Note: Sometimes I revert to my neanderthal ways and must edit reading a bigger text, like a sheet of paper (what’s that), or online where I can see it better. I did some online editing but couldn’t get it very quickly due to a server problem. Hopefully, this will be better. If not, fire me.
It is hard to miss anything big out on the Texas coastal flat-land just east of Beaumont off Interstate 10.
One example is the new 10,000-plus seat multi-use stadium being built — the centerpiece of a multimillion dollar athletic complex that has recently been named for the school’s top administrator. As one gets closer to the tall structures jutting out of the coastal prairie, two red and white banners sit almost one on top of the other are visible, hanging on the press box and battered by the stiff Gulf breeze. They present a strange message to most motorists who are just passing through the last 30 miles or so of Texas before it turns into Louisiana.
The two one-word banners shout out twice what is, in reality, the last name of the school superintendent. “Thomas Thomas,” the banners exclaim, reminiscent of the Little Caesar’s Pizza ad where the little cartoon character shouts: “Pizza Pizza!”
To those who have closely followed the saga of Dr. Carrol Thomas and his detractors over the last few years, the words high above the new stadium should register at least some kind of emotion: Anger. Amusement. Disgust. Sadness. Joy. Perhaps others feel ambivalence.
The story is one of race, power and politics in a minority majority Texas school district. The district is by no means the state’s largest. BISD’s Web site lists its total enrollment at 20,819. However, it boasts the highest paid school administrator in Texas. That would be Dr. Carrol Thomas, the African-American superintendent of the district, whose salary has been reported to be more than $320,000 per year.
What has caused animus over the years are several factors. One, Thomas is black. Most of the school board is black. I have spent about 30 minutes looking for a definitive picture of BISD demographics and cannot find one. But some figures I have seen said that Beaumont’s enrollment is about 60 percent black.
The school district’s performance in the Texas educational report cards have received mixed reviews since Thomas took over in 1996. The last accountability rating for the district was “Recognized,” which words were recently rearranged by alleged vandals on a sign outside BISD headquarters into what school officials believe was an attempt to spell the “N word.” This even though what was ultimately found was “N-I-G-E.” One can draw their own conclusions about that. The Recognized rating is next to the highest rating for schools, “Exemplary.”
Detractors of Thomas also claim they were sold a bill of goods with the $300-plus-million bond issue passed that included the $38 million athletic facility. Irregularities have surfaced with at least one contractor involved in the construction of schools and other facilities. Also, Thomas angered former students of the former mostly white South Park High School when, after a protracted legal fight, he ordered their beloved school torn down over the Easter weekend to make way for a new middle school in what has become a predominately black area. The last straw seemed to be when the board recently voted to name the facility, which includes the multi-use stadium, after Thomas. And the list goes on and on.
The Thomas administration and the school board have certainly appeared heavy-handed with some of their decisions, such as the in-your-face demolition of the South Park school and naming the facility after the superintendent. If the banners were knowingly placed by the aforementioned, it would certainly seem that some gloating was going on.
Personally, I don’t know the reason for the banners. I could ask. I am a resident of the district although I don’t pay property taxes. That doesn’t mean I don’t have an interest in whether the district turns out well-educated students or knuckleheads. But I have too many other matters to take up my time than what would likely be a futile quest to know why these banners were placed where they were placed. I actually see a lot of the squabble to be amusing. Whatever the reasons for the banners being flown, one can imagine that it is just one more instance of the continuing ridiculousness on both sides of the two coins.
So until or if the media feels it is worth their time to ask about the banners, I guess I will just have to chalk it all up to more craziness that makes watching those who run Beaumont ISD and their critics one of the more entertaining local sports.