Darwin Campbell, African-American News&Issues
AUSTIN – Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams today announced his decision to appoint a board of managers to oversee the management of the Beaumont Independent School District (BISD). The Commissioner also announced his intent to name a new superintendent for the district.
The Commissioner’s decision follows two recent Texas Education Agency investigations into various BISD special education, finance and governance issues. Based on findings in those reports, Agency staff recommended to the Commissioner the appointment of a board of managers and the lowering of the Beaumont ISD accreditation.
“This is a critical time for the district and its students, as well as for the community as a whole,” wrote Commissioner Williams in a letter to the current BISD superintendent and board president. “The magnitude of the findings, the serious nature of the ongoing and systemic operating deficiencies facing the district, and the importance of preventing further harm to the welfare of the Beaumont ISD’s students and to the public interest compel me to appoint a board of managers at this time.”
Commissioner Williams will formally announce the names of those serving on the board of managers, as well as an interim superintendent, at a future date. He is hopeful a board of managers can stabilize and strengthen BISD, while also focusing on the education it provides to students.
“It about time. This has been one of the worst situations I have ever seen,” said Texas Community Activist and Education Advocate Ricky Jason said reacting to the announcement. “Something needed to be done to restore public trust and give our children a chance at getting a good quality education.”
Jason, who has been involved in the scrutinizing district finances and raising questions about the state of education in the district, told Williams during the probe that BISD was one of the worst school districts in state of Texas.
The board of managers – which will be comprised of a majority of members from the Beaumont community – will be responsible for overseeing the management of the Beaumont Independent School District, including oversight of the district’s efforts to address and correct identified deficiencies and to implement effective structural and procedural improvement strategies for long-term, positive change.
Following staff recommendations, Commissioner Williams has spent the last several weeks speaking with Beaumont community and business leaders, parents, students and local stakeholders regarding issues within the district. The Commissioner utilized that community input before reaching his decision.
“For quite some time now, local district leadership has had various warnings and multiple opportunities to address the many troubling issues surrounding the Beaumont Independent School District,” said Commissioner Williams. “The people of Beaumont have waited patiently for action, but made it very clear to me that they are now ready to restore the damaged reputation of their local school district.”
As a result of findings in the special education investigation, BISD was assigned a monitor to oversee special education. Commissioner Williams is escalating that monitor role to that of a conservator. The conservator will oversee the operations of the district and ensure the district is taking appropriate measures until a board of managers is in place.
Finally, the accreditation of the Beaumont Independent School District will be lowered to Accredited-Probation. The lowered status has no impact on the validity of high school diplomas issued by Beaumont ISD, nor does it impact graduates’ ability to gain college admissions.
The Beaumont Independent School District may request a record review of the appointment of a board of managers and its lowered accreditation status, as well as request an informal review of the conservator assignment. A request for a record review and/or an informal review must be submitted in writing and received by the Texas Education Agency no later than April 24, 2014.
Pending the outcome of this final review, the board of managers appointment will become effective on June 15, 2014.
Once in place, the appointed board of managers will assume all responsibilities of the elected board of trustees. The board of managers will be in place for up to two years. A school board election must be called within two years of this appointment.