Beaufort County Board of Education member Joseph Dunkle walked out of a special-called school board meeting shortly after it began Thursday and, from the parking lot of the school district's administrative building in Beaufort, posted a live video on Facebook, in which he expressed his frustration with board politics.
The meeting, which was called to discuss a plan for hiring an interim superintendent to take over for Superintendent Jeff Moss, who resigned Tuesday night, presented the divided board with an opportunity for a clean slate in how they relate to each other.
But old habits die hard.
Even though Moss — the board's sole employee who has been seen by critics as the source of the board's division — will step down July 31, the board continues to be split into the two factions that cemented during his five-year tenure.
At the heart of it, minority members of the board believe that the majority, which consistently has supported Moss through the years of controversy, have access to important board and district information long before they do and that plans are already in place before the minority can debate, discuss or digest what is presented to them, usually just before a vote is taken.
Members of the majority dispute this and paint the minority as troublemakers with a flair for drama and tendency to run to the media when things don't go their way.
The minority bloc, which consists of board members Dunkle, John Dowling, JoAnn Orischak, Christina Gwozdz and David Striebinger, all say they were stunned Tuesday when the board's officers and lawyer presented Moss' resignation offer behind closed doors and felt rushed to approve his buyout package, which exceeds a quarter of a million dollars.
Over the years, this bloc of members have described scenario after scenario in which they say they are caught by surprise: a referendum amount that "dropped from the sky" in December; an officer-authorized payment of nearly $2,600 to send a cease-and-desist letter against a board member in 2016; a last-minute "emergency" vote taken in April to hire a law firm for the purpose of addressing unspecified conduct violations by unnamed board members.
Thursday's meeting was run in similar fashion, according to District 4 representative Dunkle, who left the meeting out of frustration with board Chairman Earl Campbell, Vice Chairwoman Geri Kinton and Secretary Bill Payne, all of whom align themselves with the majority.
The board's officers informed the other members that the South Carolina School Boards Association will put together a list of interim superintendent candidates and then asked the members which of two days they could meet to interview candidates.
No other options were presented to the board, and the officers did not ask for suggestions or ideas on hiring.
"What's the purpose of a meeting to ask which date works better for our schedules?" Dunkle said Friday. "Send us an email."
After Campbell informed the board of the plans on Thursday, Dunkle asked him who had authorized these unilateral decisions.
"We did," Campbell said.
"Who's 'we'?" Dunkle asked.
Campbell eventually acknowledged the "we" as the officers.
"I am going to go ahead and leave because it appears that the officers just want to run this show," Dunkle said.
Payne, who was recently elected to the officer position, said in response, "That's your prerogative."
This marked the second time in the past two months that Dunkle has walked out of a board meeting. Other members of the minority have similarly left the room because of the majority's actions: Orischak has walked out of executive sessions numerous times in protest of closed-door discussions that she says don't comply with state law; and, in December, Dowling did so for the same reason.
On Thursday, after receiving a single-page document with page number "6" printed at the bottom, Dunkle asked for pages one through five, but was met with resistance from the board's officers.
Moss, who chimed in several times during the meeting, told him the document, provided by the Greater Schools Council, was part of a 24-page handout. The full 24-page document was not provided to board members Thursday evening.
"It's unfortunate the officers are still making decisions without the input of the full board," Dunkle said Friday. "They run the show. For half of the board, we haven't gone through this process (of hiring an interim superintendent). A lot of times it is the way (officers) present things. The officers should lead us, not tell us what to do."
Campbell denied he and the officers had done anything wrong, saying the nature of his position as chairman, a role he said he has served in three times since he joined the board in 1990, means he almost always will learn of information before other members.
"But I have never withheld anything that I receive from the state or school board association or any place from other board members," he said Friday. "I share that with them."
As far as seeking input from the other members, Campbell said the plan presented Thursday falls in line with how past searches have been conducted, both in Beaufort County and in districts statewide.
"I don't think we should wait until the whole board is together until we start making decisions. I cannot sit back and drag this (hiring) out," he said.
After Dunkle's departure, another exchange between board members occurred that shows past resentments continue to fester.
Board member Mary Cordray, who aligns herself with the majority, questioned Dowling's credentials in superintendent searches after Dowling shared his experience in hiring superintendents.
Cordray and Dowling have butted heads several times over the past year. It began when the two verbally sparred last spring before Dowling joined the board. Dowling called her a "sick coward." Cordray called him a "stupid piece of doo-doo" and filed a police report against him. No charges were filed.
Dowling previously worked as a full-time employee at the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, a statewide organization similar to the South Carolina School Boards Association. He said in his time there, he assisted in about 10 superintendent searches.
Cordray asked him Thursday how long ago he had worked for the association and for how long he was employed.
Dowling answered that he worked for the association about 20 years ago for about a three-year period, leading Cordray to conclude he was "no expert" in superintendent searches.
The board agreed to meet May 29 to interview interim superintendent candidates. Internal candidates, as well as those put forth by the S.C. School Boards Association, will be considered.
At its June 7 meeting, Campbell will appoint a five-member committee to interview and select the search firm that will assist in the permanent superintendent search.
Seven of the 11 board members are up for election in November. Campbell, whose seat is not up until 2020, said the new board installed next January will make the permanent superintendent selection.