Despite public pressure, BISD board of trustees votes to layoff - 12 News KBMT and K-JAC. News, Weather and Sports for SE Texas

Despite public pressure, BISD board of trustees votes to layoff teachers & close Austin Middle School

BEAUMONT - Hours before the Beaumont Independent School District board of trustees meeting started Monday, people were already lining up.  Once inside, it was a full house, almost 400 people hoping to persuade the seven trustees not to lay off teachers.

Parents, teachers and students all pleading with the trustees to do the right thing.  Some even telling the board members that they are the ones who need to go, blaming them for the district's financial crisis.

But Trustee Zenobia Bush lashed back saying most of them were not even her constituents, telling them it made her sick that they thought they represented the entire community. At one point, it looked like the vote on layoffs would have to be postponed.
A Texas Ranger sent by Jefferson County District Attorney stood watch making sure the trustees followed the law.

Employee Ron Reynolds, whose position was on the chopping block is suing BISD claiming retaliation.  A court order prevents the board from firing him until after a June 30 hearing is held.  Board members voted to take Reynolds' position off the list. 

No such luck for anyone else, and even Conservator Fred Shafer, who the Texas Education Agency has put in place to oversee the district let the board know a reduction in force was inevitable, said personnel costs were about to be more than 90 percent of the budget.

Shafer told trustees, "Your district in March issued contracts to personnel before you knew what your budget was going to be, you issued contracts to personnel who were on grants.  Those grants were playing out at the end of this year, yet they were pulled over to you general operating fund."

Trustee Tom Neild explained to Shafer that no one trusts the current administration to conduct the layoffs fairly.

Neild and Mike Neil were the only trustees to vote against the layoffs.  Terry Williams abstained.  He was upset part of the cuts included closing Austin Middle School due to low enrollment, and moving those students to King Middle School.

Teacher Sebrina Dollar, who is also the Vice President of the Beaumont Teachers Association, said, "It's going to be devastating on the economic community as  well as our students, they're going to be stuffed in bigger classrooms and less attention to each child."

Trustee Janice Brassard said that under a Board of Managers appointed by the Texas Commissioner of Education, the situation would be worse.  She said according to Texas Education Agency guidelines, average class sizes are bigger.  They are 30 students  to one teacher or even up to 35 students per teacher unlike the 28 to 1 ratio proposed by BISD.

A vote on whether the board plans to appeal the proposed state takeover will not happen until next Monday as trustees review their legal options.  Also on Monday, the board will vote on the specific people who will get let go.  It will be considered proposed termination because the employees will have the option to appeal.

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