Memorial Stadium is here to stay, after the Beaumont School Board learned Monday that it did not have the legal authority to place the issue on the May ballot for voters to decide, as was proposed at last week’s board meeting.

“Unlike a city, a school district can only conduct an election for which it is enumerated to conduct via statute,” BISD’s attorney Sierra Fisher told The Enterprise after the meeting. “There is no enabling statute … so as a result the district just doesn’t have the authority to do it even if they wanted too.”

That seemed to mark the end of the effort to rename the stadium after Carrol A. “Butch” Thomas, the district’s first Black superintendent. His name was removed from the facility a year ago, after a previous board voted to remove it in the wake of financial controversies that came to light after Thomas left the district and that led to a state takeover.

Trustee Thomas Sigee called Monday’s announcement the “nail in the coffin” an the issue that has resurfaced time and again.

“That is the end of it,” he said.

Trustee Robert Dunn said he would have voted to rename the stadium after Thomas at the last meeting if he had known it would not make it onto a public ballot.

“I thought we could let the citizens of Beaumont decide, and that way we wouldn’t be going back every four years with this,” he said.

Dunn said during the last meeting that the toxic debate over whether to return Thomas’ name to the facitliy was reflective of Beaumont’s political culture.

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But he said Monday that he is now looking forward.

“I had thought after I returned home that things changed but obviously the last four years I found out it didn’t,” he said. “I think that maybe we can get a lot of healing going here, hopefully, and we can just concentrate on the kids and the teachers and the staff. We definitely need to move forward. The only thing we can do is move forward. This is not why I got on the board.”

Trustee Darrell Antwine also said the name of the stadium, and months of debate that surrounded it, are not why he joined the board. He announced his decision not to run at the last board meeting, and voted not to replace the name — citing the rancor and hate that hallmarked the conversations surrounding it.

“A lot of people who look like me don’t like the decision I made, but I have to live with it,” said Antwine, who is Black. “I didn’t know there was so much politics on the board. That is why I am getting off of it.”

Beaumont City Councilman Mike Getz, who has been at the center of Beaumont ISD controversies over the last decade, addressed the board Monday.

“I am here to let you know that I completely support the actions of the board last Thursday night in refusing to rename the stadium,” he said. “I also would have supported placing this issue on the ballot.”

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Getz said he wanted to clarify a question he raised over the weekend about whether the closed session the board held to discuss the legality of the election order was in compliance with open meetings laws.

“With that being the situation, I … understand why it was necessary for the school district’s attorney to meet with the board in executive session,” Getz said. “That is all I was ever asking is why.”

Getz again stressed to The Enterprise before the meeting that he believed the issues had nothing to do with race.

Sigee, who stepped down as board president at the last meeting, said he met with constituents in December and early January to hear them out on the matter.

“Overwhelmingly people just wanted me to leave that alone,” he said. “I have the smallest district of all the board members, but it is more diverse.”

Like many on the board, Sigee said, many voters agreed the name should not have been removed by the state-appointed board of managers in 2018. But they also felt that “we don’t need to go backwards,” he said.

Sigee urged the board to nominate and vote for Zenobia Bush to take on the president’s role for the final months.

“Zenobia Bush has been a faithful board member for many years. She has held many positions on the board and she has never been the president,” Sigee said. “She is not running again, so I think it is befitting to let her be the president for the last couple months.”

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