At a sparsely attended pre-meeting for the Beaumont Independent School District Board of Trustees in anticipation of its regularly scheduled public meeting Thursday, Dec. 19, Superintendent Timothy Chargois outlined an aggressive timeline of preparations in case a court orders a May 2014 election. The contemplated election before the courts will replace the May 2013 school district election that was canceled amid lawsuits and rulings that spanned local, state and national courts.
The tentative schedule offered by Chargois would allow for three meetings in an attempt to solicit public input, although it wouldn’t give much time for trustees to take public comments into account, as pointed out by Trustee Zenobia Bush. The last public meeting would be the meeting wherein trustees would be asked to vote on a districting map to be used in any upcoming school board election – whether it be in 2014 or 2015, as BISD attorneys are requesting.
“Whatever input they give, we can’t do anything with it,” Bush said of the last meeting to be held Feb. 6 at Central High School. The other meetings proposed by Chargois would be scheduled for Jan. 13 at West Brook High School, and Jan. 23 at Ozen High School.
Chargois added that any map would need to be approved by the Board of Trustees prior to Feb. 10, which is 90 days before the May 2014 election would be held. BISD was brought to court by a group of citizens who successfully challenged adoption of a map after the 90-day threshold in a previous election call.
According to Chargois, draft maps of proposed districting schemes will be delivered to trustees over the holidays for their review. Trustees can draft their own maps, as well, Chargois added.
“We want to be ready just in case,” Chargois said of the map planning. A 2014 election is no sure thing, according to BISD attorneys. Hired legal representative Chad Dunn has argued in prior court appearances that a projected May 2013 election would be too soon to allow the school district to prepare.
William Lenhart, a financial consultant hired by BISD to pour over the school district’s fiscal accounts in the wake of an FBI investigation alleging the district’s comptroller and financial director were stealing public money attended the pre-meeting, as well, giving BISD officials a glimpse of what money is still available for its intended use.
“There’s no prior-year information available,” Lenhart explained. “Of course, that was taken in the federal investigation.”
According to Lenhart, his team is attempting to reconcile the books at BISD, but it is a process that will take time. At the moment, he said, the crew is in the act of tracking the campuses’ Student Activity Funds.
“It’s kind of a fluid situation,” Lenhart said. “By the way, the purchases made in the Student Activity Fund are subject to the same regulations as other funds.”
At the present time, he said, the Student Activity Funds are not in compliance. Additionally, aside from overhauling the way Student activity Funds are accounted for, Lenhart is recommending changes in the finance department, as well.
“The department may need to be broadened with more professional talent,” he said. Over objections from trustees as to the accountant’s assertions of a need for change, he made it known that, “I’m not trying to take your money. I’m trying to account for it, and allow for its dispersal via state regulations.”