Beaufort News

Beaufort school board member calls special-called meeting a 'waste'

File: Mary Cordray, vice-chairman of the Beaufort County School Board, talks to members of the board during their meeting Oct. 12, 2015, at the Beaufort County School District Office in Beaufort.
File: Mary Cordray, vice-chairman of the Beaufort County School Board, talks to members of the board during their meeting Oct. 12, 2015, at the Beaufort County School District Office in Beaufort. dearley@islandpacket.com

A nearly two-hour closed-door discussion by the Beaufort County Board of Education culminated in just a few minutes of public discussion Monday night.

At the end of its special-called meeting, the school board set a new tentative date for a joint meeting with the Jasper County school board to discuss operations of the Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence.

The meeting, originally scheduled for next week, is now set for 6:30 p.m. Nov. 2 at ACE, as suggested by Gary West, Jasper County schools' chief finance officer.

The meeting was pushed back about a week after Bill Evans stepped down as Beaufort school board chairman and vacated his seat. Evans also served on a transition team for ACE that had recently given both school boards a recommendation on the future operation of the school.

The board also agreed Monday to host a member of the S.C. School Boards Association for a free refresher on boardmanship before its Nov. 6 work sessions. Board vice-chair Mary Cordray suggested the training in light of some issues members have had with proper board procedure and behavior.

Much of the rest of Monday's meeting was, board member Michael Rivers said, "a waste of time."

In executive session, members discussed contract negotiations with the Jasper County School District regarding the operation and management of ACE and received legal advice about "threatened or potential claims."

Following the meeting, Rivers would not elaborate on those "claims" but said he did not see a reason for the discussion on ACE.

Both boards received a recommendation Oct. 6 on how the school boards should move forward as Beaufort County leaves the technical school's governance next June. That report, which is not public, will be discussed at the Nov. 2 joint meeting.

The board spent much of its executive session Monday getting information about one option, Rivers said.

"We didn't even learn a whole lot, because it's really a two-party thing," Rivers said. "It's almost like back to the drawing board."

Rivers would not say what direction the board sees for ACE, which many say is likely to fail without the same level of funding it has received from Beaufort County.

The Technical College of the Lowcountry has also expressed interest in taking over the school.

"Right now, its singular and we need both people to agree to it," Rivers said.

Cordray defended the meeting, saying the board needed the information to get on the same page ahead of its discussion with the Jasper board.

"Generally, as a rule, you want your board to speak with one voice," Cordray said. " ... Really, I was interested in seeing if there is any consensus."

Cordray announced she will be absent for several upcoming board meetings, and board secretary Laura Bush will lead meetings until a new chairman is elected in November.

There was no public comment session at Monday's meeting.

Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.

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