Bevil Oaks loses bid to leave Beaumont ISD

Bevil Oaks loses bid to leave Beaumont ISD

One by one, they came before the Beaumont ISD Board of Managers time and time again to plead for reprieve, but residents of Bevil Oaks were ultimately rebuffed in their quest to secede from the district by a board vote cast Tuesday, May 16.

In a petition for secession from BISD, Bevil Oaks residents recited a litany of complaints in support of being allowed to leave the Beaumont school district and be encompassed by Hardin-Jefferson ISD, including the excessive travel time in busing Bevil Oaks middle schoolers to a campus 14 miles away and the fact that Bevil Oaks students are placed at campuses that have poor education indicator reviews, as noted by the Texas Education Agency.

BISD rebuffed notions that Bevil Oaks students are placed at substandard campuses by pointing out the community’s students are zoned to Guess Elementary School, which met standard, West Brook High School, which met standards, and MLK Middle School, which is the only improvement required campus in the Bevil Oaks attendance plan.

BISD received the Bevil Oaks petition Feb. 13, according to BISD records. The petition, circulated by organizer Allen Pride and signed by 685 individuals residing in an “affected territory” that has a total of 983 registered voters, was seeking relief under Texas Education Code’s “Detachment and Annexation” statute. According to the statute, the petition had to be signed by at least 492 persons who are registered voters residing within the affected territory, and BISD reps verified 583 of the provided signatures to constitute the majority support needed to move forward.

Another portion of the statute could not be overcome, however, according to BISD. The Texas Education Code says, “Unless the petition is signed by a majority of the trustees of the district from which the territory is to be detached, territory that has residents may not be detached from a school district under this section if detachment would reduce that district’s tax base by a ratio at least twice as large as the ratio by which it would reduce its membership.”

BISD trustees did not sign the petition, and the district would see loss of more than two times the tax base over the number of students allowed to leave under the detachment.

“The proposed detachment would reduce BISD’s tax base by a ratio which is 2.75111 times as large as the ratio by which it would reduce its membership,” information from the district states. According to the advice given to BISD’s Board of Managers through legal counsel, the amount of the tax base reduction would preclude BISD officials from allowing the secession.

In lieu of granting the petition request, BISD does plan to address one of the petitioners’ main concerns.

According to the petition, “In March of 2017, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Shannon Allen attempted to address … concerns about King Middle School by stating the attendance zones would be redrawn in two to three years,” which wasn’t good enough.

“Prior to the 2007 bond election,” the petition further explains, “Bevil Oaks Mayor Rebecca Ford was guaranteed by BISD that the attendance zones for middle schools would be redrawn, and children from Bevil Oaks would not attend King Middle School if the bond passed. Due to the fact that rezoning was guaranteed before the 2007 bond election, and the fact middle school zoning within BISD has not changed in the last decade, the petitioners find it unlikely that BISD will change attendance zones to allow the petitioners to attend closer and academically acceptable middle schools.”

BISD has now agreed to allow for Bevil Oaks middle school students to attend the closer Marshall Middle School beginning the next school year.

But Bevil Oaks petitioners state they still plan to ask for state intervention to facilitate the secession.

Prior to BISD’s petition rejection, H-JISD officials had already agreed to accept the Bevil Oaks students into their district. Because of the receiving school district’s support, Bevil Oaks’ petition is still viable.

“If both boards of trustees of the affected districts disapprove the petition, the decisions may not be appealed,” the education code states. “If the board of trustees of only one affected district disapproves the petition, an aggrieved party to the proceedings in either district may appeal the board’s decision to the commissioner (of education).”

In deciding the appeal, the commissioner is not bound by the “two-times” rule that precluded BISD’s petition acceptance, the code states, but instead the education commissioner “shall consider the educational interests of the students in the affected territory and the affected districts and the social, economic, and educational effects of the proposed boundary change.”