Now is the time

We had an election last May where Beaumont residents chose some new members of the Beaumont Independent School District board of trustees. Also on the ballot was a referendum issue asking if voters favored altering BISD’s method of electing trustees from seven at-large members to one that had five single-member districts with two members elected at large. There was strong opposition from the current BISD administration who thinks things are going quite well, thank you very much.

By a healthy majority, the voters disagreed, believing that two members who represented the entire district would create more accountability, which they believed was badly needed in light of a string of highly questionable incidents where the board refused to question the actions – or inactions – of Superintendent Carroll “Butch” Thomas.To say Thomas and his very tame board were unhappy with the election result would be an understatement. Since the voters spoke, BISD has spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars in legal fees to try to thwart the will of the people in various judicial forums — to no avail.

The wheels of justice can spin slowly but they are spinning. Next week, officials with the Beaumont Independent School District will hold three open forums to gather input from residents in the district about which trustee redistricting plan they would like to see implemented.

Don’t get too excited, however, because this public participation requirement will result in hearings stacked with BISD partisans eager to preserve the status quo. Since district officials are prohibited from engaging in overt political activity, they will use surrogates to do the dirty work. Their names are familiar, as is their message that seeks to cast every issue in strictly racial terms.

Along with some BISD board members, this cast of the usual suspects has openly encouraged the black community to contact the U.S. Department of Justice and decry the proposed change as racially motivated.

There are a couple of problems with that notion. The majority that voted resoundingly in favor of the change was a group that encompassed all races. In addition, the citizens who are sick and tired of the ongoing circus at BISD headquarters are not a racial monolith. They are a majority of white, Hispanic, Asian and, yes, black citizens who have had enough.

Beaumont residents need to realize the truth – BISD officials can’t get away with this unless we let them. Take the time to attend one or more of these hearings and bring a friend or two. Prepare your comments in advance and make sure to obey all their rules. BISD police have arrested speakers in the past over technical violations, but I suspect there will be some lawyers in the room who aren’t on the BISD payroll.

It’s time to make your voice heard. The issue is only as important as the future of the children of this community. That is worth taking an evening to stand up for what’s right.We’ll see you there.