The day before the Beaufort County Board of Education asks county residents for $76 million in a bond referendum, its sole employee, Superintendent Jeff Moss, might be interviewing in Alabama for the job of state superintendent of education.
In a special called meeting in Montgomery on Friday, the Alabama Board of Education whittled a list of seven candidates to four, three of whom have Alabama ties. Moss was named as the alternate, meaning he might take a candidate's interview slot if one of the four drops out.
The state board used a scoring method developed by search firm Ray and Associates to decide whom to interview among the semifinalists, according to AL.com, the online website for several Alabama newspapers.
The state board scheduled the interviews for April 20 — one day before the Beaufort County school board's $76 million referendum that, if passed, would primarily address growth in the Bluffton area.
In an email to board members Friday afternoon, Moss wrote that a search firm contacted him about the position and that he was "surprised" he was selected as a semifinalist because the firm had not told him he had been chosen.
A call to Ray and Associates asking about its notification protocol with candidates was not immediately returned Friday afternoon.
"I did not pursue this position," Moss wrote. "My goal is to continue working in South Carolina until I retire. I did see this as an honor to have been contacted to apply for such a prestigious position directing an entire state in the area of education."
In a separate email to principals also sent Friday afternoon, Moss wrote that the firm contacted him two weeks ago and he gave the firm permission to put his name forward.
A phone call to Moss on Friday afternoon seeking comment was not returned. District spokesman Jim Foster said the superintendent was on vacation. Schools are on spring break this week.
In 2014, a year after Moss was hired on a five-year contract, the board chose to extend his contract to 2020.
Moss became a controversial community figure in the fallout from the hiring of his wife for a high-paying, newly created district level job in 2015. He pleaded "unintentional and inadvertent" guilt to two ethics violations in August 2016.
He sold his Beaufort home in August, but dispelled the notion that he was looking elsewhere for a job.
“I plan on living and working in Beaufort County for many years. I’ve sold my house, and I’m currently residing in the county and looking for another house," Moss said in a prepared statement in October.
Foster said Friday that he was unaware Moss was a semifinalist for the Alabama job.
Seven board members — Evva Anderson, David Striebinger, John Dowling, Mary Cordray, Joseph Dunkle, JoAnn Orischak and Christina Gwozdz — also said they were unaware of the Alabama job or any other job applications. Four remaining board members did not immediately return calls for comment Friday afternoon.
"As far as I know, he wants to finish his career in South Carolina," Anderson said.
AL.com reported 41 applicants applied in the national superintendent search.
The four finalists are:
- Craig Pouncey - Superintendent in Jefferson County Schools (Alabama)
- Eric Mackey - Executive Director of the School Superintendents of Alabama
- Kathy Murphy - Superintendent in Hoover City Schools (Alabama)
Robert Scott - former Education Commissioner in Texas, currently with the Texas Star Alliance
Alabama's public school system has more than 742,000 students who attend nearly 1,500 schools, according to Alabama's Department of Education. The previous state superintendent, Michael Sentance, earned a base salary of $198,000 plus benefits. He resigned in September.
Moss' base salary is $220,000, per the terms in his contract.
Moss’ contract can be terminated by:
- “Mutual agreement of the parties,” in which a severance agreement is likely negotiated between the board and Moss
- Disability of the superintendent
- “Discharge for just cause,” which is based on conduct considered “seriously prejudicial to the district” or “constitutes neglect of duty, incompetence or unprofessional conduct”
- Unilateral termination, which requires a seven board member vote and would result in Moss’ being entitled to severance pay of twelve months’ salary or the balance due on his contract, whichever is less
- Death of the superintendent