Judge modifies South Park Middle School ruling

David Yates Mar. 31, 2010, 11:11am

At the request of the Beaumont Heritage Society and local "Greenie" Eddie Estilette, the judge who presided over the legal battle to stop the razing of South Park Middle School modified his ruling March 31 to include several finding of facts.

As the Southeast Texas Record previously reported, on Jan. 8 Judge Bob Wortham ruled against the Beaumont Independent School District, 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.

In early August, Judge Wortham had granted a temporary injunction requested by the Beaumont Heritage Society and Estilette, determining that the evidence and testimony presented suggested that BISD may have misled voters.

A final judgment was eventually entered by the court on Feb. 4.

Through attorney Michael Getz, the plaintiff's had filed a motion to modify the judgment to include 36 findings of fact and four conclusions of law.

Some of the finding of facts include demographic projections showing that South Park will continue to lose enrolment; total square footage of the building, and that BISD never performed a detailed cost analysis of what it would cost to renovate the building versus razing the structure and building a new one.

Court documents shows that the school's attendance has dramatically declined in recent years and would, if left standing, bottom out at around 400 students, leading some critics to believe if a new bigger and more expensive middle school is warranted.

Another issue the plaintiffs wanted in the final order concerned pamphlets distributed by the Beaumont Chamber of Commerce leading up to the bond election, which stated the district would not tear down South Park, but would renovate the school.

Getz previously told the Record that voters relied on that information when approving the bond.

During an early August hearing, BISD Superintendent Carrol Thomas testified the district was not responsible for the content in the pamphlets, which he claimed were put together and printed by a local newspaper, The Examiner.

One of the conclusions of law concludes that the BISD Board violated the Texas Open Meetings Act by deciding to demolish South Park behind closed doors and outside of public scrutiny.

Trial case No. D184-425

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