Beaufort County schools superintendent Jeff Moss is leaving.
He should have left the district in 2015 when he was rapped by the State Ethics Commission after his wife was hired to fill a new $90,000 central office job. That was two years into what became a painful five-year tenure that is to end July 31. He lost the public’s trust and never regained it. He resigned Tuesday night, somehow having the muscle to leverage a buyout of about a quarter of a million dollars from the Beaufort County Board of Education.
But his effectiveness formally ended on a Saturday in April when a $76 million bond referendum was squashed by voters — 72 percent of them sending a blistering message that they do not trust school district leadership. Clearly, if the growing district was to meet its needs, Moss had to leave.
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Whatever good Moss could do for the district (he touts increased graduation rates; greater school choice; more science, math and technology offerings; better career education; and local teacher pay supplements) was overshadowed by a “we vs. they” attitude between his administration and both the public and some school board members.
But Moss’s departure is no silver bullet. His bosses are still here.
And they — a majority of the school board — are the ones who failed to hold Moss accountable. They are the ones constantly engaging in political chess moves, often orchestrated behind the scenes. They are the ones who cannot act like civilized adults. They are the ones who try to quash anyone who dares raise questions, when raising questions is not only the right but the duty of a board member.
How Moss’ resignation was handled is a microcosm of the whole problem, which will not leave just because Moss steps out the door.
The skids were clearly greased between some board members, Moss and attorneys prior to a two-hour closed meeting in which a board majority pushed for a quick decision on a complicated agreement.
Why was the decision rushed? Why did some board members have information others did not?
Board member David Striebinger said it best: “I’ve had more time to review my cellphone contract.”
Later Tuesday night, Striebinger posted in a long Facebook discussion of the resignation, which he voted against: “I would be interested in how many commenters would agree to a contract they were told they couldn’t see.”
Why was it done this way? It did not have to be done this way, and that is the problem. It is more of the relentless barrage of nonsense from the school board’s leadership.
And it is sad proof that anyone celebrating the departure of Moss is missing the point. The school board still has a long way to go to gain public trust.