BISD throws Hail Mary in Austin

Chris Tritico

In a last-ditch attempt to thwart a Texas Education Agency takeover, the Beaumont Independent School District filed for a restraining order barring the state agency from intervening at the school district after state investigators identified multiple egregious “failures” on the part of the BISD Superintendent Timothy Chargois and the BISD Board of Trustees in fiscal responsibility and oversight – costing taxpayers and students of BISD millions of dollars in losses. Filed on behalf of the school district as a whole, BISD Board of Trustees President Gwen Ambres and BISD Board of Trustees Vice President Janice Brassard in both their official capacity on the school board and as residents and taxpayers of Beaumont, Houston lawyer Chris Tritico filed an argument with the Travis County District Court in Austin asking that the district court grant the plaintiffs “declaratory judgment, (a) temporary restraining order, temporary injunction and permanent injunctions.”

In the preamble to the court when requesting the provisions, the plaintiffs assert that both Ambres and Brassard are elected to the positions they hold – but Brassard’s elected service ran out last year. Some members of the BISD Board of Trustees, such as Tom Neild, question why only Ambres and Brassard were named in the litigation, as the entirety of the Board of Trustees secured Tritico’s services when it was decided in a 5-2 vote to ire the Houston-based attorney with a $50,000 retainer fee.

According to TEA spokesperson DeEtta Culbertson, “Beaumont ISD’s request for a temporary restraining order was heard in 261st State District Court (on Wednesday, May 14). Judge Lora Livingston heard arguments.” Culbertson said that part of plaintiff’s arguments were disposed of right away, but BISD attorneys would not receive a complete ruling on the matter until the end of the week.

Ambres and Brassard claimed through their BISD-billed attorney that TEA Commissioner Michael Williams “violated the Texas Education Code in an attempt to achieve an improper purpose” when determining that BISD’s accreditation status warranted  “Accredited - Probation” and installation of a Board of Managers to take over the duties of the ruling Board of Trustees; and the lawsuit was necessary “to stop imminent and irreparable harm occurring as the result of the Commissioner’s actions.” 

It was further alleged in the court filing that, “The Commissioner has deprived BISD of the statutory procedural due process,” and erred in reassigning BISD’s accreditation. TEA’s Culbertson reported that, “In regard to the record review on lowering the district’s accreditation…Judge Livingston denied the Beaumont ISD’s TRO request.

“The judge has given the district until (Thursday, May 15) to produce any additional documents for the record review. (Livingston) has not ruled on the TRO request on the Board of Managers and asked for letter briefs.” 

Livingston is expected to make a determination on the remaining litigation requests as this newsprint circulates. Updates will be provided at as they become available.