Beaufort County students might soon notice, if not follow, a familiar, blue-and-gold logo while scrolling past beach pics and puppy photos on Instagram.
A line of flag-toting, hand-holding children — that’s the logo of the Beaufort County School District. Superintendent Jeff Moss says he is looking to branch into the popular social media platform in the coming months and enhance the district’s presence on Facebook and YouTube to better communicate news and positive education stories to the community.
Parents and the Board of Education alike have said that’s something the district must improve, whether to better alert them of news or balance out more critical topics, such as the ethics, transparency and trustworthiness of district leaders.
The board knocked Moss on his communication with the public in giving him a “proficient” rating during his annual evaluation earlier this month. But Moss’ fix — restructuring his communications department to add social media and videography positions — didn’t go over smoothly when he presented it to the board during a work session Saturday.
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Some members questioned the concept itself, others the cost. But Moss defended the new jobs, which will be advertised this week.
“We’re looking a little out of the box,” Moss said. “We have some amazing things occurring with our students. We’re just not telling the story as well as we should.”
The district plans to hire a new community services coordinator to replace Carizma Brown, who earned a salary of $62,510 before taking a position with the county. It will also split the department’s other empty slot, a webmaster, into two positions. The webmaster job, which paid $51,275, was held by teacher Emilee Brown before she returned to the classroom.
Each of the three positions will pay $35,000 to $62,000, depending on the applicant’s experience, qualifications and degrees, Moss confirmed after Saturday’s work session, though he didn’t provide that salary range during the session.
Moss first told board members the budget may be $20,000 to $25,000 higher than that of the current two positions. Questioned further, he eventually told them about the two previous salaries, and the minimum and maximum hourly rates of the new positions. The total budget for the three positions would range from $105,000 to $186,000.
Several board members, including JoAnn Orischak and David Striebinger, seemed frustrated that Moss could not give them salary information. Orischak also said she thought the district already did a good job of telling positive stories from the classroom, and that adults are to blame if their actions overshadow the students’.
“I think it’s bad morale for the teachers when they see this sort of a hire when we don’t even know, can’t even cite a reasonable range for what the salary would be,” she said. “... The adults keep getting in the way. They keep falling down and drawing attention away from the students with their behaviors.”
The proposal seemed “hard to justify,” she added, considering there are teachers in the district with ever-growing class sizes. She described meeting one kindergarten teacher who had 31 students in her class — an instance Moss initially denied knowledge of and then said had been resolved.
Several board members — Laura Bush, Mary Cordray and Bill Payne — said they liked the idea of a social media manager and a videographer who would operate like a traditional TV news reporter, shooting and posting short videos each day. Still, Payne questioned whether there was enough for a video producer to do to justify the cost.
Moss assured him there would be enough work for that position. The communications department now has just one employee but used to have five, and similarly sized school systems have even more, said district spokesman Jim Foster, who would oversee the new hires. The Lexington 1 and Richland 1 school districts, for example, have seven and six communications employees, respectively, and Richland 2 has 11, according to the school systems’ websites.
Moss and Foster say hiring three people as opposed to two is still a conservative request. And, Moss told the board several times, the news media and community members on Facebook already share information instantaneously and will keep doing so whether the district catches up or not.
“If you don’t want our message out there at the same rate of speed, then you’re not going to have a message,” he said. “Your message is going to become whatever gets out there first.”