No money for teachers, but plenty for lawyers

BISD’s hired legal guns Ron Rainey and Chris Tritico

While the Beaumont Independent School District is culling its teaching force to solve the school district’s budget woes, the legal fees budget shows no sign of diminishing. BISD is expected to spend approximately $300,000 more securing the law office of Chris Tritico to further fight the Texas Education Agency’s decision to remove what is deemed an incompetent Board of Trustees and superintendent and install a Board of Managers to run BISD for up to two years. The BISD trustees talked about the Austin court proceedings in executive session on Monday, June 23, but made no decision in open session as to securing the legal representation.

Speculation was circulated that the trustees were deliberating whether to appeal the Board of Managers installation to the TEA for a record review, but according to TEA spokesperson DeEtta Culbertson, the appeal has already been made by the local school district.

“They don’t have to file for a new record review,” she said. “They already filed for one – on everything – the (Austin) court only stopped temporarily part of that request. … We pick back up on the original request. We will set a new record review date. (The lawyers) are looking at our options right now, actually.”

Culbertson said that BISD could vote to discontinue the appeal, but it was unlikely as no other school district taken over by the TEA has ever not had a record review.

“They could stop it. They could come back and say that the board does not want to continue,” she said, but admits that she doesn’t know what would happen if BISD chose to go that route.

“We’re looking at our options at this time,” she said. “This is something that is really a rare occurrence – it is not something we do every week.”

The legal matter still requiring Tritico’s fees pertains to a request for injunction filed on behalf of BISD trustees Gwen Ambres and Janice Brassard in their individual and elected capacity, and as a whole, the BISD Board of Trustees. Last week, an Austin judge ruled that BISD did not prove to him they were likely to prevail in that case – but it did not prevent the nearly bankrupt school district from spending whatever funds left at its disposal to move forward with the fight to retain power.

Austin Judge Stephen Yelenosky of the 345th Civil District Court in Travis County denied extending a temporary restraining order sought by BISD to block the Texas Education Agency’s planned takeover Friday, June 20. Yelenosky alluded to further state court proceedings in his ruling.

“At this stage of the litigation, the only decision of the court is whether to temporarily enjoin the Commissioner from appointing a board of mangers and a new superintendent until the court can make a final decision at a future trial,” he stated. “Because the court’s decision must be a temporary one, the standard is not if the plaintiffs succeed but whether they are likely to succeed at trial and, if so, whether in the interim they will suffer irreparable harm if the commissioner is not enjoined.”

TEA Commissioner Michael Williams issued notice to the local school district in May that he intended to lower BISD’s accreditation and install a Board of Managers to replace the current Board of Trustees and Superintendent Timothy Chargois. Prior to the Austin court proceeding, a hearing examiner denied BISD’s appeal to the lowering of accreditation.

“When all is said and done, I fully expect to replace the superintendent and the board of trustees,” Williams said when BISD was granted a temporary restraining order preventing the TEA from taking action to install a Board of Managers — an order that was quashed with Yelenosky’s Friday decision. “This action is necessary to restore Beaumont ISD to the strong state that students and taxpayers fully deserve and have every right to expect.”