Beaumont ISD Board of Managers faces task of renaming 'Thomas' stadium

Beaumont ISD Board of Managers faces task of renaming 'Thomas' stadium

Long a bone of contention in the community, the Beaumont ISD Board of Managers is tackling the controversial topic of changing the name of the district’s stadium complex, the Carrol A. “Butch” Thomas Educational Support Center. The change has not been without warning, and not without opposition.

Thomas served as the Beaumont ISD head for 15 years, rising to be the highest paid superintendent in Texas at an annual salary topping $347,000 plus perks before his 2012 departure. The stadium itself was quite costly, too. Originally projected to cost $26 million, the price tag on the facility topped more than $47 million by the time it was completed. The facility, which sits on 85 acres and includes a 10,600-seat football stadium and a competition-sized natatorium, was the subject of forensic audit findings after the Texas Education Agency intervened not long after Thomas retired.

Evidence compiled by William D. Brown, partner, Forensic and Litigation Services for Weaver LLP, revealed minutes of meetings held between Thomas’ administrative team and the appointed community bond committee indicating the stadium was “fast-tracked” and quickly ballooned in costs controlled by Thomas himself.

“The largest single budget reallocation of $14.1 million was made to the Multi-Purpose Facility,” now known as “The Butch,” Brown reported. “The community was promised the new schools would take precedence over the stadium and would be started first.

“Contrary to these promises, the stadium was started before the construction of the new schools under the guise that being the biggest project, the stadium would be worst hit by the ‘projected’ inflation. … Our analysis determined that construction on the Athletic Facility began in June 2009 and was completed by September 2010, while the schools were begun in late 2009.

Multiple projects were not completed until after project manager Parsons was terminated in 2013.

“The Multi-Purpose Facility provides an example of the false cost information included in project budgets as represented by Parsons, Thomas, and District Administration,” according to forensic auditor Brown.

Once complete, the over-budget and ahead-of-schedule multi-million-dollar project was christened in homage to, and under the direction of, then-superintendent Thomas. The stadium wasn’t long in place before Thomas packed up and moved on. Just as state and federal authorities began auditing processes that ultimately resulted in official intervention, removal of the district’s superintendent and removal of the district’s sitting Board of Trustees, Thomas retired and left the community, now homesteading in his $1 million estate in the Houston area.

Brought by the Beaumont ISD Board’s president and vice-president, the recommendation to remove Thomas’ name from the stadium complex also comes with suggestions for re-naming the facility.

“In an effort to bridge divisions within the Beaumont community, the Beaumont ISD Board will consider honoring the rich heritage represented by our current and former high schools,” the recommendation outlines in the Board’s agenda packet material. “The Board will consider renaming the stadium facility off of Interstate 10, the district’s most visible facility, in honor of these high schools and their alumni. In support of this effort, the BISD Board will consider establishing an annual BISD Alumni Bowl football game and celebration.”

Upon approval, “The Butch” would be re-branded the Beaumont Independent School District Memorial Stadium. Also new to the complex would be the recognition of all current and former high schools that awarded diplomas in order to honor West Brook, Beaumont United, Beaumont Early College, Beaumont, Charlton-Pollard, South Park, Hebert, French, Forest Park, Beaumont Charlton-Pollard, Central Medical Magnet, and Ozen Magnet; a monument that includes a bronze plaque for each school and a plaque to recognize former superintendents; and a new annual event dubbed the BISD Alumni Bowl when West Brook and Beaumont United meet for competition.

On the consent agenda, along with the routine acceptance of minutes, Board of Managers/Trustees were also asked to entertain the resignation of one or more managers/trustees. Board of Managers A.B. Bernard, Joe Domino, Vernice Monroe, Nathan Cross, Angela Corbin Bransford, Mitch Templeton and Denise Wallace-Spooner are currently seated by the Texas Education Agency, with Cross and Wallace-Spooner winning elected seats on the board during the district’s most recent election.