A teacher's take on TEA Commissioner Williams

TEA Commissioner Michael Williams and BISD teacher Alisa Courts

By Alisa Courts

Special to The Examiner

Monday, July 21, The Examiner gave me the opportunity to meet with Texas Education Agency Commissioner of Education Michael Williams alongside various local media outlets. After receiving our clearance to visit with him, we were ushered to the fifth floor of the Edison Plaza building. Moments later, Commissioner Williams entered the room, joined us at the table where we were seated, and greeted us.

I have to admit while considering the magnitude of his position and, as one reporter put it, his “rock star status,” I felt nervous. Those feelings quickly subsided shortly after he began speaking with us.

It was quite obvious that his dedication as a public servant, working to better the education of children, is not only a job but his passion as well. Commissioner Williams worked diligently in placing a Board of Managers in the Beaumont Independent School District to create the positive change that our district so desperately needs, but he didn’t try to persuade us that it would be an easy road ahead. He reminded us that the Board of Managers would have some tough obstacles to overcome due to poor leadership and decision making by the former superintendent and Board of Trustees.

Although he addressed his path to make positive changes for the education of the children in BISD in all seriousness, he also displayed a humorous side, laughing at some of the questions and even making a joke himself. He expressed his confidence in BISD Interim Superintendent Vern Butler, as well as the new Board of Managers, often answering questions by simply stating, “That is something for the new Board of Managers to decide.”

It was rather evident that Commissioner Williams’ job here in Beaumont would be complete once the Board of Managers was sworn in later that evening. He accomplished what he sought to do; now the future of our district lies in the hands of seven new members of the community, who he must hope will continue his vision for our district.

There are many district employees who are still in limbo, not certain about what their future holds within BISD, nervously anticipating a new Reduction in Force (RIF) list but feeling a sense of relief knowing competent people will be making those decisions.

It has been amazing to witness our community pull together over the past several months. Community members, teachers and students have worked tirelessly this summer in an effort to bring about change and create solutions. Board meetings grew to standing-room only, organizations were created to bring awareness, rallies and poster making events were organized, petitions were created, teacher supply drives were and still are being held all over Beaumont, and local businesses participated in fundraisers as well as making food donations to students who generously took time out of their summer to help in the efforts. During times when things seemed hopeless, our community pulled together and made things happen.

There are some who are not happy with the recent changes; however, the greater part of our community is very pleased to finally be able to move forward.

A new day is here, and it welcomes a community no longer divided, but united.

Alisa Courts is a special education teacher at Vincent Middle School in the Beaumont ISD. A spinal cord injury that necessitated the use of a wheelchair makes her feel a connection to the students she serves.