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Morath should consider appointing trustees

September 25, 2018

Alexandrew Seale seems like a good choice to join the Beaumont ISD board as a manager, but there is one qualification he lacks: He wasn’t elected as a trustee in May 2017 like other Beaumont residents — two of whom have been appointed by the state to this very board. As such, his selections looks like a missed opportunity to return the district to local control sooner.

State Education Commissioner Mike Morath has already said he will start phasing in that process, with state-appointed managers coming off the board and locally elected trustees coming on. Morath says the transition should be complete by 2020, and the BISD will once again have a board of trustees, not a board of managers.

That’s appropriate, since the district has made considerable progress since the state takeover in 2014. In February, Morath began the handoff with the appointment of two elected trustees, Nathan Cross and Denise Wallace-Spooner, to the BISD board. The vacancy presented by the resignation of board secretary Vernice Monroe presented another chance to maintain that momentum.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with Seale. He seems like the kind of civic-minded leader that every public board needs. He’s a 2006 Ozen graduate who has risen to executive director of Beaumont’s Chik-fil-A restaurants. The BISD can benefit from his experience and commitment.

But when local elections were scheduled for May 2017, other district residents stepped up to present themselves to voters and take on a tough challenge. They knew they wouldn’t be seated immediately, but they also weren’t running for symbolic seats.

Unfortunately, some of them might see their terms expire before they ever cast a vote. At-large trustee Mandy Peel and District 4 representative Kevin Reece will be up for re-election next year. The District 1 seat also remains open after Charles Daleo resigned when he moved out of the district following Tropical Storm Harvey.

The locally elected trustees should receive first consideration for any board vacancies now. Some good people were elected. And while we weren’t thrilled that former trustee Zenobia Bush won after serving on the very board that caused the state takeover, that was the choice of voters in her district. Their decision must be respected.

The state takeover was an extraordinary (and embarrassing) step. Yet it was necessary, and it did return the district to stability. No one with any sense would want to go backward, and there will be some uncertainty when the last manager leaves. But public school districts are supposed to be run by local residents, and the sooner this happens in Beaumont, the better. We have to trust that voters will make sure their locally elected trustees learn the lessons of this experience, or they will replace them.

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