Monday, January 4, 2010

Petition Drive

For questions concerning the petition drive please e-mail Andre Cokinos at Check back for petition drive locations, dates, and times. Read more here

Monday, November 16, 2009

BISD needs public relations makeover

Just when you thought it couldn't get worse.

The Examiner writes a story about a conflict of interest at BISD. Then, the spokeswoman of the ENTIRE DISTRICT sends out an email to ALL BISD employees and the media (see below). The Bayou rips it apart as well.

Email from the spokeswoman, we did not alter the spelling or grammar on this. I have a lot of opinions about the allegations made by her, but I'd like to hear what you all have to say:

From: Jessie Haynes
Sent: Friday, November 13, 2009 9:47 AM
To: ALL-Staff
Subject: Examiner's article today insinuating inappropriate relationships
On today, the Examiner Newspaper featured me on its front page. (Please don't spend a dime on the crap, just log on to their site if you must read it.) In any case, I believe it is my duty to share with you the facts. Here is an email that I did not send the reporter because I was in and out of grogginess while home trying to recuperate from an illness. However, I will share it with you and the media at large for you to have in the face of what I consider to be yellow journalism.
Nov. 11, 2009
On yesterday, you awakened me at my home where I am recuperating from an illness. Silly me, I thought, mmm, isn't that nice, Jerry came by to check on me and to wish me a speedy recovery. Then you accused me of a range of unethical acts. Shocked, I did learn one thing of which I was not aware-that my name is listed on the board of directors for the nonprofit Southeast Texas Electrical School formed by Calvin Walker to help the disenfranchised gain entrée and opportunities in the electric trades. (Obviously, the school is something quite needed in SE Texas when looking at the fact that women or minorities make up less than one percent of electricians in SE Texas.)

First, while I was not aware that I am listed as a board member of this non-profit school being established in the Southend of Beaumont, I have no problem being affiliated with a non-profit designed to help bring about equal opportunities for women and minorities. (Mind you, that does not mean those opportunities are at the detriment of men or non-minoirites.) Some time ago, Mr. Walker asked me to consider being on the board of the school and I said I would think about it. Upon thinking about it, I decided that some people could take my appearance on the board of this non-profit school as opportunity to misconstrue his business relationship with BISD.

Mr. Walker understood and directed the person preparing the school's application to remove my name. Unfortunately, the person preparing the application suffered a catastrophic illness and when she returned months later to complete the application, I can only assume that as an oversight, she erred in what she submitted. Mr. Walker assures me that will be corrected immediately. In any case, I have not been an active member of the non-profit school's board, but know that I have no problem (with the exception of you attempting to misconstrue facts) in the purpose of the school that has been set up to help the disenfranchised gain entrée into careers where they have been denied opportunities. (Really, based on your assumptions, because I am a public employee, I now have to withdraw my membership from my church, from professional and civic organizations, from all volunteer non-profit boards just in case any of their affiliates submit responses to competitive public bids at BISD, despite me not having anything to do with the bid process. Get real.)

On the question of the appropriateness of me being a member of the superintendent's executive cabinet and the insinuation that I have influenced business opportunities with the school district for Mr. Walker is so far off the reality chart that I can only revert back to your continued efforts to attack Dr. Thomas and anyone near him. I visualize you jumping up out of the bushes and nearly scaring his elderly mother to death as your camera flashed lights repeatedly blinding her during a private gathering held at his home. Your visit to my home reminded me of that and while I am still home sick, I am less medicated and more able today to answer your wild accusations.

1. I make no decisions in relationship to contracts, especially electrical and other operations outside of communications/public information/public relations.

2. You insulted me and the district by insinuating that information is being leaked to Mr. Walker. When I reminded you that the bid process in BISD is a closed bid process and that I have every faith that CFO Jane Kingsley and COO Terry Ingram would not allow any such thing happen, neither by omission or comission.

3. You insulted Dr. Thomas by saying I have influenced him to unfairly provide contract opportunities to minority businesses, particularly to Walker's Electric. While I am flattered that you think I have such powers, you and I both know that Dr. Thomas is not such a person. One of the reasons that I accepted the opportunity to work with him is because I see him as a fair man who strives for doing right by ALL people. Frankly, I knew that working for him would be putting myself in harm's way since
you and your organization have continuously targeted African American leaders who are in positions of power and influence. The fact that Dr. Thomas is at the helm of an operation that includes multi-billion dollars worth of assets, more than 3,000 employees and millions of dollars in annual operations has made him the target of people who usually control Jefferson County and who have found he is not their "boy."
Me working for him makes me your target, too, as was Dr. Mackey and many others over the years of your paper's existence.
These are my opinions developed from seeing 70 percent of your covers being an attack on people of color.

Wouldn't you think that as large as your market reach claims to be and the fact that less than 10 percent of the business operations in SE Texas are not minority led, your cover stories would more fairly project what is really going on in this community? One would hope, however, this community has watched you overlook friends of your paper who are in high places who molest children, steal and kill get swept under the rug while you try to make demons out of people like Carrol Thomas and anyone you consider close to him. You totally ignore the fact that BISD is achieving at levels higher than comparable school districts in this state, that BISD is a recognized school district, that employee moral is high, that the district consistently receives superior ratings for its financial acumen, that we have schools that are outstanding on both the state and national level.

4. You went on to claim some crap about Calvin Walker. I suggest you talk with him about whatever your concerns are about him. I personally believe he is above board and has given the district some of the best prices we have had in years. However, I am sure you are not interested in that fact which you can clearly get by asking for a 10-year history of the rates of contractors of record for electrical services in BISD.

5. You asked about my writing an article that ran in CUSH Magazine about Calvin Walker. The article to which you referred is a news release noting his donation to Ozen High. You, CUSH and all other media received the release. You chose not to run it. That is your business. CUSH chose to run it and that is the business of CUSH. If you want to know something about CUSH's daily operations, you are free to contact Tracie Payne at 212-1111. I am sure she will make herself available to answer any questions you may have.

6. Why am I on your list? Many thoughts cross my mind. Could it be your expressed interest in getting the job I now hold in BISD or getting the post I use to hold in BISD? Could it be the write-in campaign placing me in competition for the position against your boss for the presidency of the Press Club? Could it be you thought that since I may be aware of your reports of your involvement in an unethical situation with a judge handling a relevant case, you would slam me before the facts are made public? Could it be your thought that since you can't get Carrol Thomas, you'd get one of the persons on which he depends? Or, could it be your true colors coming out,
despite a hood and sheet not being your cover, your defacto efforts appear to me to be to tar, feather and hang any person you can who is trying to bring about equal opportunity in this community
? Go figure???

Jessie Haynes, APR

Read more here

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Enterprise says Thomas needs a reality check

In their editorial today, the Enterprise chastised Thomas for blaming the media for spreading misinformation and being sensational. They go on to say that the recent uproar from voters shouldn't be ignored and isn't made up.

Wake up Thomas!!!

First of all, you need to stop hearing only what you want to hear. There are angry voters who have a voice that you need to listen to.

Secondly, it's not the media's fault that you have a major problem with this bond issue and it centers around communication. If Thomas is telling people to go to BISD to get information and NOT the media then he is delusional. BISD is not making the CORRECT and most UPDATED information available to the public.

I personally put in a Freedom of Information Act request for information well over a month ago. By law, they are required to give me the information in 10 days or file with the Attorney General. Have I heard a word since? No.

Why should we go to BISD for information? Why should we trust them? Because Thomas says so?

Sorry. The time to trust has come and is long gone. You can pretend to have open communication, but you haven't shown it. I trust the media because at least they are objective. BISD has an agenda and is trying to give us THEIR propaganda -- which may be either a stretch of the truth or not at all.

I say THANK YOU TO THE MEDIA. It's your jobs to keep people honest and hold them accountable and I strongly believe they are doing that -- regardless of what Thomas wants to believe.

Read more here

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Coverage of meeting

To read the Enterprise's live coverage of the meeting to change the BISD board, click here.

KBMT-12's coverage includes video on their website.

KBTV web story only interviews the school district's attorney who said the district is bound by federal court order to keep board make-up as is.

I couldn't find a story online at KFDM-6. Please post the link in the comments if you see it.

Read more here

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

BISD meeting scheduled to change board makeup

For those of you wanting more information about the petition to change the makeup of the BISD board, there will be a meeting you can attend to learn more.

Date: October 21
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Place: Jefferson County Courthouse Jury Impaneling Room.
Here is a story that ran on KBMT-12.

It's important that you comeout and learn more. For this petition to reach the 12,000 signatures it needs (and they have to be registered voters), it takes more than one person to participate. If we all go and get one sheet filled with signatures, we can reach that number very quickly. Ask people at church. Ask your neighbors. Ask your sports teams.

We can do this and make a change!

Read more here

Enterprise editorial addresses cost overruns on BISD bond

This editorial criticizes BISD about the athletic complex going 48 percent over budget.

An excerpt: "There is no way the district can handle overruns like that on every other job. The same factors that have affected the athletic complex will affect every other project on the bond issue.

Taxpayers are expecting everything to be built in this bond issue, including projects in the final phases. BISD officials need to make sure that cost overruns at the start of the work don't wreck that goal."

In my opinion, if the complex is nearly 50 percent overbudget because of what administrators are calling inflation, then what will happen with all the other projects? If inflation is THAT BAD they will all go 50 percent over budget, what will be left when it comes time to build Sallie Curtis?

And if you know inflation will surge the complex that much money, why spend $1 million on a scoreboard? Why not make some cuts on the complex?

The answer: It's easier to make the cuts at the schools. Let's make Curtis wait. And in the end, when we run out of money we'll ask taxpayers for more or just don't build it. This isn't an all-giving money tree. The cash will run out and where will that leave us?

Read more here

Monday, October 19, 2009

A walk down memory lane

As long as Dr. Thomas is saying that the voters just don't understand how construction works, let's take a look at the articles that ran two years ago regarding the bond and what promises were made then. He is now saying that it has ALWAYS been a price tag of $43 million, not $29 million as the media is saying he originally told taxpayers.

Here is a document that was archived on the Beaumont Enterprise website that came from BISD. Guess what it has budgeted for the athletic facility? $29.8 million.


This is one of my favorite articles I found. It's by Beth Gallaspy (an excellent long-time reporter veteran) on November 9, 2007. In it, Dr. Thomas says the complex shouldn't be more than $30 million otherwise they would have to "review what they are doing." He went on to say that there will be enough funding IFthey meet the time.


An excerpt says:
Board member Martha Hicks said people want to know why the complex is in Phase One and asked Thomas to explain.

"The sooner we can get projects built, we beat inflation costs," Thomas said. "... You can't build more than four elementary schools at a time because there's only so many places to put students."

Board member Woodrow Reece asked for an answer to rumors that the district will not build everything that is promised.

"I think we have adequate funding if we meet the time," Thomas said. Taking more time would mean more money for inflation, he said.

After the meeting, Thomas responded to a question about what would happen if bids on the athletic complex came in well above the $30 million budgeted. "I hope it should not happen," Thomas said. "I feel like we're going to be reasonable in the ballpark."

If they were significantly higher, "I think we're going to have to go back and review what we're doing, but I don't think that's going to happen. That's the whole idea behind this study," Thomas said.


When the bond passed, this article ran in the Enterprise on November 27, 2007 by Ryan Myers (who is no longer at the paper, but was a thorough reporter). Among the highlights:

- "We hope any changes to the construction phases will be minimal, but they may come to us and say something just isn't feasible," Thomas said.

- The first phase also includes purchasing land for a districtwide multi-purpose center, a $29.9 million project that will include a stadium and swimming complex.


In this article which ran November 25, 2008, it presents a project-by-project analysis of the $388.6 million BISD bond proposal. Some of the items include:

Curtis Elementary
Year Built: 1956
Proposed: New school for 550 students
Cost: $14,701,937
Supporters: Aging school; too expensive to renovate
Opponents: No organized opposition

Multi-purpose facility
Year Built: 2008
Proposed: New athletic complex, including stadium and natatorium
Cost: $29,857,983
Supporters: Economically feasible to build anew rather than renovate existing stadiums; could host regional games and competitions
Opponents: Not enough money for the project and if done first, will prevent completing other projects


Yet another article is here that ran November 23, 2007 that talks about pros and cons of the athletic facility. An excerpt:

"The current bond proposes the building of a new stadium, field house and natatorium for $29.8 million. Those in favor of the bond said a new stadium makes more economic sense than spending money to bring the existing facilities up to current standards and continuing to rent the stadium at Lamar University. They also said a new facility would attract outside playoff games, band competitions and other events, bringing revenue to the district. Those opposed to the bond believe there is no way a complex like the one being proposed will cost $29.8 million based on other projects they have seen around the state. Another issue with the stadium is that it is the first scheduled project and the opposition believes the athletic complex will go over budget and take away from the project - particularly money for the elementary schools. Those for the bond said the athletic complex is scheduled first to save money on inflation."

I found this gem in a link from BISD in 2007 that was on the previous article. It says: "Accountability milestones will be established in the schedule & monitoring of the building cost progress will be communicated regularly to the public."


This September 21, 2007 article outlines how much is budgeted for the various projects. And it says that it'll be $29.9 million for the complex.


As you look at ALL OF THESE ARTICLES, ask yourself: Is the media really lying? There are more articles out there and I can certainly post them all.

If I were Dr. Thomas, I would have been angry at the media two years ago for not telling the public that the figure for the complex was actually $43 million. Oh, wait - maybe that would have hurt the chance for the bond to pass. Let's just let the public believe it's $29 million and we'll blame it on the public later for not understanding the construction process.

Shouldn't the leader of our school district be setting a better example? I would have more respect for someone who admits they are wrong than trying to place the blame on others for missteps and mistakes. It's easy to point the finger at the media, but I think we've shown, it's not the media who has screwed up here.

If the media was WRONG, why didn't the district accuse the media of spreading lies two years ago like they are now? Maybe, just maybe, it's because the media is right. Gosh, it must hurt to know that the reporters are going back and looking at that and holding BISD accountable. Bravo to them!! Keep it up.

Read more here