BISD planetarium teacher urges board to reconsider cutting program
Sharon Rigsby, Beaumont ISD planetarium teacher at the Murry J. Frank Planetarium, has found herself once again on the district’s Reduction in Force (RIF) list.
The original RIF list, containing more than 100 teaching positions, including Risby’s, failed to garner enough support to pass at a Monday, June 30, Board of Trustees meeting.
A new RIF list was released by the district July 18 for discussion at the Monday, July 21, Board of Managers meeting.
Rigsby told The Examiner prior to the July 21 meeting that, although her name is on the RIF list yet again, she remains adamant regarding the importance of keeping the planetarium program, which she said would be cut along with her position.
“I know that this Board of Managers have some major challenges coming up, but I am not giving up on the planetarium. I think it’s worth fighting for, and I am going to continue to speak out,” Rigsby said. “Closing it is a mistake.”
The July 21 meeting BISD meeting began with Judge Lupe Flores swearing in the Board of Managers and with the board electing Dr. Jimmy Simmons president and Joe Domino vice president. Robert Turner was elected secretary.
Following shortly thereafter, TEA Commissioner Michael Williams addressed the board and those in attendance, assuring everyone that he would not govern BISD and would entrust that duty to its new board of managers.
“In just a few seconds I am going to leave this building, and as I leave this building, I am going back to Austin, Texas,” Williams said. “This district will be run by the people of this district. I have no intention of trying to run Beaumont ISD 854 miles away. I will ask you to do one thing. But in order for this community to heal, in order for this community to move forward, it’s going to take every one of you giving (the board) patience, and giving them your energies.”
After much applause and celebration following Williams’ speech, several citizens addressed the new board during public comment, both welcoming the board and making congratulatory comments. A few concerns were brought up as well, as Mike Getz spoke in favor of keeping the Murry J. Frank Planetarium and in opposition to closing Austin Middle School and transferring students and faculty from the Paul Brown Alternative School and Pathways to that campus.
Rigsby also spoke up about the importance of the Murry J. Frank Planetarium to both students and the community.
“The Frank has provided a rich and engaging educational experience to the students of BISD for decades,” Rigsby said at the meeting. “In the past year more than 11,000 students visited, and I went to their campuses. The night sky has inspired thinkers since people first inhabited this planet. The ancients predicted seasonal changes by observing repeating star patterns in the nighttime sky. This allowed them to create agricultural communities in society. Human history has been determined by the stellar curiosity. Our students share this human inquisitiveness. Here at the planetarium the students can still view the Milky Way and the Little Dipper, both lost to the Beaumont skies many years ago, due to light pollution. The planetarium can be used to enhance community relationships to benefit the children of our area and to support the long-term goals of science.”
Simmons suggested removing the passing of the RIF and moving it to “a future, regularly-scheduled board meeting,” citing a need to allow BISD interim superintendent Vernon Butler more time to review the RIF and any related issues.
Following a closed session of the meeting to discuss the RIF, TEA Conservator Fred Shafer reported to the Board of Managers that 224 contract employees were on the initial RIF list. That number was reduced to 84 current contract employees, Shafer said.
“Fifty-five of those are teachers,” he said. “Currently we have 91 non-RIF vacancies that are not vacancies that fall under the RIF. …The teachers in the district that happen to be on the RIF list … there is an opportunity for you, if you meet the qualifications … there may be positions in those 91 vacancies that you could apply for.”
Shafer said every teacher on the RIF list should have received an e-mail with a “one-page application” to list their qualifications, certifications, credentials and what vacant positions they intend to pursue.
“We are strongly encouraging those teachers who are on the RIF list and recommended for termination to supply the HR department with that one-pager and apply for any positions they may be qualified for.”
Risgby said she is anxiously awaiting the Aug. 18 Board of Managers meeting to learn the fate of the planetarium and what the future holds for her.
BISD Board of Managers votes to move forward with Chargois’ termination
The Board of Managers voted 7-0 in favor of the proposed termination of superintendent Dr. Timothy Chargois’ “terms contract for good cause as determined by the board pursuant to the Texas Education Code section 21.211.”Texas Education Code section 21.211 states, “The board of trustees may terminate a term contract and discharge a teacher at any time for good cause as determined by the board.”Attorneys for BISD are currently preparing for the board president’s signature a notice of proposed termination of employment for Dr. Chargois, BISD spokesperson Nakisha Myles said.Dr. Jimmy Simmons, Board of Managers president, said the notice will “include the time limitations and procedures for requesting a hearing before an independent hearing examiner.”According to the Texas Education Code, Chargois must file a written request with the commissioner no later than the 15th day after he receives notice of his proposed termination if he desires a hearing before an independent hearing examiner. He must also provide the district with a copy of the request and must provide the commissioner with a copy of the notice. The parties may agree in writing to extend by no more than ten days the deadline for requesting a hearing.