Texas Education Agency deputy commissioner Michael Berry ruled that TEA Commissioner Michael Williams was within his right to appoint an interim superintendent and Board of Mangers to take over operations formerly entrusted to the Beaumont Independent School District Board of Trustees on Monday, July 14. The BISD Board of Trustees will not be formally removed from their elected posts, but will not have any authority in school district business for up to two years while the Board of Managers sets about correcting what Williams and his staff have found to be “serious deficiencies” in fiscal and administrative oversight.
Vernon Butler, who was recruited to serve in the same capacity when the TEA stepped in at the El Paso Independent School District, has been selected to lead BISD as the interim superintendent.
Butler took over at the helm of the embattled El Paso ISD in September 2012 as a short-term interim superintendent when the last superintendent was arrested on federal corruption charges, while the then Board of Trustees looked to secure a permanent replacement. Butler then served under a TEA-appointed Board of Managers when the Board of Trustees was removed a short time later; his contract was extended to a one-year term in June 2013.
Butler is credited with promoting transparency in El Paso ISD, working to change the culture of corruption at the school district by suspending and firing educators suspected of having any involvement in cheating on standardized tests, and facilitating a massive forensic audit to uncover exactly what was going on at the school district he then headed.
Aside from ordering a forensic audit, some of Butler’s first actions as the interim superintendent in El Paso were to hire a professional public relations staffer to get the school district back in touch with its community, and put out a bid for services to secure in-house legal counsel.
In El Paso, Butler earned a reported $16,500 a month for his services. Since his retirement in October 2013, Butler went back into the education field in 2014 as a part-time facilitator for Education Service Center Region 19.
The Board of Managers appointment will be sworn in by TEA Commissioner Williams on Monday, July 21. According to information provided to The Examiner, former Lamar University president Jimmy Simmons will head the new board, with Lenny Caballero, Vernice Monroe, Jack Carroll, A.B. Bernard, Robert Turner, Joe Domino rounding out the group.
Dr. James M. “Jimmy” Simmons, the first president emeritus in Lamar University history, stepped down in 2013 after more than 14 years as president of Lamar and more than 42 years of employment at the university. During Simmons’ presidency, despite hurricanes and other obstacles, the university experienced tremendous growth, physical enhancement and unprecedented academic achievements. An accomplished musician, Simmons wore many hats at Lamar — first band director, then department chair, then college dean, then interim vice president for advancement, and finally president.
A. B. Bernard is a local entrepreneur who founded BGI Enterprise Inc., after a distinguished career with Bethlehem Steel Corp. As BGI Enterprise, he established United Marine Shipyard servicing the marine industry for ship and drill rig repair and construction. Bernard plays a major role in the business community and is a strong advocate for the Leadership of Southeast Texas, and has been honored for his service and his success as an entrepreneur. He serves or has served on the board of the Spindletop Foundation, Art Museum of Southeast Texas, Beaumont Chamber of Commerce, Communities In Schools, Foundation of Southeast Texas, LIT Foundation Board, and Three Rivers Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
Lenny Caballero has been City of Beaumont Director of Event Facilities since June 2013. Caballero is responsible for the Beaumont Civic Center, Julie Rogers Theatre, Jefferson Theatre, and the city’s Event Centre. Before working for the city, Caballero was special assistant to Lamar University then-president Dr. Jimmy Simmons and was also director of Lamar’s Montagne Center. Caballero previously worked in city operations from 2005 to 2010 as special projects coordinator and assistant to City Manager Kyle Hayes. A 1987 Thomas Jefferson High School graduate, Caballero was a Navy electrician on nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers and served during Operation Desert Storm. He won two Navy Achievement Medals.
Jack Carroll is a local lawyer who has been a partner within the Orgain Bell & Tucker, LLP law firm since 1996, after a nearly three-year stint as an accountant with Deloitte Haskins & Sells. Carroll’s principal area of practice is personal injury, consumer, class action, and commercial litigation and he has extensive trial experience in state court, federal court, and before state and federal administrative agencies - both defending and prosecuting class action litigation. Carroll, who received his law degree from Baylor University School of Law in 1990, was selected in 2009 as one of the “Best Lawyers in America.”
Joe Domino, in his 14 years at the helm of Entergy Texas, helped customers and communities in Southeast Texas through some of the most difficult times, including in the wake of hurricanes Gustav, Ike and Rita. A three-week restoration after Rita “exceeded everyone’s expectations,” Domino said. As a result, he was named Newsmaker of the Year by the Press Club of Southeast Texas, only one of many awards Domino has received for both his professional and personal involvement. Retiring in April 2014 after 44 years with Entergy Corp., Domino is now president of the Lamar University Foundation. He has also focused much of his energy on his charity work, including with Catholic Charities of Southeast Texas, and his passion for radio.
Vernice Monroe is CASA Board President and was CASA Advocate of the Year in 2013. She is a retired professor from Lamar University. Monroe, a native of Kansas City, received her undergraduate and graduate degrees in social work from the University of Missouri . She was the director of the Social Work Program at Lamar from 1976-2008. Upon retirement in 2008, she was awarded the honorary title of Associate Social Work Professor Emeritus. She returned to the university fall 2008 and is currently serving as the Liaison to the President on University Multicultural Enhancement. She has not only taught courses on cultural diversity and cultural sensitivity, but has also conducted workshops and trainings on this subject for groups and organizations.
Robert Turner moved to the Golden Triangle in 2000 and purchased JK Chevrolet, a longtime General Motors dealership. Turner is the first African-American installed as the Greater Beaumont Area Chamber of Commerce chairman of the board (2011-13). He’s a member of three area chambers of commerce: Nederland, Port Arthur, Beaumont. He later opened the Subaru dealership under the same name. A native of Marshall, Turner moved to the Dallas area in 1976 and worked for several auto dealers in that area while learning the trade.