Beaufort County school board must come clean with public | Editorial

The Beaufort County Board of Education is hiding crucial information that the public has every right to know, and Chairwoman Christina Gwozdz needs to make it public right away.

Trust in the board is at stake. Right now, the lack of trust puts at risk the $345 million bond issue it will ask the public to approve in November.

This should have been a very simple matter, but the board has needlessly turned it into a public-trust disaster.

Only two board members — JoAnn Orischak and John Dowling — have spoken up at all about the issue.

We know that multiple grievances were filed by at least one school district employee against a specific board member. The board said Tuesday the matter has been resolved.

But no, it has not been resolved.

What were the grievances? We don’t know. Who were they filed against? We don’t know. How much public money has the board spent to investigate the grievances? We don’t know, but it is at least $4,999.

What did the investigation show? We don’t know. How did the school board resolve the matter? We don’t know. Was there a monetary settlement? We don’t know.

Every one of these questions must be answered before the school district can move ahead. It is the chairwoman’s duty to do that.

What elected official would not step up and say: Here is what the complaint is, and here is how we resolved it? From our checking, none of the school board members will.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen this movie before.

Twice in recent years, the school board asked the public to approve large expenditures for school construction and upkeep. Twice the voters resoundingly said “no” because they did not trust the board or superintendent at the time.

In the 2018 election, three of four incumbents on the ballot were booted out by the voters. Former superintendent Jeff Moss resigned. Board leadership changed. New Superintendent Frank Rodriguez was hired.

The board — especially all the newcomers during their election cycle — talked of transparency and a new day.

Sadly, it’s the same old.

We know that a school board member was accused of acting inappropriately, enough to cost taxpayers. Was what that member did embarrassing? Should he or she still be in office? The public has no facts with which to judge the board member’s fitness to serve.

We have no way to judge whether the complaint against a member was serious or frivolous. We have no way to judge whether the expense of its investigation, however much it turns out to be, was justified.

The school board members, all elected, won’t talk about an issue that has cost taxpayers at least $4,999. Why would anyone trust them with $345 million in a bond referendum?

With this process, any claim to transparency is gone. And with it goes any reason to trust the board on bigger things.