With less than two months left at the district, Beaufort County Schools superintendent Jeff Moss has filled a high-ranking district position with a Beaufort high school principal who has been a longtime supporter of Moss and previously worked with him in North Carolina.
Moss asked the school board Thursday to approve moving Beaufort High Principal Bonnie Almond to the post of chief instructional officer.
The board approved the motion 7-4, with David Striebinger, JoAnn Orischak, John Dowling and Joseph Dunkle voting against it.
In her new role, Almond will oversee the district's Instructional Services Department, which is responsible for developing and evaluating curriculum, coordinating special programs and providing for the continuous improvement of instruction, according to the district's website.
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Dowling said during Thursday's meeting that he was voting against the motion because Almond's departure would mean Beaufort High would have a new principal for the third time in as many years. He said the move would cause "a difficult situation for the staff and a difficult situation for the students."
Orischak said that she was not concerned about Almond's ability to perform the new job. Instead, she was concerned Moss was making a quick hire as he "heads out the door," she said.
"With an interim superintendent coming in shortly, I would like to see Dr. Moss stand down on any large promotions or new hires of senior staff within the district," she said.
As superintendent, Moss has the authority to decide where to move staff within the district. But Moss brought the matter to the board to get members' additional approval, as he has with other high-level hires, he said during the meeting.
Almond will replace Dereck Rhoads, a former Bluffton Middle School principal who was hired as the chief instructional officer in 2012.
Rhoads, who was arrested for driving under the influence last year, announced his expected departure last year after accepting a role as the executive director of the Association of American Schools of South Carolina.
Since arriving at the district in 2013, Almond has served as something of a utility player.
She started as the district’s director of secondary education and then became the director of innovation, a position created by Moss in 2015 and initially filled by his wife, who resigned following public outcry.
Almond was one of Moss’ most vocal supporters when members of the public criticized the hiring of his wife.
In 2017, she replaced former Beaufort High School principal Corey Murphy, who left for a new role as chief of staff at a Virginia school district. Murphy has served as the high school's principal for five years.
Before coming to Beaufort County, Almond worked as a principal and assistant principal from 2003 to 2013 in the Lee County School District in North Carolina, where Moss also was superintendent.
Almond received a salary of about $109,000 and was the second highest paid principal in the district behind Whale Branch High School's Mona Lise Dickson, according to district data collected by The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette in January 2018.
The Beaufort County School District’s main office was closed Friday so The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette were unable to obtain details of Almond's new role, including annual compensation and benefits. However, Dereck Rhoads was paid about $121,500 as chief instruction officer, according to the January 2018 district data.
Almond was not the only hire made Thursday to fill a top-level administrator opening.
The board also voted unanimously to hire Herbert Berg as the district's interim superintendent to replace Moss starting Aug. 1.