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In a 4-to-3 vote, BISD trustees elect Gwen Ambres as new board p - 12 News KBMT and K-JAC. News, Weather and Sports for SE Texas

In a 4-to-3 vote, BISD trustees elect Gwen Ambres as new board president

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BEAUMONT -

In a surprise move Thursday night, a majority of the Beaumont Independent School District board of trustees voted to elect Gwen Ambres as the board's new president, ousting incumbent Woodrow Reece.

Traditionally, the board selects officers after every election, but this year two elections have already been canceled.

So Trustee Zenobia Bush put on the agenda to go ahead and select officers now.  Her nomination went to Gwen Ambres, Ambres has been on the board since May 2011.

Mike Neil nominated Reece, but Reece, who's been on the board for 14 years, at least five of those years as president, did not win re-election.

He lost to Ambres 4-to-3.

Surprisingly, he lost the support of those who normally vote with him, Bush, Ambres, and Terry Williams.  Janice Brassard also voted for Ambres.

The only votes, besides his own, that Reece received was from Tom Neild and Mike Neil.

Those two typically butt heads with Reece, but this time were on his side.

Neil called the action taken against Reece "spineless".

He said, "What needed to happen, someone needed to address him and say I have a concern about the way you're doing the duty of president, to me you do it in the right way."

Reece recently made headlines and endured criticism for saying the board should go after money that BISD electrical contractor Calvin Walker had to forfeit as part of a plea agreement, in which Walker admitted not paying income tax on a check he received from BISD.

Reece's statement contradicted a vote by the majority of the board not to pursue the money.

We asked if that might have led to him losing his seat as president.  He said he did not know, but seemed to relish the notion that now as just a regular board member he could be more outspoken and not just play mediator.

Immediately after losing to Ambres, Reece started being more vocal, criticizing recent steps by the board to limit public participation during board meetings.

Reece said, "Allow folks to talk, this is America, come on where are we headed."

Ambres praised Reece, and said it was just a good time to make the change, since the superintendent is recently new as well.

In response to Reece's criticism of the new policy cutting the amount of time citizens can speak, Ambres said, "Nothing is set in stone, we're going to see how these things play out, our main purpose was to make our board meetings more efficient."

Ambres officially takes over at the next board meeting in November, the new time limits on public participation also go into effect at that time.

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