Beaufort News

Beaufort County group forms to oppose school chief Jeff Moss

District superintendent Jeff Moss listens as another speaker criticizes the hiring of Moss' wife to a district administrative position during a special Beaufort County School Board meeting held to discuss the issue on Monday night.
District superintendent Jeff Moss listens as another speaker criticizes the hiring of Moss' wife to a district administrative position during a special Beaufort County School Board meeting held to discuss the issue on Monday night. jkarr@islandpacket.com

A group of outraged Beaufort County residents have formed an advocacy group in response to Beaufort County School District superintendent Jeff Moss changing a nepotism rule and his wife's hiring to a district administrative position.

The new group, named Citizens About Responsible Education, or CARE, held its first meeting Friday to support the resignation of superintendent Moss and to put pressure on school board members who are supporting Moss and those who have yet to take a public stance on the hiring of his wife.

Hilton Head Island resident Richard Bisi formed the organization after speaking at a school board meeting last month where he and dozens of others opposed the hiring.

Darlene Moss resigned within days of starting as the district's director of innovation amid community complaints.

But that resignation is not enough to settle the issue, Bisi and other members of CARE said Monday.

"I've never seen a single local issue generate this amount of letters to the editor, this amount of response," Bisi said. "This whole issue struck a nerve, and I think more needs to be done on it before indifference sets in."

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The group plans to "hold the school board's feet to the fire" and encourage them to respond to the controversy, Bisi said

So far, four of the 11 school board members have declined to take a public stance on whether the hiring was appropriate, two have spoken out against the hire, two are critical of Moss not informing the board of the hire earlier and three, including board chairman Bill Evans, have fully supported the superintendent and his wife's hire.

CARE has not yet reached out to school board members with their complaints, said board member JoAnn Orischak.

The group is also working to reactivate an online petition at Change.org first circulated by Joseph Iaco, president of the Greater Bluffton Republican Club. The petition called for superintendent Moss' resignation and had more than 300 signatures when it was deactivated last month.

Group members also plan to regularly send members to school board meetings to monitor this and other issues, including today's meeting during which the board plans to discuss a call from board member Orischak for the resignation of chairman Evans.

Most members of CARE support Evans' resignation, but said even more needs to be done to regain the public's trust, Bisi said.

CARE will also advocate for transparency and oppose public issues being discussed in closed door sessions at the meetings, Bisi said.

Another CARE member Kimberly Morgan of Beaufort has filed one of at least two complaints against Jeff Moss with the S.C. State Ethics Commission. Its rules forbid public employees from using their position to the financial benefit of themselves or their family members.

"We want to make sure that the schools do right by our children and do right by the taxpayers," Morgan said. "This has gotten our attention and we want to turn it into some sort of positive change, not just negative reaction."

Morgan said CARE members are prepared for more long sessions like the last 4 1/2 hour school board meeting last month when the board announced Darlene Moss' resignation.

"I will bring my blanket, a pillow and snacks from now on," Morgan said. "We just want to be there to say, 'We're not going to go away any time soon.'"

Follow reporter Erin Heffernan at twitter.com/IPBG_erinh.

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