BEAUMONT - The Ninth Court of Appeals has ruled against the Beaumont school district in a dispute that could lead to major changes on the board in the May elections, including three incumbents possibly losing their trustee positions.
In a live report at 6, KFDM News spoke with an attorney representing the plaintiffs. Other lawyers representing the plaintiffs were also present. Attorney Michael Truncale told KFDM News he hopes the district can move forward, do what's right and put education first.
The district was proceeding under the assumption only three seats would be up for election in May.
Attorneys for Donna Forgas, Marcelino Rodriguez and Linda Gilmore aruged that redistricting requires all seven seats to be up for election, and they said because trustees Woodrow Reece, the board president, as well as Terry Williams and Zenobia Bush didn't file, they couldn't be on the ballot.
The Ninth Court late Monday ruled in favor of attorneys for Forgas, Rodriguez and Gilmore.
BISD attorney Melody Chappell told KFDM News she's "shocked and surprised at the ruling" and expects the district to appeal to the Texas Supreme Court. The board is scheduled to talk about an appeal in an executive session during this Thursday's meeting.
She said if the ruling stands, the three candidates who filed for Districts 1, 2 and 3 (Donna Forgas, Marcelino Rodriguez and Linda Marie Wiltz Gilmore) would be unopposed on the ballot. Terry Williams, Zenobia Bush and board president Woodrow Reece didn't file for those seats because they thought the seats wouldn't be up for election until 2015.
If the ruling stands, the ballot for the May BISD board elections would shape up this way:
District 1 - Donna Forgas
District 2 - Marcelino Rodriguez
District 3 - Linda Marie Wiltz Gilmore
District 4 - Gwendolyn M. Ambres
District 5 - Danny Charles Major, *Michael Neil (incumbent)
District 6 - *Thomas B. Neild, Sr. (incumbent)
District 7 - *Janice Brassard (incumbent), Joseph Kyle Hilliard
Earlier in March the board rescinded a 7-0 redistricting map trustees approved in February and decided to use a map the Justice Department pre-cleared in 2001. Chappell said the Justice Department wouldn't pre-clear a 5-2 plan approved by voters because it would dilute minority voting strength.
BISD's attorney says at this point the 2001 map is the only one approved by the Justice Department. Melody Chappell told the board it can't use the map trustees approved in February because it was adopted only about 80 days before the election instead of the required 90 days.