Who chose the architect for school projects? District isn’t saying right now

Whale Branch High School is one step closer to getting a new gymnasium and its first performing arts center after a Tuesday night Beaufort County School Board vote to begin contract negotiations with McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture, a firm selected in secrecy.

Activists had earlier expressed concerns that a North Carolina-based firm connected to the superintendent’s past projects would be chosen, but the selection committee’s first choice is based in Greenville, S.C.

The committee, assembled by the district, consists of two staffers from the district’s facilities office, a high school principal and a community member with expertise in facilities design and construction, according to district spokesman Jim Foster.

On Tuesday night, board member JoAnn Orischak asked Superintendent Jeff Moss for the names of those committee members, but he would not give them to her.

That information hasn’t been publicly disclosed in the past to prevent members from being contacted by vendors during the selection process, he said. He told her that he is not on the selection committee nor did he select its members.

The district Office of Procurement and the district Office of Facilities, Planning and Construction jointly selected committee members, Foster said. The two offices report to separate division heads, both of whom report to Moss.

There is no law preventing the disclosure of that information. Nor does the district have a written policy stating such information should be withheld until the contract is signed.

Rather, it’s a “prudent administrative practice … aimed at keeping the selection process as fair, impartial and objective as we can make it,” Foster said in an email. “Once we have a signed contract, the names will be available.”

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