Mose Mock fought back tears Thursday night as he announced he would step down from the Effingham County Board of Education.
Mock explained that his eldest son Caleb, 25, has been diagnosed with a rare lymphoma that has reached stage IV.
“I’m not a quitter, but my No. 1 priority after God is my family,” Mock said. “This board backed me when my wife had cancer two years ago and I appreciate it so much, but I don’t think I can have the fight in me quite to do it with my son sitting in the hospital.”
Thursday’s school board meeting had a larger audience than usual, to discuss proposed redistricting of three elementary schools. Mock broke down as he spoke directly to the crowd.
“I would say to you, go home, hug your children, love on ’em,” he said, choking up. “We don’t know what tomorrow holds; we just know who holds tomorrow.”
Mock then asked the people in attendance to pray for his son, and acknowledged that many already were.
“He is my hero,” Mock said, “because he’s up at Candler Hospital and he’s not weeping like me. He’s a fighter. He is going to make it through this, with God’s help and with your prayers.”
Superintendent Randy Shearouse echoed that sentiment following the meeting. Caleb was a student at Effingham County High School when Shearouse was the principal.
In high school, Caleb was “always in a good mood, just a kid you really liked to have a conversation with,” Shearouse said. “He’s got a great fighting spirit and just a great attitude.”
Mock, a farmer and retired teacher, has represented the board of education’s fourth district since Jan. 1, 2011. His term will expire at the end of this year.
Mock described the fourth district as a “privilege to represent.” He said his district, and the entire school system, “deserve somebody who can fully put their attention and their heart into representing the wonderful boys and girls and the wonderful people of this community.”
“We’ll miss him on the board, without a doubt,” Shearouse said, “but I think all of us understand why he had to make this decision.”
Mock excused himself from the meeting after making his announcement. Several people applauded Mock as he hugged fellow board members and walked from the table.
A woman in the audience called out, “Tell your son that we love him.”
Board Chairman Lamar Allen choked up as he moved on to the next item on the agenda. After the meeting, Allen said if it were his son battling cancer, he likely would have done the same thing Mock did.
“This is going to consume him,” Allen said. “We could put (his resignation) off, but there is no putting it off on this.”
Any fourth-district residents interested in filling Mock’s board of education seat will need to qualify for the May primary. The person elected will take office on Jan. 1, 2015.
In the meantime, the four remaining school board members will appoint someone to complete Mock’s term. The appointee may or may not decide to run for the seat in May.
“The appointee stays on through the end of the year, and if that person doesn’t run or is not elected, then the new person who’s elected in May would take over in January,” Shearouse said. “It’s a long time frame.”
The school board has no specific timeframe to make the appointment but does not want too much time to elapse, according to Allen.
“We don’t have to do it next week. We can take some time to appoint someone,” he said. “But we’re not going to take a long time, because that district deserves someone to be there.”
The Effingham County Board of Education last made an appointment in 2008, when Vera Jones resigned because she moved out of the fifth district. Vickie Decker was appointed, and ran unopposed for election later that year and again in 2012.
“We’ll see how many are interested in it,” Allen said. “Hopefully there are a few qualified people we can look at, and if there’s more than one, we’ll have to make a decision on who we’re going to appoint.”
A resignation from an elected office requires a written letter, which is then forwarded to the governor. Shearouse said he had not received a written resignation, but it was his understanding that Mock will not serve at another school board meeting.
Mock did not publicly suggest someone as his successor, but said he “would never leave you stranded. There are a lot of qualified folks who are willing to step in and take this position, and probably do a better job than I.
“I hope I have in some tiny way helped somebody along the way,” he added. “I hope in some way that I’ve been a blessing to somebody while I’ve been on here.”