Jeffrey Moss, the Beaufort County school board's pick for superintendent, faces both familiar and new challenges at the helm of a school district twice the size of his current one, but with the same graduation rate and academic achievement challenges.
He's certainly no stranger to the trials of working in public schools. He has spent 30 years in public education and has been superintendent of the 9,850-student Lee County School District in Sanford, N.C., since January 2009. Before that, he was superintendent of schools in Beaufort County , N.C., and Stanly County , N.C., near Charlotte.
One of the bigger challenges in our district is its diverse student population, which includes some large socioeconomic disparities. But Moss' experience in Lee County should stand him well. Sixty-five percent of its students receive free or reduced-price lunch, a measure of poverty in a school district. About 55 percent of Beaufort County's 20,000 students receive subsidized meals.
His approach to technology in the classrooms and his view of its potential impact on student performance also seems in line with the school board's. Every Lee County student in grades 3 through 12 has a laptop. Moss also established science, technology, engineering and mathematics curricula at all three middle schools; those schools feed an engineering program at two high schools.
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A steady hand and a cool head are required for this job. A troubling part of his professional history is a confrontation last October with a parent at a public meeting. It was captured on video and posted to YouTube. We hope that stays an isolated event even if, as Moss says, the other people involved had behaved poorly. Goodness knows, superintendents here have had -- and will have -- their patience tested.
In addition to someone with patience and forbearance, we need a strong administrator, who can get high marks in managing people and finances; who can communicate clearly and effectively with the community, the school board and distinct employees; and who knows how to give teachers what they need to get the job done in the classrooms. We also urge the superintendent to:
Unfortunately, Moss' relationship with senior staff at the district was put on shaky footing by board member Laura Bush. She did no one any favors by asking them to weigh in on their choice for superintendent. In a letter signed by interim superintendent Jackie Rosswurm and the district's chief operations, instruction and student-services officers, they expressed support for Gloria J. Davis of Decatur, Ill., a finalist with Moss.
Bush, who voted against hiring Moss, put the staff in an untenable position: Say no to a board member or risk alienating someone who could be your new boss. They had a 50-50 chance of the board's decision going against their recommendation.
Rosswurm called Moss to congratulate him on his selection. Moss described the conversation as brief and said the letter supporting Davis did not come up.
"I really don't have a comment on their letter, or what their intention might have been," Moss said. "They called to congratulate me and looked forward to me arriving in the county. That was the extent of the conversation."
Rosswurm has said she didn't think Bush's request was unusual or inappropriate, but we disagree. In the end, it might not hurt their professional relationship, but it certainly didn't help it.