Beaufort News

ACE assistant director resigns

The assistant director of the Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence has resigned.

Karen Lee had worked at the school for more than 25 years. Her resignation, which takes effect immediately, comes amid recent scrutiny of financial and personnel issues at the school.

Lee, along with school director Chris Dinkins, was reprimanded in May by the school's board and ordered to participate in an improvement plan monitored by Beaufort and Jasper county school district officials.

The career center is jointly owned by the two districts and serves students from both counties.

At the May meeting, the ACE board approved a list of 20 actions as a result of the districts' joint investigation, which was prompted by concerns raised by employees.

Some of those actions included turning over financial and human resources operations to the districts for at least a year and having all staff undergo a national criminal background check if such a check had not been done.

Lee said in May she found it "reprehensible" she was made aware of action taken against her at a public board meeting without prior warning.

Dinkins said Thursday Lee was still the assistant director at the beginning of the school year and had only recently resigned. He didn't provide a specific resignation date.

He said he hoped to fill the position soon, but declined further comment.

Lee also declined comment.

The ACE board approved her resignation on a 6-0 vote Thursday. Two board members were absent: Cathy Gardner and Jasper County Superintendent Vashti Washington.

The board also unanimously approved the resignation of guidance counselor Carol Jones, which will take effect in late October. That job opening has already been posted on the school's website.

In other action:

  • The board unanimously approved the use of $46,700 to cover costs associated with recent over-budget renovations. That money, which comes from a fund both districts contributed equally to over time, was previously set aside for incidental capital costs.
  • In total, renovations to the school came in about $79,000 over the $5.9 million budget, said Phyllis White, Beaufort County School District's chief operational services officer. The rest of the overage -- about $32,300 -- is split equally between the districts.

    Renovations, which were finished in the winter of 2010, included a new lobby and front entrance for the school, a new culinary arts kitchen, a new school kitchen and a new fire alarm system.

    The building was consstructed in the 1970s, and hadn't been renovated much since, said Chris Poe, Beaufort County School District's director of facilities and construction.

    Poe said the overage came from having to rewire some of the school's networking and telephone lines, an unanticipated expense.

  • The board unanimously approved four out-of-state field trips for students, including one to a science camp through Disney's Youth Education Series in Orlando, Fla.
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