Saturday's whopping 72 percent "no" vote on a Beaufort County Board of Education bond referendum is a humiliating defeat for Superintendent Jeff Moss and school district leadership.
For the second consecutive vote, a community that has always supported its schools and its children said no, we will not reward your questionable actions, your secrecy, your petty dysfunction and your condescending attitude toward the public with our money and trust.
The public's distrust of its school district is deep and absolute. There is no other way to read Saturday's vote.
In the last referendum loss, the district ran out a long list of excuses, including voter confusion over the wording on the ballot. So this time, it stacked the deck, wasting $100,000 to get a single-issue election under the assumption that people favoring the referendum would be more motivated to show up than those opposed.
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Instead, Moss and the school board got a resounding vote of no confidence.
Moss' troubled tenure started to go off the rails in 2015, when he created a job in the central office and his wife was chosen to a new, $90,000 position. The school board, in a pathetic display of leadership, silently let it happen and then hid from reporters when the news broke and the newspaper demanded accountability.
Nothing has improved since, and only Moss and the board's majority are to blame. They have refused to change their ways. Board members have insisted they will do whatever they want because they know best, that public input is a waste of time and listening to the people who elected them is not in their job description.
Three years separated from the first misstep, Moss and his majority continue to make the same tiresome mistakes.
They tried to hide FBI subpoenas over the last school construction. When it came to light, they tried to parse words to put themselves in the best possible light, an old trick that has never worked but a crutch they can't seem to let go of. They tried to blame the FBI for their own secrecy, though they were under absolutely no obligation to not be transparent.
Even the referendum's most ardent supporters acknowledged as much. They stressed that the vote was not about the superintendent or the board. They said it was about the students who could benefit from a new school in Bluffton, additions at two other schools and three new high school technical education buildings.
But the public didn't buy it. Not by a long shot.
Saturday's thumping shows the community is still outraged. Is this the message that gets through — that no matter how smart and talented you are, or think you are, at some point it's just irretrievably broken, that there is no path to moving forward? You want to do your job, you want to help the kids, but you can't. You're not removing obstacles, you are the obstacle.
Moss and his majority may still be rejecting that line of thought, but it's impossible to believe after Saturday that they couldn't at least be thinking these thoughts. The rest of us have been thinking it for three years.