Two Beaufort County school board members — an officer and the board's parliamentarian — resigned from those positions last weekend, ceding more authority to the board's majority, which tends to align itself with superintendent Jeff Moss.
The board elected north Hilton Head Island representative Bill Payne to board secretary at Tuesday night's meeting after the officer position was vacated Saturday by David Striebinger. Board parliamentarian Joseph Dunkle also stepped down Saturday.
Payne joined the board in October 2013 and has voted with the board's majority, as do the other board officers, chairman Earl Campbell and vice-chairwoman Geri Kinton.
Board member Mary Cordray, also a supporter of Moss, nominated Payne. No other members made nominations, so Payne secured the spot, which holds agenda-setting power.
Board member Christina Gwozdz made a motion in March for all three board officers to resign from those positions. Her motion failed 5-6, with the minority bloc of herself, Dunkle, Striebinger, JoAnn Orischak and John Dowling supporting her request.
Since the motion failed, Striebinger, who was elected to the officer position in July, voluntarily stepped down. He said his decision had to do with "what voters told us" when the board recently asked the public for $76 million in an April 21 bond referendum. The measure failed by 72 percent, a historic loss for Beaufort County School District.
"We need to make emphatic change," Striebinger said. "That was the message we got."
He suggested each board member analyze the voting results from the precincts that make up the district they represent.
"If there's a dramatic difference, you don’t represent your district, and you should step down immediately so (your district) can move forward," he said.
Precinct results show all but one board district, Bluffton board member Evva Anderson's, opposed the referendum. Five other board members — Cordray, Payne, Campbell and Kinton — said they would vote for the referendum, but the majority of their districts opposed it. Board member Cynthia Gregory-Smalls did not return multiple calls for comment on her vote.
Five other board members — Striebinger, Dunkle, John Dowling, Orischak, and Gwozdz — said they would vote against the referendum. Their districts voted the same way, according to an analysis of precinct results.
Dunkle's reason in resigning as parliamentarian centered on how board meetings are being run.
"I felt that when I was placed in this position that I would be able to help streamline and make our meetings more effective. Obviously, that has not been the case with current board leadership," he wrote in his resignation letter.
During one meeting last month, Campbell listened to Dunkle's advice as parliamentarian to cut off irrelevant discussion when Dowling had strayed off topic from the agenda. But when Dunkle later said that Gregory-Smalls, who aligns with the majority, was also off topic, Campbell let her continue speaking. Dunkle walked out of the meeting.
There was no discussion Tuesday night on electing a new parliamentarian, a position the board voted on last summer. It is unclear if someone else will replace Dunkle or the position will be eliminated.