The Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence is not serving Beaufort County students, their families or county taxpayers well. For this reason, the Beaufort County School District should announce an exit strategy and start working now to bring the vocational and technical programs currently offered at ACE in-house.
Only about one of every four Beaufort County students who complete one of ACE’s programs, including ones in construction, hospitality and automotive technology, lands a job after graduation.
From the 2009-10 school year through the 2011-12 year, 778 students from Beaufort County schools enrolled at ACE. Only 183 completed their program. Of those completers, 72 earned a national certification in their field and only 48 students were employed in a career related to their certification.
Meanwhile, the state’s other career centers have an average placement rate of almost 97 percent, according to the state Department of Education.
So why are other career centers successfully helping students land jobs while ACE is faltering? That’s not clear. Some Beaufort County School Board members have talked about exorbitant administrative costs at the academy.
ACE’s director has said the building and equipment need to be improved in order to increase the number of programs that offer certification. But we would counter that completion rates from programs that already offer certification are too low.
Simply put, this partnership between the two school districts in Beaufort and Jasper counties is not yielding results despite a multimillion-dollar yearly investment. And many students who could benefit from training opportunities are walking away empty-handed. We’re certain that some students are not applying themselves. But the low completion rates and the success at other centers say something else is going on as well.
The Beaufort County School District must move and improve vocational and technical programs within its borders.
District leaders appear to already be moving in this direction although they have not publicly said so. The school board has voted to reduce its contribution to ACE. And plans are being made to build a multi-purpose building at Battery Creek High School to house vocational and technical programs.
Moving ACE in-house also fits well with the district’s goal of expanding opportunities for students who aren’t headed to college and need technical training and certification to help them find good-paying jobs after high school.
It is a shame that the ACE partnership between the two districts, in place since 1977, has not produced better results. But it would be a mistake to continue to pour money into a partnership that is not serving Beaufort County students. It’s time to try something else.