The Beaufort County Board of Education had a disgraceful meltdown last week.
When one board member called the police on another member during a secret meeting where board members cursed and threatened one another, the board hit a low that a civilized people should not think was possible.
For about two years now — beginning shortly after Superintendent Jeff Moss was hired and quickly enabled his wife to take a new $90,000 job in the central office — the board has plunged to deeper and deeper depths of dysfunction.
Among the lows have been public rebukes from one board member to another, using outside counsel. We have gotten accustomed to veiled threats of lawsuits and juvenile cattiness. Chairman Earl Campbell said board critics could “go to hell.”
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The board members should be mortified, but they appear to be oblivious to any standard of appropriate behavior.
Meanwhile, they are spinning farther away from actual leadership, which the school district needs. This board is leading, but in the wrong direction. Board members are showing students how not to succeed in life. They are a poor reflection not only on themselves, but on all of Beaufort County.
How can we stress enough that this is unacceptable?
Maybe their dysfunction gets described as the white hats vs. the black hats in the sharply divided board — again in the long shadow of Superintendent Moss. The board is bitterly split between allegiance to Moss, and those who will raise questions, which then makes them the victim of bullying.
But, in truth, they are all the bad guys, including Moss. They all are a detriment to the students and teachers who plow on with the added burden of a board and administration that the public cannot trust and finds unacceptable.
In truth, the personalities in the room will have to change before this ox gets out of the ditch.
But we offer, once again, the simplest advice to move forward: Meet in public.
If they simply conduct public business in public, maybe the most egregious behavior would not occur. That might mean we could avoid the cursing, name-calling and threats that prompted one board member to call the cops on another during a meeting.
Let them start by respecting the law, and then perhaps they could act with respect for one another.
Board members recently blew off the Freedom of Information Act as not even a factor when a board quorum showed up for a town hall meeting, which then became an illegal, unannounced public meeting. Board member after board member saw breaking the law as no problem. They also revealed a total ignorance of the law. They acted as if they could interpret the law however they wished. And all but one, who walked out, took the side of noncompliance.
The board again blew off the law by going behind closed doors this week to have their meltdown, ironically, while apparently discussing how they can better get along. That should have been a public discussion.
If the board would start by coming out into the sunshine, maybe the worst of their behavior could be somewhat sanitized.