Beaumont Independent School District Superintendent Timothy Chargois repeatedly called on the Board of Trustees to focus its attention on student success during the group’s most recent meeting held Nov. 8, but taxpayers are urging the elected leaders to investigate allegations of race-baiting and theft occurring on district grounds and facilitated by public funding.
During what was at times a hostile exchange of viewpoints, BISD board members expressed polarizing remarks in front of a boisterous audience gathered in the school district’s boardroom. The result of those “conversations” quelled any hopes of investigating a loss of more than $200,000 in property that mysteriously came up missing, although district employees testified in a federal court that the materials were indeed in the possession of BISD. An investigation was ordered, however, into allegations that students from West Brook High School participated in depicting the nation’s president as a monkey chasing a banana on campus grounds.
Despite warnings from BISD board president Woodrow Reece that this was a “meeting in the public, not a meeting of the public,” several “guests” from the community approached the podium to make their voices heard before the board.
Moments before the board was set to discuss and publicly denounce the Central High School pre-election half-time show wherein Big Bird sucker-punched Mitt Romney, Beaumonter David Pete said the board should also consider tackling the brewing West Brook High School controversy as well, where the opposite side of the political debate was the brunt of the joke. Pete said he saw the incident first-hand, and if the BISD administration was going to show “zero tolerance” for political satire, a spectacle that was nothing more than racism in action should elicit the same response.
“Let’s get real here,” Pete said. “What’s wrong with this is when you take a stand for one point of view but never for the other.”
Beaumont Councilman Mike Getz said the product coming from BISD students in the political arena “is dividing the community, instead of unifying it.”
BISD trustee Terry Williams, to crowd applause, asked that Superintendent Chargois bring a report to the board of trustees detailing the West Brook incident complete with video surveillance.
Chargois said he would comply with the wishes of the board, but again reiterated a desire to keep all eyes on the prize. That prize, he said, was “greater greatness” for all the students of BISD “despite all the distraction and everything else going on all around us.”
“My job is to see that we stay focused,” Chargois said.
Trustee Tom Neild said it was also the job of the administration to provide a sense of fiscal responsibility to the students of BISD, and proceeded to detail the loss of more than $200,000 in materials over the last several months.
“The materials have to be somewhere,” Neild contended. “I don’t see the harm in going to the authorities and telling them that someone signed off on material that we no longer have in our possession.”
Among some of the material Neild says is missing is nearly 2,000 feet of heavy-duty unistrut, over 8,000 feet of 3-inch galvanized pipe, and 6,000 feet of 2-inch conduit – all materials supposedly bought through BISD contracted electrician Calvin Walker. Neild said the district is out more than $300,000 in materials billed from Walker including two $60,000-apiece electrical boxes that are also missing.
Board trustee Zenobia Bush said it was too late now to look for the materials.
“We can look into a system where we’ll be able to keep better track of inventory,” she said. “I don’t to spend time, resources and effort to look for something that isn’t there.”
Fellow trustee Janice Brassard agreed with Bush. “Some of the stuff might have sprouted legs and walked off,” she said. “We have to move forward and make sure this kind of thing never happens again.”
An independent investigation into the missing material was voted down by the board majority.
Also failing to secure the votes needed to move forward was a motion to enroll the board in training to reform the troubled group of trustees. Trustee Mike Neil said he voted against the training since he didn’t feel everyone was 100 percent devoted to getting along, as evidenced by the divisive Nov. 8 board meeting.
“The interactions tonight were telling,” he said. “I don’t want to waste the taxpayer’s money.”
BISD board secretary Janice Teel said the board needed unanimous support to enter the training program. Board president Reece said the recent meeting was indicative of the way the board operates.
“There’s always something stirring in the pot,” he said.
Jennifer Johnson can be reached at (409) 832-1400, ext. 231, or by e-mail at jennifer [at] theexaminer [dot] com.