BISD board could have new representation

The Ninth Court of Appeals handed down a 15-page ruling, Monday, saying all seats on the Beaumont Independent School District school board should be up for election in May because of recent redistricting.

The ruling would force three BISD board members to lose their seats because they did not file to run for re-election. The three people who did file to run for those seats would automatically replace them since they have no opposition on the ballot.

"My clients are thrilled and justice has prevailed," says attorney Mike Getz, who is representing the three candidates who did file for positions.

Those candidates are Donna Forgas, Linda Gilmore and Marcelino Rodriguez.

"State law says any time there's redistricting, the following election all trustees are up for bid," says Getz.

Because of this redistricting law, the court says all seven positions are open due to census changes. This alters the racial makeup of the board.

Board President Woodrow Reece, Terry Williams and Zenobia Bush would lose their seats.

Currently, there are four African Americans and three whites on the board.  The new board would consist of four whites, two African Americans and one Hispanic.

Zenobia Bush tells 12News "The statistics show the majority of the district's community is black. Would the majority of the board be black? No."

12News spoke to Woodrow Reece who says "This is just another example of the people in the community trying to split the community in half. My supporters find it hard to believe they won't have representation on the board if it goes through."

Getz disagrees saying there will be two African Americans on the board and that Hispanics would now also be represented.

"The racial makeup currently doesn't have any Hispanic representation at all; even though the Hispanic community is the fasted growing demographic in Beaumont," says Getz.

Bush says another problem with the ruling is that the three candidates who are up for the seats have been defeated in the past.

"People are being put into a position where they were defeated by the sitting board. That represents what the city wants. You are cutting our term and putting people into a position that voters didn't want," she says.

Getz responded by saying if that's the case, all board members should have filed for May's election.

"It is very clear in the Texas Education Code. They had the ability to opt to stay in their seat and finish out their term. They chose not to do so," he says.

BISD attorney, Melody Chappell, says the board will discuss appealing the ruling to the Texas Supreme Court at Thursday's board meeting.

The redistricting map also has to be approved the Department of Justice. Chappell says that will also be discussed Thursday.

Trustee Mike Neil did file to run for his position and he has no challenger.

Tom Nield and Gwen Ambres are up for re-election. But, no one filed to run against them.

Janice Brassard is the only incumbent with competition. Beaumont businessman, Joey Hilliard, has filed to run against her.


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