BISD's Vague Vote: When elected trustees could take office

The Texas Commissioner of Education is urging Beaumont voters to participate in the upcoming school board elections even though it is unclear when the elected board will be sworn in.

BEAUMONT - For the first time in six years, Beaumont is holding a school board election; however, the district is not yet back to functioning like other Texas schools. Those elected in May are not going to be seated just yet. In a 12News investigation, the Texas Education Agency is asked when the community's vote will count.

Beaumont ISD is a different school district than just a few years ago. Finally getting past allegations of mismanagement and plummeting grades, the TEA and a board of managers have been working to turn the district around. A school board election is scheduled for May 6th but it is unclear when the winners will actually be sworn in.

"This community has to heal," said David Moore. "It can only heal through people who live here and are willing to make a difference."

Moore knows a little bit about healing. The former mayor of Beaumont served federal time after being convicted of bribery back in 2002 and is now preparing to cast his vote in the BISD trustee race. Federal law states that after a felon completes his term, they are able to vote again. With the election around the corner, the man now with grandchildren in grade school, is learning more about the candidates.

"They need to know that the votes they're making are for people that are going to lead this community in the education of their children for the next generation," said Moore.

The Texas Education Agency says those elected will not be sworn into office this summer.

Instead, the state-appointed board of managers will continue to serve.

"It's so exciting to see the work, the hard work or teachers and principals, our educators here in Beaumont pouring love and skill into our kids," said TEA Commissioner Mike Morath. "It's just it's a joy to watch."

Morath is optimistic for the future of the district but says there's still some work to be done before elected members will take control.

Gene Acuna, a spokesman for TEA says continued financial stability is a must.

"The trends are going the right way," said Acuna. "The district is in far better shape than it was several years ago.  There's just still some work that needs to be done."

Still, voters want to know the weight their ballots will carry. Morath says the elected officials will one day take office.

"The way the law works is that the agency has to order a return and that begins a two-year process."

Once the TEA orders that return, the names of two of the trustees who are elected in May will be drawn out of a hat and will replace two managers. A year later, two more will be installed and the following year all elected trustees will have replaced the appointed board of managers.

The elected trustees are also drawing straws for two and four-year terms. Since this is the first election since a census was taken, the school board election cycle is being re-set. To trigger another school board election in May of 2019, three to four trustees will serve two-year terms. The others get four-year terms.

Depending on when Commissioner Morath starts the transition period between the appointed managers and the elected trustees and taking into consideration some trustees terms will expire in two years, there is a possibility that an elected trustee will never be sworn in.

With the sensitive timeline in mind, a teacher in the district hopes Morath issues the return soon.

"I hope that TEA and the state of Texas give the voters in Beaumont a chance to speak and have a voice," said Camille Briggs.

Moore also believes it's time for Southeast Texans to decide who sits on the school board.

"There is nothing greater than people speaking up, being heard and feeling as if they are taking ownership of their community," said Moore.

Announced Wednesday, the current board of managers, who had planned to step down next month, will be staying on awhile longer.

© 2017 KBMT-TV


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