BISD board meeting descends into chaos

Mike Neil and Mike Getz

 

A meeting of the Beaumont Independent School District board of trustees held Thursday, Aug. 1, began with a restraining order and ended with an administrator seeking emergency medical assistance for what she called a “mob” assault by a journalist, a city councilman and an elected BISD board member. 

The Aug. 1 BISD meeting was supposed to encompass board trustee training followed by an executive session and approval of a new redistricting map for use in any upcoming election. Prior to the start of the meeting, however, BISD attorney Melody Chappell was served with notice that a local judge had derailed any plans the board of trustees might have had to institute a new voting map scheme without the luxury of any public input. The map proposed by the group would have provided for five single member districts with two at-large representative seats (5/2). In the map plans, each of the four trustees who consistently vote in an alliance — Terry Williams, Zenobia Bush, board president Woodrow Reece, and Gwen Ambres — would each have their own district. The remaining three board members – Mike Neil, Tom Neild, and Janice Brassard — would all be fight it out for the remaining district seat. 

Also provided in the plan blocked by the court was a provision to institute cumulative voting. Parent Jock Wagner filed the court motion that halted the school voting revisions. In the petition to the court, Wagner asserted improper notice was given to the public for the elected BISD board of trustees to act on any such provisions. The judge agreed that more investigation into the claim was warranted and, without the benefit of court intervention, the school board would be in a position to make voting changes that could cause irreparable harm to citizens such as Wagner. 

When explaining the court order to the board of trustees, attorney Chappell informed the group that the order was moot anyway since a 9th Court of Appeals ruling was handed down Aug. 1 in favor of BISD trustees who did not want to institute any voter-mandated 5/2 election plan. 

During a recess from the open meeting of the board, local attorney and city councilman Mike Getz read the 9th Court of Appeals ruling to news reporters and bystanders, to which BISD special assistant to the superintendent for communications Jessie Haynes retorted by performing a solo Acapella rendition of the civil rights protest anthem “We Shall Overcome.” 

Haynes’ pattern of confrontation continued after the meeting adjourned for the evening when she blockaded BISD trustee Mike Neil from entering a post-meeting media conference. During the ensuing conflict over admittance to the public area where the meeting was being conducted, Haynes was caught on video as she thwarted the elected official’s entrance to the area she had designated as off-limits. 

Haynes has since claimed that trustee Neil assaulted her and attorney Mike Getz, Jerry Jordan and Neil “mobbed” her during the conflict, a claim flatly denied all. Still, a grassroots effort has been formed to rally behind Haynes. 

“It’s TIME to stand up and speak out,” rally promoters wrote in a media release following the Aug. 1 meeting. According to the group, headed by BISD administration supporter Paul Jones, grandmother Haynes was bullied, verbally attacked, and assaulted by three men “mobbing” her. 

Haynes wrote down her own version of the facts for public review, as well. 

“When I woke up Thursday morning, I was excited about wrapping up some urgent projects at work and enjoying a restful three-day weekend,” she said. “In no way did I think my work would include being assaulted by three men while standing in an area by myself.” Furthermore, she noted, “I did not expect I would spend several hours in an emergency room and find myself suffering from throbbing head, neck, shoulder, arm, back and ankle aches and a dangerous potential stroke level.” 

According to Haynes, “(Neil) proceeded to snatch my arm, grab me, strike me, manhandled me, tried to force me to the floor and throw me from in front of the door while hitting me in the back with the door. 

“As I was regrouping and leaving to tell the superintendent what happened, Mike Neil again came rushing toward the area where I was. Already shaken by his earlier physical attack on me, I shielded myself from him by raising my hand toward him while he was coming at me and said to him, ‘You better not ever put your hands on me again,’ and I kept walking toward the board room.” 

Vann deCordova, Neil’s attorney, disagrees wholeheartedly with Haynes’ assertion of the facts at hand. 

“Although Ms. Haynes was certainly free to make her detailed statement, because of the ongoing criminal investigation, it would not be in the best interests of my client – Mike Neil – to do the same,” he said. “I think Ms. Haynes’s statement damages her credibility beyond repair. 

“I can confidently say, however, that Ms. Haynes – a claimed public relations expert – apparently spent considerable time on administrative leave honing her PR skills. Her statement is nothing but a clearly calculated attempt to paint a grossly inaccurate, misleading and biased record of what truly transpired at the meeting. This includes her conduct blocking the school hallway door, her initial physical assault of Mike in an attempt to keep him from entering the door, and her later wholly unprovoked assault of Mike as he merely walked down the hallway. As any reasonable person viewing the video can confirm, Ms. Haynes is the wrongdoer in this matter. However, Ms. Haynes apparently wishes to continue on her quest to incite racial hatred in this community and divide it by whatever means, honest or not. 

“Mike and I are confident that the police and justice system will operate in an unbiased manner – fairly and objectively – and see this matter through to its just and proper conclusion.” 

While under investigation, Haynes has been placed on administrative leave of absence. 

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