Tag Archives: desegregation

Beaumont school system off the tracks

It pains me terribly to watch what is happening to the Southeast Texas public school district that educated my sons.

The Beaumont Independent School District is hurtling toward a serious train wreck.


My sons came of age in Beaumont after we moved there in 1984. My wife and I uprooted ourselves from our hometown of Portland, Ore., and came to Texas so I could continue my journalism career.

It’s been a great ride for three decades.

But watching the Beaumont ISD implode is painful for me. I feel as though I have an emotional stake in the future of the school system that’s been wracked by controversy for decades.

The community was slow to desegregate its schools, doing so finally in the 1980s after the federal courts ordered it to happen. The very week I took my post at the newspaper that hired me a landmark election occurred in which the school district elected a majority African-American school board.

The racial composition of the new school board by itself was enough to cause serious apoplexy among many Beaumont residents, which testifies graphically to the racial tensions that have existed in that community.

It’s been a rough ride. BISD has been rocked by all kinds of incompetence, feather-bedding, lack of due diligence, mismanagement, alleged malfeasance. From my perch way up yonder, it appears that the district is on its last legs.

The state has all but ordered the school board to disband. The superintendent has been asked to step aside. The Texas Education Agency is poised to take over management of the district; BISD officials plan to appeal … good luck with that.

And then I see this story in the Texas Observer about BISD students working to save teachers’ jobs.

Educators always say they care about the kids. In Beaumont, that declaration is sounding more hollow all the time. The students in this case, are taking up the role of grownups in a dispute that is rapidly spiraling out of control.