Beaumont chamber says BISD has to go
The Greater Beaumont Chamber of Commerce supported the bond referendum that called for the construction of new and modern schools and facilities ,and participated in meetings throughout the construction program led by the Beaumont Independent School District. Our purpose and goal was to see that all projects were completed. The new schools were constructed by reputable local firms and managed by a recognized third-party firm. Allegations about how the budget for contingency and inflation were spent are worthy of further investigation, and we support a forensic audit to account for the funds. Such an audit needs to be completed by an independent firm.
The new superintendent was selected by a unanimous vote of the duly elected trustees and we endeavored to assist him with input about public relations, finances and governance, especially after our August 2013 chamber board planning workshop. A variety of suggestions were made including the offer of mentors by willing business leaders with extensive CEO experience. While the superintendent welcomed the suggestions, he did not act upon them.
It came to our attention with the FBI and Texas Education Agency investigations that the district did not employ qualified financial personnel, to include certified public accountants, to manage district finances. We further became keenly aware about the lack of internal controls and governance over the personnel in charge. We met with the superintendent and the financial consultants he brought in after the FBI confiscation of financial records to understand where the district stood with finances and once again offered the assistance of business leaders. In the subsequent meetings, we discovered flaws in the budget process, flaws in financial reporting, and problems in the practices of purchasing of goods and services for the district. These flaws led to the abuse and fraud and still exist without qualified personnel and leadership.
With the departure of the top two financial management personnel to indictments and with the third on home duty, the district is tasked with finding replacements. While the consultant is implementing the type of financial controls and processes you would expect, there is strong concern that the best replacements will not be willing to work for the district under the current administration. There is no confidence that the superintendent and trustees who allowed the financial management department to deteriorate and be filled with unqualified and unethical personnel should be trusted to make and maintain financial reforms.
More importantly, and above everything else, the image and reputation of the district is so damaged it can only be resurrected by the intervention of the TEA and replacement of all current leaders. Such replacements need to represent the entire community but have strong backgrounds in board governance, finances and educational achievement. We need a superintendent that is able to conduct the day-to-day affairs of the district without board interference, and with the authority to recruit the best and brightest replacements.
We continue to support the teachers and principals who do a tremendous job and for progress in making BISD attractive to newcomers. Additional progress can only come once the basic financial functions and practices are implemented and maintained by competent leadership.
We urge the community at large to demand these changes unless we are willing to gamble the future of our community.