The Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence is a beacon of hope in the Lowcountry.
ACE is a career and technology center that educates 417 high school students from Beaufort and Jasper counties. While most career centers focus solely on career and technology education (vocational education), ACE also provides students the opportunity to enroll in academic courses.
For those students who choose to attend ACE on a full-time basis, they are also afforded the opportunity to complete the necessary requirements for graduation. ACE has its own board, comprising three members from the Beaufort County school board (Earl Campbell, Michael Rivers, and Jim Beckert) and three members from the Jasper County school board (Ted Moyd, Randy Horton, and Alina Hamilton-Clark). The superintendents from both districts serve as ad hoc members of the ACE board.
At ACE, students are exposed to instruction that enables them to acquire the skills needed to become licensed in a number of professions. Barbering, welding, cosmetology, culinary arts, automotive technology, esthetics, nail technology and building construction are just a few of the programs offered.
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As a newcomer to the Lowcountry, I have come to realize that ACE's reputation is not an accurate reflection of the school. Some say that ACE is a place for bad kids. I would say that it is a place for BADD kids, too. Kids who are Brilliant, Awesome, Dedicated and Determined attend ACE. Some say that ACE is the place for kids who do not want to go to college. I would say that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, there are many students who attend ACE, graduate on time and enroll in a technical or four-year college or university every year.
Despite the fact that many students have gone on to college, enlisted in the military or entered the work force, our data indicate that a very low percentage of our students have successfully passed the High School Assessment Program examination, which is the test that students must pass in order to receive a high school diploma. They have perennially performed poorly on end-of-course examinations.
The low passage rates, coupled with the fact that many of our academic classes have very low enrollments, substantiates the need to revisit our current academic instructional model. In an effort to provide our students with what we believe to be a more appropriate instructional model (hybrid model: online/live instructor), we have elected to reduce the number of teachers to pursue a more technologically and student-friendly approach to providing academic instruction.
While I realize that it is not popular to reduce staff, I do not believe that continuing in the same manner is most beneficial for our students. The savings from the reduction in staff will be redirected to add new programs.
Even though our career and technology programs are meeting the needs of our students, we will continue to solicit input from our business community to make sure that we always provide our kids with the skills necessary for them to compete locally, nationally and internationally.
ACE is also working very closely with the state Department of Education's Career and Technology Department to ensure that we stay abreast of the most appropriate career and technology programs available.
As a final note, I would like to inform the public that ACE is accepting applications for the 2013-2014 school year. If your child is interested in attending ACE, please contact your child's guidance counselor or contact ACE (843-987-8107) for an application. If you would like to see our facility, please contact us to schedule a tour. All tours are by appointment only.
Come and explore one of the best kept secrets in the Lowcountry -- Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence.
Deonia A. Simmons is the director of the Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence.