Goodbye, Jeff Moss

Published 5:16 pm Sunday, December 21, 2008

By Staff
Jeff Moss, superintendent of the Beaufort County school system, has announced he is heading to a new job in Lee County.
We’re sorry to see him go.
Moss deserves our sincere thanks. In one of the poorest parts of the state, in a county with students coming from far-flung and isolated homes, Moss worked hard to create a stellar education system.
Financially, we’re stronger than we have any right to hope for, given how much we have built and how scrawny our tax base is.
Many of our schools show improvement year over year on tests, and Chocowinity Primary School has recently won a Real D.E.A.L. award, a prize that honors those schools that are great places in which to teach as well as to learn.
In short, Moss has done an excellent job for the people of this county.
Scores are up, and there’s far more treasure in the treasury than there was when he got here in January 2004.
Lee County is getting by far the better part of this deal. Starting Jan. 20, they’ll be reaping the benefits of our foolishness.
Moss’ tenure as superintendent hasn’t been without conflict, to be certain.
A lawsuit between the county and the school board went as far as our state’s supreme court, where it is now awaiting a decision.
We know Moss has long had detractors in the community. Some of them opposed him because of heartfelt differences about education strategy or state law, but others fought him for small and petty reasons.
It is now time for those people to lay down their grievances and wish him well in his next endeavor. And they need to treat the next superintendent with more grace.
We will soon be hiring a new superintendent and trying to find the money to attract a qualified candidate in the midst of budget cuts.
The person we bring in needs to be someone everyone on the board is firmly behind. Or maybe the better way to put that is: The entire board needs to realize that no candidate will seem perfect to everyone.
But sometimes sticking to a plan is more important than having the best plan possible — in a school system, for example.
But Beaufort County Schools keeps cycling through leadership. By the time a superintendent gets his or her feet on the ground, assesses how things work here, identifies areas that he or she wants to change and makes the changes, he or she is on the way out. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
We need a superintendent who will stay with the system for a decade. But if we’re going to keep someone around, he or she probably needs to be a very good superintendent.
The board needs to be sure to hire someone who’s not just good at managing the budget, but who also has the skills to raise test scores. We need someone who will work hard to modernize our schools, but we need someone who understands what it means to be from a poor, rural county.
A prophet would be ideal; a saint will do.
The stakes are high, our funds are low and we just let a good catch slip away. But if the Board of Education plays its cards right and comes up with a good replacement for Moss, we can still come out no worse than before, or maybe even a little bit ahead.