The Beaufort County School District has restructured one of its top administrative positions to focus on innovation, and it has hired the wife of superintendent Jeff Moss to do the job.
Darlene Moss, who has about 30 years of education experience in North Carolina, begins work Monday as director of innovation, which replaces the vacant academic improvement officer position within the department of instructional services. She will be responsible for leading the district in a host of initiatives, from school-specific academic programs to potentially creating a district-wide Wi-Fi network for students.
The position pays $90,446. The recently retired academic improvement officer, Melissa Sheppard, received a salary of $110,909.
Darlene Moss, who declined to comment for this story, owns an education firm, Coast of the Carolinas Consulting LLC.
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She also has served extensively in administrative positions in North Carolina school systems, most recently in Scotland County.
Previously, she was a regional consultant for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, program director in Craven County, and also worked in Beaufort (N.C.), Stanly and Hoke counties after spending a decade as a home economics and business teacher for 10 years in Carteret County.
This will not be the first time Jeff and Darlene Moss have worked in the same district.
They overlapped during two multi-year stints the couple spent in North Carolina's Stanly and Beaufort counties, where Jeff Moss served as superintendent and Darlene Moss was first an administrative coordinator and then curriculum specialist.
They also worked together in Hoke County, where Moss joined as a high school industry-education coordinator and Darlene Moss worked as a human resources coordinator.
Darlene Moss was selected as one of four finalists out of a pool of 33 applicants for the innovation director position.
The two out-of-state finalists declined to travel to Beaufort for in-person interviews, leaving a five-person team to interview Moss and Sarah Owen, assistant principal of Hilton Head Island Early Childhood Center. The team recommended Darlene Moss, who was approved by chief instructional officer Dereck Rhoads and then Jeff Moss.
Rhoads reports directly to Jeff Moss.
Though the district did not need approval from the Beaufort County Board of Education to hire Darlene Moss, the superintendent spoke with board chairman Bill Evans about his wife's interest in the position. Jeff Moss and the board also discussed the hire during executive session after Darlene Moss' selection, Evans said.
The superintendent did not participate in the developing of or hiring for the position, he said.
Jeff Moss said Friday his only involvement in the position was asking Rhoads to restructure the old job and lower its pay. He said upon the academic improvement officer's retirement, he noticed her responsibilities were covered by other positions, such as the directors of teaching and learning and elementary and secondary academics.
He added that no one has questioned him about his wife's hiring.
"I look at it that we hire individuals based on the capability and value they add regardless of who they're related to," Moss said.
When the job was originally posted online, it stated that experience as a teacher and principal was "required," prompting Rhoads to ask district human resources chief Alice Walton to update the posting to read that experience was "preferred," according to an email between them.
Rhoads said it was a mistake that the job description would call for that required experience, a claim that was backed by other emails and the original draft of the job description.
Neither Darlene Moss nor Owen have previously served as a school principal.
Evans said the board raised no issues with Darlene Moss. He added that it's not unusual for a superintendent's spouse to work in the same district, especially in a relatively small area. When Evans was hired as a teacher, he recalled Thursday, the wife of then-superintendent Robert Salisbury was an English teacher in the school system.
"I don't find this unusual in the scheme of things," he said. "My experience with her, both on an educational level and a personal level, leads me to believe she's going to be a very wonderful and strong addition to the staff of the district.
"My concern is that we hire someone who has the skills we're looking for," Evans added. "And I think her resume speaks to that very well."
Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.
- Moss selected as new Beaufort County school superintendent , February 28, 2013