Beaumont Independent School District’s legal maneuvers in its application for Department of Justice approval of the redistricting map might well be unprecedented. Nowhere have we been able to find a single case where an entity applied to DOJ for preclearance, and then actually fought to get the very preclearance it applied for denied.
That’s a bit unbelievable, so we’ll restate it as simply as possible: BISD sent a map to DOJ asking for preclearance, then started arguing to the DOJ why it should not approve it.
That makes no sense, right? It doesn’t make any sense at all, but that is exactly what they did. Now anyone with an IQ that exceeds average room temperature would ask why would they do it. You can rest assured that it wasn’t because of a lack of intelligence — quite the contrary.
See, what BISD did through its lawyer was submit the map (7B) that the “majority” — trusteesWoodrow Reece, Zenobia Bush, Terry Williams, Gwen Ambres and Janice Brassard — wanted because they felt it would protect them from future challengers. They lobbied hard for 7B against trustees Tom Neild and Mike Neil and got it. Now, after lobbying so hard for a map, why then lobby for the DOJ to not pre-clear it?
Well, by her own admission, attorney Melody Chappell was very busy and did not inform Reece, Williams, Bush and Neil that they, by law, had to cut their terms two years short and run for election May 11 or they had to have a motion in their board meeting allowing them to not run until the next election in 2015. Mike Neil, perhaps motivated by distrust of Chappell, the district’s counsel, chose to seek independent counsel and was told he needed to sign up for re-election by March 1, 2013, to comply with the voting laws. See, it’s clear all seats are up for election after redistricting, and that is what the board did: redistrict to the 7B map and seek preapproval from DOJ.
Aware that, by law, an election after redistricting must include all seats, Marcelino Rodriguez, (Hispanic), Donna Forgas (white) and Linda Gilmore (black) went to the district and completed the necessary documents to be placed on the ballot for seats currently occupied by Reece, Williams and Bush, who failed to file. Now you see what happened, right?
The district will do anything possible to save the seats of the current board members. It’s not about representation, or a black or white issue — at any cost, just save the seats of those in place now. Now, they didn’t follow the law, so how can they get it done? Simple. Playing the race card always works with DOJ, and it should — when it is about race. This, however, is not. No one except the current board is trying to deny representation to anyone. They are holding on to maintain the dishonesty, insider deals and nepotism so prevalent in the BISD. It’s about power, not power for the black community, but power for themselves, and the bill is going to be paid by our children. The tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, for legal fights to keep these three in their seats will be paid by tax dollars, but the real price tag is what this dysfunctional, corrupt board is doing to our children’s education, and that is a bill that will be paid by them over the course of a lifetime.
It is time for the Texas Education Agency to step in and appoint a conservator. Public trust must be instilled in this district, and this group of trustees speaks not for the community or the children, but only for themselves and their self-interest.