It pains me terribly to watch this story play out in a city I grew to love while I lived there.
The Beaumont Independent School District is no longer “independent.” The Texas Education Agency, led by Education Commissioner Michael Williams, is about to take over the public school system.
This is not pretty. However, it contains a lesson that other school systems across the state ought to heed with great care.
I lived in Beaumont for nearly 11 years before moving way up yonder to the Panhandle in January 1995. I saw the Beaumont district go through a lot of pain starting in 1984. The TEA at one point brought in monitors to watch the district’s every move up close and personal. The district worked its way through some messy administrative issues then.
Now it’s come to this.
Williams has named seven managers to oversee operations at the school district. The superintendent has been stripped of his duties. The board members are out of office. The managers comprise local leaders with a keen interest in restoring trust to the public school system. Of the seven people named, I know only one of them: Jimmy Simmons, president of Lamar University.
I’m not up to speed on all the particulars of what ails the Beaumont district. Near as I can tell, the district has fallen into a spasm of incompetence, fiscal mismanagement to the max, conduct that borders on malfeasance — all of which has destroyed the public’s trust in its school system.
I’ve been acquainted with Commissioner Williams for a number of years, going to his days as a Texas railroad commissioner. He’s an aggressive, proactive guy. He’s a West Texan, a lawyer from Midland. He doesn’t appear to suffer fools … at all!
The lesson here for the other 1,000-plus school districts is to ensure you keep your houses in order, spend your money wisely, do the best job possible educating the students in your charge — and do not anger those students’ parents.
I hope this Beaumont story ends well. If it does, it will emerge a better public school district. It might even become a great one.
Good luck, board of managers.