FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — A superintendent in the Pee Dee is asking the 12th Circuit Solicitor to investigate a school that he says is illegally distributing taxpayer dollars.
The Palmetto Youth Academy has changed its name to Palmetto Promise and is still running despite being court-ordered to shut down. A sign that previously said Palmetto Youth Academy is now blank, but a News13 reporter saw students outside Monday in uniforms who appeared to be at recess.
The academy was shut down by Florence 1 Schools’ board of trustees in May due to committing “a material violation of the conditions, standards and performance expectations.”
Superintendent Richard O’Malley said testimony by the school’s director, Y’Vonne Brown-Burgess, revealed the school had no certified teachers, an unsatisfactory achievement record and that the teachers left after 1 p.m.
“There was an awful lot of money that the district had given the charter school to operate,” he said. “And it appears that very little of that money went towards educating students.”
O’Malley said a receiver was appointed by the courts to investigate the money spent by the academy.
The receiver reported that the academy transferred 50 acres and a building area to a church for $5.
The report showed, among several other transactions, Brown-Burgess allegedly wrote checks for “lawn services” that totaled more than $48,000 from the academy’s account.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” O’Malley said. “On top of that, I’ve never seen anyone and people not willing to act so quickly when they see an injustice for students and a district and the use of public funds.”
News13 reached out to the school, as well as Brown-Burgess for a comment, but have not received a response.
* * *
Aundrea Gibbons joined the News13 team in May 2023 after graduating from Clemson University with bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and communication. Aundrea is a Marion native and graduated as salutatorian in 2019. Follow Aundrea on X, formerly Twitter, and read more of her work here.