The Beaufort County School Board gave final approval Tuesday evening to a new policy manual that includes a prohibition against the superintendent’s immediate family members working for the district — generally.
Late in the evening, the board made a significant change to its draft conflicts of interest policy, adding language that allows them to grant approval to such a hire. That change was approved 5-3, with Paul Roth, Earl Campbell, Evva Anderson, Laura Bush and Geri Kinton voting in favor of the update.
“If we have a district superintendent’s relative that is highly qualified in an area we need teachers, or that position desperately, it can come to the board. The board can approve that position,” Kinton said.
Without an exception, “I just feel like we’re locking a future board in. If a situation arises, they’re going to change a rule for a specific person.”
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David Striebinger, Michael Rivers and JoAnn Orischak opposed. Mary Cordray and Joseph Dunkle were absent.
The draft of the updated policy manual was up for its third and final reading at the regularly-scheduled school board meeting, which was held at Beaufort County Council Chambers in Beaufort. In the manual, the revised conflicts of interest policy now states, “No member of the Superintendent’s immediate family shall be eligible for employment within or as a contractor to the BCSD in any capacity, unless approved by the school board.”
The manual overall was approved 6-2, with Roth and Anderson opposing.
The new conflicts of interest policy differs from what the board approved Feb. 2 in the wake of a controversy over the hiring of superintendent Jeff Moss’ wife to a district-level director’s job in September 2015.
But not by much.
Despite lobbying by board chairwoman Mary Cordray to prevent the superintendent’s relatives from working in the district, the majority of the board initially voted in February to allow their hires as long as they were not under their direct supervision.
Cordray successfully proposed changing the policy at the board’s first reading of the draft policy manual Aug. 12, three days after Moss admitted to two ethics violations relating to his wife’s work for the district. Moss was also publicly reprimanded by the South Carolina Ethics Commission and ordered to pay $3,000 in fines and fees.
On Aug. 16, the updated manual was approved on a second reading with little discussion.
And Tuesday evening, a majority of the board opted for the less stringent wording. It was Kinton who pushed for board power to grant exceptions in exceptional cases - for instance, she said, if the district should one day have a black, female superintendent whose husband was once a teacher of the year.
When the district is already experiencing a dearth of teachers, and in particular black, male mentors, it shouldn’t be disadvantaged by a board policy, she argued.
Campbell spoke up in favor of Kinton’s change, saying family members working together in the district is fine “as long as the person’s not being scrutinized or evaluated” by a relative.
The board also held lengthy discussions about other parts of the manual. At one point, board secretary Anderson failed to get the body to delay their meeting to a later date because of the time crunch.
The other changes included:
- Eliminating a requirement that board members show up to meetings within the first 10 minutes and stay through the end to receive their meeting stipend, which is $50 for regularly-scheduled meetings and $100 for work sessions.
- Allowing members of the public to refer to board members by name during public comment.