Do the right thing

The selection of Dr. Timothy Chargois as the new superintendent of the Beaumont Independent School District was greeted with a sigh of relief by beleaguered citizens who hoped the unanimous vote on the usually divided Board of Trustees signaled a new day at BISD. That might ultimately prove to be the case, but as Ringo Starr once sang, “It don’t come easy.”

Sixteen days after that unanimous vote on Chargios’ contract, two board members filed a lawsuit against BISD and district lawyer Tanner Hunt seeking to block the contract. Trustees Tom Nield and Mike Neil say Hunt and the BISD administration failed to give the elected board  materials necessary to make an informed decision on behalf of the taxpayers they represent.

The bone of contention is a provision in the Chargois contract mandating an automatic base salary increase every year on top of the $215,000-a-year salary conferred on the first-time superintendent that meant he would start his new job as twice the salary he made as a deputy superintendent. That salary vaulted him into the upper echelon of Texas school superintendents, but the board felt he was worth it as a consensus candidate to lead BISD to a brighter tomorrow.

What BISD board members said they didn’t want in the contract was an automatic pay increase like the one bestowed years ago upon retiring superintendent Dr. Carrol “Butch” Thomas. But what do you know? When the dust cleared after the contract was signed, the automatic pay increase provision was cleverly included in the document.

Whether by incompetence or chicanery, BISD attorney Hunt and Chargois attorney Cory Hartsfield had slicked the board. Hartsfield is very familiar with the school district contract process, as his firm is on retainer for the Texas Association of School Administrators. Attorneys from Hartsfield’s firm penned Thomas’ contract, as well as those for superintendents in Houston and Dallas. Chargois was afforded Hartsfield’s representation through his affiliation with the TASA group.

 Somehow, Hunt and Hartsfield drafted a contract that, in effect, contained exactly the language on the annual pay raise provision trustees said they didn’t want. This being BISD, a skeptical public saw some trustees from the pro-Thomas faction seem to shrug their shoulders as if they were powerless to correct this unfortunate snafu.

Fortunately there is one man who can resolve this issue with a word – Dr. Timothy Chargois. The new superintendent should immediately step forward and renounce the contract he signed 16 days ago and request the board to instruct Hunt to prepare a new one that omits the offending provision the board clearly said they didn’t want. This would demonstrate the kind of clear-headed leadership qualities that made him a prized candidate for the job he now holds. It is the right thing to do, and we are confident Chargois will do the right thing.