Superintendent Jeff Moss refused to say Tuesday whether his wife might return to a position with Beaufort County schools now that a newly approved nepotism policy has seemingly cleared the way for her to do so.
Moss did not respond to three phone calls made since Feb. 2 seeking comment about whether Moss would try anew to recommend his wife for employment as the district’s innovation director, a job she briefly held in the fall. Approached in person Tuesday at a school board committee meeting, Moss said he would not answer and said, “I do not trust your reporting.”
Pressed several more times for comment, Moss repeated the same phrase over and over.
The hiring of Darlene Moss, and the circumstances around it, created outrage in the community and led to Darlene Moss’ resignation and eventually the resignation of school board Chairman Bill Evans as well. The refusal of many school board members to act on, or even comment on, the situation further exacerbated the public’s anger and eroded trust in school leaders. The issue now lingers as a potential hurdle as Moss campaigns for public support of a 1-percent, sales-tax referendum.
I think open communication with our newspapers is important in (the superintendent’s) role.
Beaufort County school board member JoAnn Orischak
Moss has been critical of the reporting by The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette. The papers broke the news that Moss had approved the creation of a newly restructured district position with the title of director of innovation and a $90,000-a-year salary, and that he himself had deleted a clause in a nepotism rule addressing the hiring of the superintendent’s family members.
The revelations caught many on the board by surprise, and the papers also raised questions about Moss’ contention that he approved the position and changed the rule without knowledge that his wife would be interested in the position by examining the timing of her application and the posting of the rule change.
After many weeks of discussion, the board on Feb. 2 approved a new nepotism policy similar to the rule Moss had crafted — that his immediate family members can be hired as long as they are not directly supervised by him. In her role as director of innovation, Darlene Moss reported to chief instructional services officer Dereck Rhoads, who reports directly to Jeff Moss.
Supporters of the new policy say it appropriately places the same restrictions on the superintendent’s position as it does any other member of the district.
Contacted directly by email Tuesday, Darlene Moss also refused to say whether she would seek re-employment, saying “my personal life is not public news.”
The email to his wife angered Jeff Moss.
“You’re harassing her,” Moss said. “She’s a private citizen. Do you email all citizens in the county?”
At least one school board member, JoAnn Orischak, took exception with Moss’ behavior, saying his refusal to comment was “ill-advised.”
“I think open communication with our newspapers is important in his role,” she said.
Orischak voted against the nepotism policy after her motions for stricter language were repeatedly voted down.
“I don’t know whether any future family members would be recommended, but certainly it would be allowable per the new nepotism policy,” Orischak said. “And frankly, the board wouldn’t have anything to say about it assuming it conformed with the policy that was formed.”
As far as the status of the search for a new innovation director, district spokesman Jim Foster said only that nobody has been hired.
Of the nearly 150 openings advertised online by the school district Tuesday, that job was the only director-level position.
The district is also advertising positions for two other administrative staff positions — a principal for H.E. McCracken Middle School and a coordinator of special education — and about 30 teachers.
Foster has also said it is unlikely the next innovation director will make the same salary as Darlene Moss, which was $90,466. The salary range for the position, based on experience and qualifications, is $74,194 to $104,187.
To contact your Beaufort County school board representative
Mary Cordray, Chair: District 8, Bluffton, northern Hilton Head Island
Laura Bush, Vice Chair: District 9, Bluffton, Hardeeville
Evva Anderson, Secretary: District 7, Bluffton, Pritchardville
Earl Campbell: District 1, Grays Hill, Lobeco
- 843-846-4531 - home
- 843-476-7512 - cell
David Striebinger: District 2, Beaufort, St. Helena Island, Lady’s Island, Fripp Island
Michael Rivers: District 3, Beaufort, Lady’s Island, St. Helena Island
- 843-263-8467 - cell
Joseph Dunkle: District 4, Port Royal, Beaufort
Geri Kinton: District 5, Okatie, Hardeeville, Burton, Beaufort
Paul Roth: District 6, Okatie, Hardeeville
Bill Payne: District 10, northern Hilton Head Island
- 843-682-3285 - home
- 310-600-0873 - cell
JoAnn Orischak: District 11, southern Hilton Head Island
To find your school board representative on a map, visit the Board of Education map at http://bit.ly/BCDistricts.