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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 29 years."


No Retreat, No Surrender....I don’t think I am the only person in Fort Bend County who thinks the title of Tom DeLay’s book, “No Retreat, No Surrender,” is dripping with irony. Tom gives his book that real macho title, yet he dropped out of the congressional race in Dist. 22 last year rather than face Democrat Nick Lampson because polling numbers showed that he might possibly lose.

His dropping out when he did made it impossible for the Republicans to name a replacement on the ballot, so he, in effect, left the Republican Party, which had always been loyal to him, high and dry. I wouldn’t call that the actions of a “No Retreat, No Surrender” man.

Perhaps a more appropriate title to DeLay’s book should be “Cut and Run.”

Shaking up in Fort Bend ISD....“She was not escorted out of the building, which was rumored, and she’s still a district employee,” so said Fort Bend ISD spokesperson Mary Ann Simpson when asked why former acting superintendent Dr. Manuela Pedraza, who went from being the head of Human Resources to acting superintendent last year, was no longer answering the telephone in Human Resources. Dr. Pedraza had returned to her former job as head of HR with the hiring of new Superintendent Tim Jenny in September. When I called Monday, her department said she was retired, effective Friday before Spring Break.

And I was interested because.....I heard she left the building (choose one) 1. in a huff, 2. in tears, 3. with all her things.

The new superintendent is shaking things up in the upper echelon of management of the school district. So far, about the only thing that has changed is new titles and maybe new reporting procedures. Salaries, of course, remain the same.

There are no longer the seven associate superintendents who report directly to the superintendent. There are now four assistant superintendents and three chiefs. Some of the assistant superintendents now report to the chiefs, or maybe vice-versa. Who cares unless you are the one losing face time with the superintendent.

In any event, it is de rigueur for a new superintendent to bring in his/her own management team. It seems our new superintendent is doing that to a certain extent. Former superintendent Betty Baitland made few changes, probably because she was promoted from within the district and maybe because she recognized changes were unsettling.

After a year of no leadership, except what was supplied temporarily by an acting superintendent, the district seems to be welcoming new direction.

Dr. Pedraza was acting superintendent of FBISD for nine months last year--nine months fraught with tensions and in-fighting by a school board which appeared to almost melt down under the leadership of Lisa Rickert.

Conventional wisdom would imply that a well-deserved retirement is due and perhaps Dr. Pedraza, with her many years of experience, didn’t want to weather another leadership change.

And speaking of leadership change.....The upcoming city and school board elections will be May 12. This means the last day to register to vote, if you are new to the county, is April 12. I’m not going to remind you again.

Voter registration applications are available in all city halls, libraries, and post offices, both for new registration and to update your address. Or you can download a form from the country’s website and mail it in (no faxing).

Fort Bend ISD lost at least an entire school year because of the actions of two board members who are running again--Lisa Rickert and Ken Bryant. They formed a cabal with newly elected board members Stan Magee and Laurie Caldwell to fire the superintendent without any idea of who or how to replace her. They spent thousands of dollars on legal fees to try to trump up charges on her. Rather than putting her on notice and asking her to run the district until a new superintendent could be hired, they “retired” her forthwith and replaced her with Dr. Pedraza who seemed to be a less than strong personality when dealing with the board. Chaos ensued.

In fact, it was several months before they even got down to the business of hiring a permanent superintendent.

It was so bad that a group of Fort Bend leaders, recognizing that our school district is our future, banded together to support a former board member to bring some semblance of order to the board meetings.

Both Rickert and Bryant have opponents. Bryant, who ran and was defeated for state representative by Dora Olivo, was accused of using the school board race as a stepping stone. If that were so, he sure stepped in it.

But both those incumbents must go. We need people on the school board who will fly under the radar and spend their time helping education, not puffing their own resume.

And Lisa Rickert--she lead the board to “retire” Dr. Baitland. She made it so insulting to work there, Dr. Baitland did it readily. She kept board meetings until past 2 a.m. She dismissed a board meeting illegally right in the middle of the meeting. There is a long list of actions she took which were, in my opinion as a 30-year observer of FBISD, the most outrageous I’ve seen happen in the district. She is being very quiet now. Maybe she realizes how misguided she was. Maybe she just wants to get reelected. But two years of chaos in the school district can be laid directly at her feet.

B.K. Carter is the owner/publisher of the Fort Bend/Southwest Star. She can be reached at bkcstar@earthlink.net.


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:  May 02, 2007