BEAUFORT COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD ELECTIONS 2017: THE CANDIDATES

in Election 2017 by

Editor’s note: Questions and answers to the candidates were provided by Citizens Advocating Responsible Education.

Following are the unedited answers to questions posed to the four Beaufort County School District board of education candidates. This special election for the District 3 seat will be held on Tuesday, March 28. 

CYNTHIA GREGORY-SMALLS

Q1: Nepotism has been a controversial topic ever since it was revealed that Superintendent Jeff Moss unilaterally changed the nepotism administrative rule enabling his wife to be hired for a $90,000 a year job as Director of Innovation. Subsequently, the school board adopted a new policy on nepotism that is weaker than what was on the books before. In fact, as it now stands, the Superintendent’s wife could be hired again for a front-office position. What do you think would make for a fair and equitable policy on nepotism?

I think the school board should look at policy, procedure and experience before allowing husband/wife to step into a position he/she is not qualified. I think this sort of manipulation compromises, diminish and weakens education at the highest level. This cripples our educational system and take away what our students and teachers are striving for, excellence.

Q2: In 2015, more than 200 teachers left the Beaufort County School District. What should the school district do to attract and retain qualified teachers?

The Beaufort County School District should strive for excellence. They should make sure our teachers are equip with strategies and continuous learning that promote success. In addition, make sure our teachers are keeping up with the cost of living, particularly in this area.

Q3: There has been a huge achievement gap between white and black students for the last 15 years. What remedies would you advocate to close the gap that have not been tried before?

I would like to see the following:1. Increase the Graduation Rate by closing the Achievement Gap through early (educational) intervention and engagement in programs that supports education; and 2. Assist youth in navigating their future using technology to improve career pathways for better employment outcomes.

Q4: Should the performing arts center at Whale Branch Early College High School be funded by “8% money” or be included in a referendum to taxpayers?

The Whale Branch Early College High School should have been build using the bond referendum that was passed in 2000. Why should students at the Whale Branch Early College be deprive when all other High Schools in Beaufort County are afforded a wide array of opportunities to explore their gifts.

Q5: If elected to the school board, what would be your top three priorities?

Priority 1 Closing the Achievement Gap through early intervention Priority 2 I would like to assist our youth in navigating their future using technology to improve career pathways for better employment outcomes. Priority 3 I would like to see a skills center built so that student have a place to go after school to improve their educational skills, explore their gifts and obtain job training.

Q6: The modification of the nepotism policy by the superintendent to facilitate the hiring of his wife was initially responsible for the lack of public trust in the Beaufort County School District. The subsequent actions of the majority of school board members, including their positive performance appraisals of the superintendent, have continued to fuel mistrust in the school board. How would you propose to “win back” the public’s trust?

To win back the public’s trust you must be honest, truthful and forthcoming with the facts. Without honesty, truthfulness and factual information, there is no “Public’s Trust”

Q7: Would you support the school board hiring its own attorney since attorney Drew Davis is supposed to represent the school district yet he reports directly to Superintendent Jeff Moss? If not, why not?

Yes, I will support the school board hiring its own attorney so that there will be no bias when interpreting the facts.

Q8: Two months ago, the Board imposed an illegal, public Censure on a Board member for having publicly disagreed with Board decisions and other board matters. Do you think it’s appropriate for members to speak their mind to the public?

The School Board Members must be reminded that they represent the community in which they serve. If this censure was illegal than this board has some work to do.

Q9: Every candidate offers unique experience. How would your experience benefit the school district by serving on the board?

Having worked in the Beaufort County School System for over 28 years and served as a teacher and administrator gives me a voice for students, teachers and community.

Q10: It appears that a majority of the board members are committed to “business as usual.” If you are a “change” candidate, how would you go about effecting change?

Let’s put the focus back on the community we serve

WILLIAM SMITH

Q1: Nepotism has been a controversial topic ever since it was revealed that Superintendent Jeff Moss unilaterally changed the nepotism administrative rule enabling his wife to be hired for a $90,000 a year job as Director of Innovation. Subsequently, the school board adopted a new policy on nepotism that is weaker than what was on the books before. In fact, as it now stands, the Superintendent’s wife could be hired again for a front-office position. What do you think would make for a fair and equitable policy on nepotism? 

I believe that it needs to be rewritten, even if it goes back to the previous nepotism policy; prior to Superintendent Moss changing it. The policy should be transparent and needs to provide for checks and balances; and avoid an appearance of favoritism based on family relationships.

Q2: In 2015, more than 200 teachers left the Beaufort County School District. What should the school district do to attract and retain qualified teachers?

Treat them as professionals.

Q3: There has been a huge achievement gap between white and black students for the last 15 years. What remedies would you advocate to close the gap that have not been tried before?

Diversify the certified staff in the district so that it mirrors the student population, it is vital for children to have the opportunity to see someone that resembles him or her. Provide professional development on diversity for all certified staff so that they are better prepared to work with all students and ensure that all students learn the basics before moving into more advanced studies. Provide all schools and students with equal opportunities and materials. The district needs to sponsor graduate courses to help certified teachers to achieve the Read to Succeed teacher endorsement as soon as possible. Have district staff research school districts that have been successful in closing the achievement gap and correspond with and develop working relationships so that we can benefit from their expertise.

Q4: Should the performing arts center at Whale Branch Early College High School be funded by “8% money” or be included in a referendum to taxpayers?

The Whale Branch Early College High School was a part of the original bon referendum. It was cut due to delays at the school board and district level. If an entire high school can be built out of 8% money, is it too much to ask for this addition using 8% money? The taxpayers spoke in 2000 when they approved the original referendum. Since Whale Branch is the only high school without a performing arts center. Research shows that schools that have performing arts programs help increase test scores and achievement levels. All of the other high schools in Beaufort county have performing arts centers. All the other high school students have access to a performing arts center on their campus. Why not, Whale Branch?

Q5: If elected to the school board, what would be your top three priorities?

Priority 1 Students; Priority 2 Bridging the achievement gap; Priority 3 Transparency.

Q6: The modification of the nepotism policy by the superintendent to facilitate the hiring of his wife was initially responsible for the lack of public trust in the Beaufort County School District. The subsequent actions of the majority of school board members, including their positive performance appraisals of the superintendent, have continued to fuel mistrust in the school board. How would you propose to “win back” the public’s trust?

Transparency.

Q7: Would you support the school board hiring its own attorney since attorney Drew Davis is supposed to represent the school district yet he reports directly to Superintendent Jeff Moss? If not, why not?

No, I do not support hiring an additional attorney at an additional public expense. If there is a problem with who he reports to, have him report to the chairman of the board and the superintendent.

Q8: Two months ago, the Board imposed an illegal, public Censure on a Board member for having publicly disagreed with Board decisions and other board matters. Do you think it’s appropriate for members to speak their mind to the public?

It depends. Transparency is important. The board has an obligation to its employees of confidentiality.

Q9: Every candidate offers unique experience. How would your experience benefit the school district by serving on the board?

I am a servant, of the people, by the people, for the people. My concern is for every child.

Q10: It appears that a majority of the board members are committed to “business as usual.” If you are a “change” candidate, how would you go about effecting change?

Being willing to take a stand and being willing to disagree with business as usual.

BURYL GARNETT SUMTER

Q1: Nepotism has been a controversial topic ever since it was revealed that Superintendent Jeff Moss unilaterally changed the nepotism administrative rule enabling his wife to be hired for a $90,000 a year job as Director of Innovation. Subsequently, the school board adopted a new policy on nepotism that is weaker than what was on the books before. In fact, as it now stands, the Superintendent’s wife could be hired again for a front-office position. What do you think would make for a fair and equitable policy on nepotism?

To avoid ‘a conflict of interest’ the Superintendent or any other district office administrator should not be allowed to have his/her spouse be hired for a district office supervisory position or as a school administrator (i.e. principal/assistant principal).

Q2: In 2015, more than 200 teachers left the Beaufort County School District. What should the school district do to attract and retain qualified teachers?

First the school district should work much closer with school administrators to better understand the specific staffing needs of each school to ensure that the District hires and retains ‘qualified’ teachers, who are not only effective, but who also relate well to our culturally diverse students. Second, recruitment for qualified teachers should start within the County and/or within the State before ‘heading North’ to hire teachers who understand and appreciate cultural diversity, know parents, and are involved in community life.

Q3: There has been a huge achievement gap between white and black students for the last 15 years. What remedies would you advocate to close the gap that have not been tried before?

For the district to hire and retain school administrators and teachers who can effectively teach our black students. Schools need very strong leadership to deal with student behavior in order to create a learning environment where all children can be successful.

Q4: Should the performing arts center at Whale Branch Early College High School be funded by “8% money” or be included in a referendum to taxpayers?

The Whale Branch Performing Arts Center is needed especially since there are performing art centers at the other high schools in the district. However, it should not be funded by a referendum to taxpayers. Instead find existing monies to fund the center

Q5: If elected to the school board, what would be your top three priorities?

Priority 1 To be highly visible and accessible to my constituents. Priority 2 To regularly attend school board meetings and to cast my vote based on the needs and concerns of my constituents. Priority 3 To regularly host town hall meetings, at the various schools I serve, to bring together faculty/staff, parents, students, community leaders, the BCEA, and other organizations to work together to achieve success for every student.

Q6: The modification of the nepotism policy by the superintendent to facilitate the hiring of his wife was initially responsible for the lack of public trust in the Beaufort County School District. The subsequent actions of the majority of school board members, including their positive performance appraisals of the superintendent, have continued to fuel mistrust in the school board. How would you propose to “win back” the public’s trust?

To be transparent and accountable to my constituents by being highly accessible in the schools and in the District 3 community and to host town hall meetings where the voices of my constituents are heard and carried back to the school board.

Q7: Would you support the school board hiring its own attorney since attorney Drew Davis is supposed to represent the school district yet he reports directly to Superintendent Jeff Moss? If not, why not?

No, the school board should hire its own attorney, who is an expert in advising the board about policies and laws. Consequently, the attorney works for the board, not the Superintendent who should also work for the board.

Q8: Two months ago, the Board imposed an illegal, public Censure on a Board member for having publicly disagreed with Board decisions and other board matters. Do you think it’s appropriate for members to speak their mind to the public?

It’s important for board members to always speak the truth. In order to gain the trust of your constituents, it is necessary to publicly speak out what is the ‘voice’ of your constituents. That’s what being a servant of the people means, the reason for being a board member.

Q9: Every candidate offers unique experience. How would your experience benefit the school district by serving on the board?

Before being a candidate for the school board, I was actively involved in the community as a volunteer and a substitute teacher throughout the Beaufort County School District. This ‘in the trenches’ experience has given me invaluable insight to better serve on the board. Consequently, I have a wonderful opportunity to speak directly with school board members, faculty/staff, students, and parents sharing with me what works and what needs to change.

Q10: It appears that a majority of the board members are committed to “business as usual.” If you are a “change” candidate, how would you go about effecting change?

First to be accountable, transparent, and highly accessible by providing opportunities for my constituents to voice their concerns, which I am obligated, on their behalf, to take to the board. It is also very important to keep constituents well informed about upcoming issues/matters and then to communicate board decisions by hosting town meetings, attending PTO and other school meetings, community events, and to frequently visit schools (not at election time) but throughout the school year.

FRED WASHINGTON, JR.

Q1: Nepotism has been a controversial topic ever since it was revealed that Superintendent Jeff Moss unilaterally changed the nepotism administrative rule enabling his wife to be hired for a $90,000 a year job as Director of Innovation. Subsequently, the school board adopted a new policy on nepotism that is weaker than what was on the books before. In fact, as it now stands, the Superintendent’s wife could be hired again for a front-office position. What do you think would make for a fair and equitable policy on nepotism?

Relative to Beaufort County School District – the current situation should not have been allowed to occur. In my opinion, the Board should have advised the superintendent that the proposed hire would not be appropriate. We must now focus on doing all we can to ensure all our students are learning to their potential.

Q2: In 2015, more than 200 teachers left the Beaufort County School District. What should the school district do to attract and retain qualified teachers?

The District has to be more focused in its recruitment. Recruit teachers who are more likely to be Effective in working with our diverse population of students; provide more appropriate support to help them be Effective in their classroom and community, including cultural based training; increased salary based primarily on Effectiveness in improving student performance/growth.

Q3: There has been a huge achievement gap between white and black students for the last 15 years. What remedies would you advocate to close the gap that have not been tried before?

The District must first commit to continue past/existing remedies that do work (sustainability) – such as expansion and coordination of early childhood education and Extended Summer Learning for targeted students. A part of what we need now is a more concerted and collaborative effort working with local, state and federal governmental, private and non-profit entities. Beaufort County has a plethora of organizations that serve at-risk children and their families. Working in concert, we must encourage them to, in some cases, reform their messages and encounters to include researched based proven good parenting practices that enhance early brain and behavioral development. Systemic change is required for us to close the gap in any sustainable way. A lot of this does not require new money, but a new way of’ doing business’.

Q4: Should the performing arts center at Whale Branch Early College High School be funded by “8% money” or be included in a referendum to taxpayers?

The commitment (and I believe there was one by previous Boards) to provide a Performing Arts Center (PAC) should be kept. A careful examination of the District’s finances should be conducted and when funds are identified within our existing capacity that will not adversely impact our bond rating, then an appropriate sized PAC should be built. Once this is done the Board needs to establish a Policy/guidance on what facilities will be provided at each level of schools (Pre-k to Elem; Middle and High) in the District.

Q5: If elected to the school board, what would be your top three priorities?

Priority 1 Working together to ensure we are meeting the needs of every student to realize their learning/development potential. Priority 2 Work with the community to help us become a Sustainable Effective District when it comes to all students realizing their learning potential. Priority 3 Working with the Board to become a unified progressive body in exercising its role and responsibilities.

Q6: The modification of the nepotism policy by the superintendent to facilitate the hiring of his wife was initially responsible for the lack of public trust in the Beaufort County School District. The subsequent actions of the majority of school board members, including their positive performance appraisals of the superintendent, have continued to fuel mistrust in the school board. How would you propose to “win back” the public’s trust?

Work to make sure the role and authority of the Board is clearly understood and functioning appropriately. This would be reflected in future interaction with the superintendent and public. We must demonstrate that the development/progress of all our students is priority one.

Q7: Would you support the school board hiring its own attorney since attorney Drew Davis is supposed to represent the school district yet he reports directly to Superintendent Jeff Moss? If not, why not?

Comparing my last tenure on the Board to what exist now, I would like to have the opportunity to examine how much and the distribution of funds spent on legal services. As a former Board Chair I was accustomed to having some say (on behalf of the full Board) on how some legal dollars were spent. Before adding another attorney to the District’s payroll, I believe we should review what we have now; how well it is working; and determine if it is adequate/appropriate.

Q8: Two months ago, the Board imposed an illegal, public Censure on a Board member for having publicly disagreed with Board decisions and other board matters. Do you think it’s appropriate for members to speak their mind to the public?

I am a believer in the First Amendment. I also believe that when you are a member of a group/body you must be cognizant of the impact your words have on the common purpose(s) the body wants to achieve.

Q9: Every candidate offers unique experience. How would your experience benefit the school district by serving on the board?

Most people look at my prior service on the Board as being beneficial, and it is. But I feel my experience as the former director of the Department of Social Services for Beaufort County and the many boards and commissions I have served on provides me with the unique insights to address problems confronting many of the students and their families that we serve.

Q10: It appears that a majority of the board members are committed to “business as usual.” If you are a “change” candidate, how would you go about effecting change? 

Help make sure we play our role and perform our authorized, legal responsibilities – appropriately educating all our students to reach their potential AND maintaining the Public Trust. There are community systemic changes that the Board and Administration must be willing to Influence.