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UPDATE: TEA conservator instructs BISD to have public comment at school board meeting.

Posted:
BEAUMONT - UPDATE: 12News has learned that the Texas Education Agency appointed conservator for the Beaumont Independent School District has directed BISD officials to include public comment at Monday's school board meeting.

12News reported Thursday night that school officials had planned to eliminate input from the public during the meeting in which a vote would take place concerning school district.  This includes teachers and students.

The issue was brought to our attention by a citizen who regularly attends BISD board meetings and who frequently shares his opinion during those public comment segments.

Stephen "Doc" Watson was planning to speak Thursday at the regularly scheduled meeting that ended up being canceled.  So when it did get canceled, Watson was ready to reserve a spot to speak on Monday, the day to which the meeting has now been rescheduled.  But he received an email saying there would not be a public comments portion during that meeting.

School Board President Gwen Ambres said since Monday's meeting is now a special meeting, there does not have to be public comments.  Even though the newly named "special" meeting is the same one that got canceled Thursday, and which was going to included public comments.

On Friday, TEA Conservator sent the school board president the following:

President Ambres:
 
As the TEA appointed Conservator for Beaumont ISD and by the authority afforded to me as Conservator, I am directing you to include on the June 23, 2014 Board Meeting Agenda the opportunity for public comment.  The public comment period shall be for 30 minutes as set fort in local policy with the exception that the public comment period shall be scheduled prior to the Board's consideration  and discussion of the posted general consent agenda items.
 
In light of the fact that the Board meeting that was scheduled for June 19, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. to consider and, if appropriate take action to approve the Superintendent's recommendation to approve employment areas affected by the reduction in force was canceled and therefore did not allow the opportunity for public comment, the public should be afforded the opportunity for public comment at the June 23, 2014 Board meeting.
 
The action of the Board on the Superintendent's recommendation on employment areas affected by the reduction in force will have a significant impact on the lives of many in the Beaumont community and the comments from the community and those who will be directly affected by the Board's actions should not go unheard.
 
Respectfully Submitted,
Fred Shafer
TEA Conservator
Beaumont ISD

Most board members have made it no secret they do not enjoy some of what they hear.  In fact, recently the public comments have been placed as the last item on the agenda sometimes late into the night.

Watson said the board is developing a bunker mentality, and calling them desperate.

"I think it's sad that it's come to this.  I think that they're just simply trying to suppress dissent, and they don't want to hear what the teachers and what the students, what the citizens and the taxpayers have to say about this," he said.

Another disturbing concern that we have heard from several employees is that there are teachers and assistant principals who have turned in retirement papers to administration officials, but have been turned away. We are told they are stepping up to retire to spare others from being laid off, but they suspect they are not being allowed to because the district is targeting specific employees.

We tried to reach the district for comment on this, but did not hear back.
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