HOUSTON – State takeovers can happen at school for many reasons.
According to the Texas Education Agency, Houston’s takeover was decided because of unacceptable academic accountability, and because the district has had a conservator assigned for more than two consecutive years.
In 2014, Beaumont Independent School District was taken over by the state during a financial emergency.
Different circumstances, but the situation was just as concerning for that community.
“You had a portion of the community that felt like, ‘Well my voice is no longer being heard, you’re taking away my voice in our community.’ And then you had a segment of the community that said, ‘Well… I think this is good. We need to start over,’” said BISD Superintendent Dr. Shannon Allen.
Allen was a principal at one of BISD’s middle schools during the takeover.
According to the US Department of Justice, employees from Beaumont ISD were charged with embezzling over $4 million from the school district. The theft combined with allegations of cheating on standardized tests led to the state takeover. The TEA appointed a board of managers to dig the district out of debt.
“Well respected- community leader, business leaders, managers, individuals who worked in the education field on the university level, we had a wonderful group of individuals who were selected,” said Allen.
According to Allen, tough cuts were made right away by the appointed board. Teachers and school resources were all on the chopping block.
“The district went down really, really quickly academically because of losing teachers, losing resources,” said Allen. “I will tell you it was a traumatic experience.”
In 2019, Allen was chosen to replace the retiring state-appointed superintendent. Then, in 2020, BISD fully emerged from the state’s control, financially fit.
“When we were able to transition to the fully-elected board, that was a celebration for our district and community,” said Allen.
She says Beaumont is still recovering from the painful cuts, but the schools are healthier and moving in the right direction.
“Beaumont ISD and Beaumont, Texas are very resilient. We have learned over the course of several years that we can do hard things, and we can do hard things well,” she said.
Allen empathizes with HISD’s current situation and offers advice to the community.
“Always keep the children in the forefront. Our organizations exist because of children, so my advice would be, go back to the children.”
The next TEA meeting in Houston is scheduled for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Delmar Stadium.