Tuesday, according to a news release from the school district. Prior to each public forum, district educators will have the opportunity to meet that day’s featured finalist and ask questions.
School board Chairman Bill Evans reaffirmed his stance early Thursday that the board would only release names of superintendent finalists who agree to participate in another round of interviews with the board, despite a S.C. Supreme Court ruling that indicates the names must be released.
A 2007 S.C. Supreme Court ruling that says the public is entitled to see all materials collected for persons under final consideration — whether they choose to participate in further interviews or not, according to Jay Bender, attorney for the S.C. Press Association and a freedom of information expert.
Foster said the three named finalists represent the final pool of applicants selected by the board Wednesday to be considered for the district’s top spot.
"No one selected by the board to be a finalist declined to participate in another round of interviews," Foster said.
The school board selected finalists behind closed doors Wednesday for the district's top post, an apparent violation of state law, according to Bender. He said the board also broke the law last week when it met in closed session to winnow a list of 11 candidates presented to it by Ray and Associates -- an Iowa-based firm hired by the board -- to seven semi-finalists they interviewed in private this week.
Bender said state law allows school boards to discuss applicants in private, but must vote in public to narrow the list of candidates.
"If the list of applicants is narrowed at any time without a public vote, that is illegal," Bender said.
The only actions that can be taken in closed session are to adjourn or return to public session. The law also prohibits informal polling in executive session, Bender said.
Board chairman Bill Evans said the board didn't break the law by winnowing the list in private because it never voted on the finalists.
Whether the board took a vote does not matter, according to Bender.
"They narrowed the list and they cannot legally do that in executive session," he said.
Check back with The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette for more details about the superintendent finalists and their backgrounds and follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.