Thursday's regular meeting of the Press Club of Southeast Texas was far from a friendly lunch.
The guest speaker, State Board of Education member David Bradley, had harsh words for the Beaumont I.S.D.
The question and answer session turned into a lively discussion as the conservative republican, who can be controversial himself, spoke frankly on what he thought of B.I.S.D.
"BISD is rapidly becoming the poster child to what's wrong with public education" said Bradley.
Bradley said the district's reputation precedes itself in Austin, and not in a good way.
"When I go to the legislature and talk about the needs and they find out that I'm from Beaumont - the first response is 'oh my god what's going on down there?'" said Bradley.
Bradley pointed to three areas of concerns, and said administration's high salaries, the timing of construction projects, and federal investigations are all red flags being flown in Austin - and has made itself a target at a time when taxpayers are carrying "pitchforks."
But BISD was not to be outdone. The district was represented strongly at the meeting, with at least two assistant superintendents and spokeswoman Jessie Haynes openly questioning Bradley's statements.
"I'm disappointed because you've got a great deal of positive stuff at BISD and for it to be trashed by the state board representative - just because of politics? You're gonna trash the kids, teachers for all the hard work that they've done? Come on be for real" said Haynes.
Haynes said Superintendent Dr. Carroll Thomas earned his $340,000 salary by getting half a billion dollars in federal grant money for the district, and working to bring up state test scores.
"We're educating every kid without leaving any particular group behind. So we're doing well over and over and over again - so you really should be proud of BISD for educating the most difficult kid to be educated" said Haynes.
Bradley criticized BISD for holding too much of a reserve fund - now reported at $45 million. He said surplus money should be given back to taxpayers. But the district explained the $45 million is about what state guidelines are - equal to 3 months operating expenses.
"What he has done is insulted the people of this community" said Haynes.
Bradley discussed a number of different topics in the meeting, and said quite frankly that teacher layoffs resulting from state funding cuts are being overstated in the media.
He said legislators are only looking for ways to save taxpayer money in light of the current economy. Bradley continued by stating revenues are down and education expenses are up - but the solution isn't to spend more money - but to educate more efficiently.
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