BISD, Heritage Society both considering appeal of South Park ruling

David Yates Feb. 4, 2010, 5:56am

Following a Thursday morning hearing to enter final judgment, both the Beaumont Independent School District and the Beaumont Heritage Society are contemplating appealing a local judge's ruling on the fate of South Park Middle School.

As the Record reported last month, on Jan. 8 Judge Bob Wortham ruled against BISD, verbally ordering that none of the $389 million in funds from the 2007 bond election could be spent to tear down the 87-year-old South Park campus.

A hearing was held in the Judge's 58th District Court on Feb. 4 so a final order could be signed and entered, which would allow both parties to file an appeal.

During the hearing, both sides voiced their discontent with the judge's final ruling, and told the Record afterwards the possibility of appealing existed.

"I pray I made the right decision," Wortham said at the hearing. "I went to the limits of my authority. It's certainly not going to hurt my feelings if either side appeals."

Heritage Society attorney Michael Getz told Wortham his "judgment does not go far enough" and failed to provide his clients with all relief guaranteed under constitutional law.

He argued that the school district can skirt the ruling by not using bond money to demolish "a structurally sound" South Park and build a new $42 million "pre-fabricated" school.

BISD attorney Melody Chappell told the Record that the school board authorized an appeal last month after Wortham announced his verbal decision.

Case history

In early August, Judge Wortham granted a temporary injunction requested by the Beaumont Heritage Society and former South Park student Eddie Estilette, determining that the evidence and testimony presented suggested that BISD may have misled voters in the 2007 bond election.

In July, the Beaumont Heritage Society had filed and obtained a temporary restraining order, claiming that pamphlets distributed by the Beaumont Chamber of Commerce leading up to the bond election stated the district would not tear down South Park, but would renovate the school.

Although South Park weathered three of the area's worst hurricanes and has stood since 1923, BISD adamantly claims the building cannot accommodate an expected influx of new middle school students.

Trial case No. D184-425

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