The Commerce City School System recovered one piece of equipment and received $6,500 in restitution for other equipment allegedly stolen from the Commerce High School Broadcast Video Department by former instructor Melanie Beason.
Beason, 35, of 205 Post Place Drive, Alto, was arrested on Aug. 14 on charges of theft by taking following an investigation by the Commerce Police Department.
Beason was moved in July from the high school to Commerce Middle School, where she was to be a special education teacher. She has since been fired.
“We had a teacher who was certified in technical education for grades 6-12, who wanted to be a teacher at the high school,” superintendent Joy Tolbert explained. “He did an outstanding job and we felt like he was ready.”
Beason, Tolbert said, had special education certification, and the middle school needed a special education teacher.
“We felt like it was time to go in a different direction,” Tolbert said. “Mr. Drew (CHS principal Donnie Drew) and I met with her at the end of the (school) year. We thought it was time to do something different in broadcast video.”
But when Greg Maxwell came to CHS over the summer to prepare his classroom, he found discrepancies between what was on the inventory for the classroom and what was actually there.
“That’s when he brought it to our attention,” Tolbert said.
Tolbert contacted school resource officer Jeff Rogers, who called in the department’s criminal investigative unit.
Beason reportedly admitted to taking the items and selling them at one or more Habersham County pawnshops. Police were able to recover only one of the “few big, expensive items,” Tolbert said.
“What we were able to do, in lieu of getting all the equipment back, we did ask her to pay back — restitution,” Tolbert said.
The superintendent said the board of education discussed the situation in an “executive (closed to the public) session.”
“The board had a decision to make once presented with the evidence, and they did decide unanimously to press charges,” Tolbert said. “They did not take a vote. When given the options, they said we do wish to press charges.”
Beason surrendered to the Jackson County jail on the Commerce warrant and is out on bail. The police incident report on the case was not made available until last Friday.
Beason reportedly cited financial difficulties as the reason she stole the equipment.
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