BISD teacher admonished for book drive
West Brook High School teacher Rogelio Cardona ran into a big problem when trying to instruct his AP environmental science class: no textbooks. However, in an attempt to rectify the textbook problem, a larger issue arose. Beaumont Independent School District administration is now embarking on an “inquiry” to determine if the AP environmental class should even exist at West Brook High.
On Feb. 22, Cardona had an idea: create a project with his students on DonorsChoose.org, an online forum for school donations, to ask the community for assistance in raising the funds needed to purchase costly textbooks for the Advanced Placement course.
“My students really pushed for me to announce this to parents and community, and so as a promise to my kids, here it is,” Cardona wrote on social media Feb. 23. “I was the first one to donate because I believe in my students.”
According to the DonorsChoose.org page Cardona set up, “Some of my students cannot understand important concepts because we can’t afford to buy textbooks as a science department.” The teacher further stated that the class was not only advanced — it was not a required course of study, taken by students eager to further their education with challenging course work.
“At the present moment,” Cardona explained in his quest for textbook funding, “they don’t have an available textbook to know the material that will be on the examinations. This knowledge is particularly important because it can help them push to obtain a passing score to receive college credit through the AP testing. They will be taking their AP exam in May and need to have the ability to compete against all other AP students taking that exam who will be better prepared due to the resources available to them. Not only will this benefit these students, it will help students in the future as they go through these classes offered at school.”
Cardona’s plight for textbooks struck a chord in the Beaumont community, and donations began to mount. Also immediately following announcement of the need, BISD administration took notice, as well. The response from the school district was not to donate to the goal, but instead to offer admonitions.
No good deed
The evening of Feb. 24, BISD board trustee Mike Neil released a notice given to the Board of Trustees via Superintendent Timothy Chargois from the desk of “Educational Initiatives/Constituent Services Specialist” Victoria Gauthier Steward.
Chargois’ third-related notification stated that, “We have also been notified that a teacher at West Brook has set up a fundraising website for textbooks for an AP Environmental Science Course.
“The district is looking into the situation. At current, it does not appear that the teacher followed the appropriate protocol for course establishment or textbook requests. Additionally, the principal may not have secured appropriate approval before adding the course to the master schedule or scheduling students into the course. We will send you an update regarding the matter as soon as our inquiry is complete.
“Please note that, when the appropriate processes are followed, our students are provided with every resource necessary to be successful in the course including textbooks.”
Despite BISD’s threats of an inquiry, the community continued to offer an outpouring of donations to the textbook drive. On Feb. 25, Cardona again went to the social media site where it all began to say that the book drive goal had been reached.
“It has come to my knowledge that our request for funds in this time of adversity has been successful,” he wrote. “It is because of people like you that teachers like me get to wake up in the mornings and say, ‘Good morning class.’
“Again, from the bottom of my heart it means so much to me and the members of this high school to have raised this amount in a record three days. I knew that seeing another teacher requesting the same amount and getting it funded was a vision of what my community would do for me today.”
Signed “with gratitude,” Cardona repeatedly thanked those who came to the rescue of his students in need, but did not mention what the fate of the West Brook High School AP environmental science class could be.
“I hadn’t heard anything back from the district about what’s going on with this,” BISD board trustee Tom Neild said on Wednesday, Feb. 26, regarding the possibility of an ongoing BISD “inquiry.” Neild said he could not understand why Cardona would be the subject of an inquiry, and went so far to say that Cardona should be applauded rather than reprimanded, adding, “I commend the man for trying to think outside the box and doing what he needed to do to teach his students.”