New Board of Managers to be appointed at BISD

TEA Deputy Commissioner of Governance A.J. Crabill takes questions.

“It’s not what you think it is,” Region 5 Education Service Center Director Dr. Danny Lovett told a group of about a dozen attendees sitting in on Saturday training designed to educate anyone who may be interested in what it will take to be part of the Beaumont Independent School District’s new Board of Managers. 

To be appointed in the near future by Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath, BISD’s Board of Managers will take over the helm of the district at the end of this school year, replacing a Board of Managers installed by former TEA Commissioner Michael Williams in 2014.

In 2014, TEA Commissioner Williams decided state intervention was necessary to address the gross mismanagement and theft rampant under BISD’s elected Board of Trustees and administrative leaders. The inaugural BISD Board of Managers was told that its service would be needed for two years. Nearly three years later, TEA Commissioner Morath will seat his own BISD Board of Managers, as the 2014 panel members have announced their desire to pass the torch to a new group of leaders at the end of this school year.

Saturday, March 4, community stakeholders and candidates for the BISD Board of Managers and Board of Trustees got a sample of what it’s like to run a school district. Board of Trustees District 2 representative Zenobia Bush, the only participant to have held office as a BISD trustee in attendance, said although this wasn’t her first rodeo, she still learned something new.

Main takeaway this go-around: “Student outcomes don’t change until adult behavior changes,” she said.

To address the adult behavior that can bog down student success, Lovett said board members need to be aware of the most common pitfalls.

“You’ve got to work for common ground – to do what’s right for the kids, not yourselves,” he said. “You run as an individual but you serve as a team.”

Common causes of board failure are a history of conflicts (like past election drama, hard words and feelings left to stew), personal agendas, politics, relatives and children, and money.

To combat those stresses, Lovett said, boards must “be proactive.”

High success boards, Lovett said, are those that focus on the “big picture” with a shared vision of academics first, have great communication within the team of eight (seven board members and the superintendent), and seek out answers to questions before board meetings but still talk about the issues in the public forum.

TEA’s Deputy Commissioner of Governance A.J. Crabill said, “There is no silver bullet” for accomplishing any set outcome but offered instruction on a new process that the TEA believes will assist BISD going forward.

The Lone Star Governance Participant Manual, leading participants through a “system invented after this board was seated,” Crabill said, will serve as a blueprint going forward. One of Beaumont’s own past administrators – assistant superintendent Willis Mackey – was noted as participating in the manual’s creation. Mackey is also recently noted in BISD’s forensic audit of bond expenditures, allegedly involved in helping sway contractor acquisition, according forensic investigators.

But this isn’t about the past, the Saturday program orchestrators asserted. Moving BISD into the future, this Lone Star plan focuses on boards defining intended “outcomes,” inputs to achieve those goals and “outputs” by which to measure progress. The key, Crabill says, is not to spread the focus too thin. He recommends setting just three main goals, and giving it a time of no less than three years to complete the “inputs/outputs/outcomes” process.

“If you want to jump around … you can do that. But your children will suffer for your lack of focus,” he warned. “This is the nature of leadership. You have to prioritize your needs.”

Current goals will not transition well into the new model, but Crabill said the current board will have things in place to last “a couple of months until you get settled” into the role of oversight.

Crabill said TEA Commissioner Morath plans to swear in a new Board of Managers on June 8.

“The Board of Managers is absolutely happening,” Crabill said. “They will run the district.”

Although Crabill would not, or could not, state when the three-year phase-in would begin, according to him, “At some point down the road, the Board of Trustees will come in and the Board of Managers will phase out.”

However, Crabill said, Board of Managers representatives will be the board majority for at least two more years or longer.