Days before the Beaufort County Board of Education evaluates Superintendent Jeff Moss’ performance in the past year, a period that includes his two admissions of “unintentional and inadvertent” guilt to the S.C. Ethics Commission, a board member is calling for him to voluntarily resign at the end of the 2017-18 school year.
In a statement provided to the newspapers, board member JoAnn Orischak wrote, “There have not been any significant strides made, since his admission, which would serve to neutralize the long-reaching effects of his ethics breach. It is my fervent belief that Dr. Moss continuing as Superintendent is to the detriment of (the district’s) reputation and well-being.”
Caught off guard by Orischak’s announcement and mentioning a “pleasant conversation” he had with her earlier this week, Moss said Friday that he “look(s) forward to serving the county for many years” as well as to “a very positive evaluation that I do believe is warranted based on the progress we've made as a school district.”
Orischak is the only member of the 10-person board to call for his resignation, and her request is a largely symbolic action that will have little to no effect on Moss’ employment as he has been backed by a majority of board members since the hiring scandal of his wife for a newly-created, high-paying district job first unfolded two years ago.
Two other board members aligned in the minority bloc declined to call for Moss’ resignation, but offered statements that show just how deep the district’s scars over this issue run.
“I campaigned on the fact that the district could not move forward with Jeff as the superintendent and nothing has caused me to change my mind,” board member David Striebinger said.
Board member Christina Gwozdz, who joined the board nine months ago, echoed Striebinger.
“I hear from constituents on a regular basis that the district needs new leadership,” she said. “I think it's going to be very hard to go forward with the current leadership because of what has already transpired.”
The board’s evaluation of their only employee, Moss, will take place Oct. 4 and, if needed, Oct. 9. The discussion typically occurs almost entirely behind closed doors because it is a personnel matter.
“I will present incidences of professional incompetence in executive session,” Orischak wrote in her statement.
In response, Moss said, “I have no idea why she's calling for my resignation when she's never discussed it with me or the full board as a public body.”
The evaluation period under discussion covers July 1 of the previous year through June 30 of the current year.
His employment and annual $220,000 salary are not contingent on a positive evaluation, according to his contract. The contributions to his annuity plan are.
This year, he stands to receive $39,600, a contribution of 18 percent of his salary, by Oct. 31.
Moss’ contract states that the board can unilaterally terminate the contract if seven members agree. Moss would then be entitled to severance pay of twelve months’ salary or the balance due on his contract, whichever is less.
In 2014, a year after he was hired on a five-year contract, the board chose to extend Moss’ contract to 2020.
The board voted 7-2 to approve Moss’ evaluation last year, with Orischak and Striebinger voting against.
Board members touched on his ethics admissions in last year’s evaluation, though the incident was outside of the period under review.
“Concerning the ethics case involving the superintendent, the board, of course, is pleased that the matter was resolved in early August and is now behind us,” board member and then-secretary Evva Anderson said, reading Moss’ evaluation into the record during the special-called meeting last November.
She continued, “The board did not take specific disciplinary action regarding the ethics matter but did communicate to the superintendent its feelings, expectations and dissatisfaction with the way the matter unfolded. The board also acknowledges a shared responsibility with what took place.”