by Darwin Campbell, African-American News&Issues
Beaumont- It did not take long for the new Board of Managers for Beaumont Independent School District to make swift changes and get down to business Monday.
TEA Commissioner Michael Williams made an appearance and gave his blessing and charge for the new board to lead the district out of a deep financial sinkhole that not only claimed the ousted superintendent and school board, but also took teachers down with it and endangered key education programs that help children.
“This board of managers has been placed in a tough position where a number of large financial decisions must be made in a very short period of time,” Commissioner Williams said. “The district’s road back to true stability and credibility will be a long one, but it will be trusted community members from Beaumont who will successfully map out the path.”
BISD interim SuperintendentVern Butler made it clear to the packed house of citizens and community leaders that the number one goal he has for the district is to do things right and get the district ready quickly for the upcoming school year.
Some of those initial decisions including severing ties with former superintendent Timothy Chargois, finding a new legal team in place, hiring a part-time chief financial officer, advertising for a new CFO and getting their feet wet about the state of finances in the district.
“We have some new challenges and tough decisions,” Butler told the group. “We look forward to working for you and with you and promise to do that with professionalism.”
Butler has 40 years of experience in education and has been involved in helping many districts that suffered various problems ranging from financial difficulty to testing and cheating issues.
During public comments, citizens were optimistic about the new board and day dawning in the district.
“We are pleased that Commissioner Williams has come in here and set something in place that means business and finally will help our kids,” said Texas activist and Beaumont resident Ricky Jason. “It is my prayer that community can unite together with the new board and move forward in support of the education of our children.”
The districts is tens of millions in the hole because of financial mismanagement, poor business practices, a lack of oversight and alleged theft by several employees who worked for the district.
Jason said he hopes the expanded TEA and FBI investigations will also snare others who stole from children, taxpayers and teachers.
Joining Butler is a new seven member team put in place by Williams to help Butler start the healing process.
According to Williams, the new board came from the Beaumont community and was selected from a group of about 60 names. Each chosen were chose for their experience and success and leadership in their respective fields.
He made it a point to say he does not see this as a state takeover, but more of a handoff to local folks to fix the financial problems and mismanagement that have plagued the district.
Williams believes that in time Beaumont and its district can heal itself.
“This team will have a chance to restore the confidence and trust of taxpayers and citizens lost because of the the things that took place in the district,” Williams said. “This has been handed from one group of eight to another group of eight Beaumont citizens who will take ownership and wrap their arms around what finances are and what decisions that need to be made.”
Jason said that he will continue to monitor the progress of the district and is planning a documentary he is tentatively calling “Crooks and Criminals – The Rise and Fall of Beaumont ISD”. Production will begin immediately.