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Bev's Burner
Some's Hot, Some's Not 

By B.K. Carter

"Bev Carter is the owner/publisher of the Fort Bend Star, winner of numerous state and national awards. She has been a voice of Fort Bend's largest circulated newspaper for 28 years."


 

Theatre of the absurb.....I sometimes think I am either in purgatory or a bad Fellini movie when I attend the FBISD board meeting. The Fellini movie aspect was paramount this week as some of the first part of the meeting was conducted in a foreign language.

The board heard comments from 45 speakers this week, six of whom did not speak English. There were three large groups of parents, all upset about different aspects of the school. There were the ice hockey supporters, the fine arts parents, and the wrongful transfer group. All of these diverse groups, two of the groups from several different schools, took advantage of the only meeting of the month whereby parents can speak directly to the board.

The standing room only crowd was even too much for the outer area in which the meeting is shown on television. The school police officer who is at each meeting served as a bailiff who called the various people in when it was their turn to speak. This added to the time it took to get through the 45 speakers.

This situation is a direct result of, among other things, the board’s decision under President Lisa Rickert to only allow public comment at one of the two board meetings a month. In incidents before, she has limited speakers to two minutes and not allowed multiple speakers to speak on the same topic. To quell this criticism, she let everyone speak for their full three minutes, even if they were students, couldn’t speak English or said the same as the speaker before.

I think the Spanish speakers were brave to attempt to address the board, but their language problems are the very reason their children are in ESL, about which they were complaining of its new location. Somebody needs to encourage the parents to attend adult ESL courses and speak English at home. One parent said that he was a carpet layer, but he had greater ambition for his children and wanted them to be able to get better jobs. This is admirable, but he needs to speak English at home with his children in order for them to learn and to achieve more. It would seem to me that if a student spends more than one year in ESL, then something is wrong.

Dr. Charles Michel, principal of Mario Garcia Middle School, addressed the board and was quickly shuttled into a closed, executive meeting. However, he gave the press a copy of his remarks to the board afterwards. Many of you may remember that Michel was the father with a sick child who drove all the way from Louisiana about an item the board wanted, then the meeting was canceled at mid-point.

In his remarks, Michel was angry that he was told to go home, that no action would be taken, then he found out later that was untrue and action was resumed after the board meeting. (Due to length, the full text of his remarks can be found on our web site at fortbendstar.com under letters.) He complained that, “The only response I received was a non-response from Ms. Rickert who, in essence, blamed me for making this illegal maneuver public rather than addressing it privately to the BOT.”

Dr. Michel also said the board did not understand the current rating system and, “You have stated on numerous occasions that there is no excuse for a district of Fort Bend’s caliber to be merely acceptable... We are not ONLY acceptable but, rather, we are spitting distance from being recognized in spite of our ever-increasing numbers, our rapidly-changing demographics, and the tumultuous and distracting activities of our current Board of Trustees.”

He complained that instead of saving the district money, the board has cost the district, and that they are throwing away good administrators, including him. “As you may or may not know, I will be leaving FBISD at the end of my current contract year so that I can work in a place that is actually interested in improvement through creative thought and innovative programs.”

The principal then accused the board members of fighting among themselves. “As happens with every unholy alliance, the snakes begin to consume each other--as was evidenced by the embarrassing display between Mr. Magee and Ms. Rickert at the May 8 Board meeting.” He said that although he was absent for three months, his team continued to build at Mario Garcia and, “I leave you with a chart to show the growth that has been made at GMS on our TAKS scores.... We are 50 percent above capacity and you don’t see a line of GMS parents at this mike complaining about it, do you?” At the end, Dr. Michel told the board, “GROW UP!!! Just GROW UP!!! Be the role models for progressive change that we need--not the role model for political agendas and chaos.”

The Republicans...I’m so glad I’m not a precinct chair anymore. Now I can stand outside and throw all the bricks I want, although it didn’t stop me much before. In any event, the Republican party in Fort Bend is a different animal now. Some famous politician, probably Hitler or Benito Mussolini once said, “If you control the process, you control the actions.”

That was brought home to about half the precinct chairs last week at their first executive meeting under new county chairman Gary Gillen. The other half was controlling the actions.

In several two-vote margin votes, a new set of by-laws, written by Dean Hrbacek, were adopted, even though the current by-laws were only a couple of years old. Fort Bend’s previous bylaws were very similar to the rest of the state. This is a clear attack on Gillen because of residual anger about some of Eric Thode’s actions which include issuing the voter survey, endorsing Republican candidates over other Republican candidate, and letting PACs buy ads in the newsletter which endorse some Republicans over others.

This bylaws rewrite was attempted in previous years, but this year the Christian Coalition joined with other dissatisfied precinct chairs to win the vote. Many voted for the new by-laws who had never received a copy, and Gillen’s suggestion to delay the vote until everyone received a copy of the new ones was voted down.

Norm Mason was marching up and down the seats, whipping his cohorts to vote for or against the various parliamentary maneuvers.

The new by-laws strip the chairman of a lot of power including the power to appoint several committee heads and the power to spend any money over $1,000, for which he must have the vote of the finance committee, and over $5,000, permission of the entire membership. All committee chairs must be headed by a precinct chair instead of community volunteers.

I predict there will have to be a lot more executive committee (precinct chairs) meetings to get anything done.

 

Contact bkcstar@earthlink.net, if you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column. Write a SIGNED letter to the editor with valid day time phone number--name can be withheld by request.

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   Last Update:  September 07, 2006