Monday, May 18, 2009
Lancaster ISD to seat new trustees early
Ellen Clark, Cynthia Corbin, and Marion Hamilton will take seats on the board and immediately begin making decisions.
More stories about Lancaster ISD:
- Lancaster ISD wants public in on superintendent search
- Three incumbents ousted in Lancaster ISD school board elections
- 2009 Lancaster ISD election recap
Not content to wait until the next regularly scheduled meeting in June, the Lancaster ISD has called a special session this coming Tuesday night (PDF) to swear in the new trustees. Ellen Clark, Cynthia Corbin, and Marion Hamilton will take seats on the board and immediately begin making decisions.
First up, the action to consider contracting new legal counsel. This decision, postponed from earlier in the month, will now hear from two other firms. Both are currently doing legal work for the district.
Henslee-Schwartz is the current contractor for routine district legal work. There has been some suggestion that the firm was confused in loyalties during the recent disputes between the board and the superintendent. On the other hand, there is much sentiment that the current firm offers best value for money of any bidder for this role. The firm will be making their pitch, again, Tuesday.
Walsh Anderson is also currently under contract with Lancaster ISD specifically for work regarding disputes in special education matters. Outgoing trustee Ed Kirkland alleged, at the earlier May meeting, that board president Carolyn Morris has a personal animosity against Walsh Anderson due to her role as a parents' advocate in just such special education disputes. Morris, for her own part, asserts those disputes arise only in disputes with other districts, and that both she and Walsh Anderson are too mature to let differences carry over from one case to another. The Walsh team will, along with Henslee, be making their pitch to a fresh audience.
The four carry over trustees will already have heard from the other two bidders. O'Hanlon, McCollom and Demararth are familiar to the trustees for their representation of the board in actions to terminate former superintendent Larry Lewis. As with the other previously mentioned firms, this history brings advantages, and baggage, to their offer. While two of the new trustees are apparently pleased with the recent leadership changes, there is another opinion in the third new seat. And even those approving of the change are not unanimous in praise for the negotiated settlement or "buy out" arrangement that ended Dr Lewis' contract.
The final bidder for district legal work is new to Lancaster but a familiar name to those following Dallas area school corruption news. Schwartz and Eichelbaum are perhaps best known for the $200 million legal vendetta waged in the 1990s against Dallas ISD watchdogs Don Venable and Rick Finlan. The results of that epic battle are somewhat mixed -- Venables and Finlan did not back down, Dallas ISD did not recover any money, and Eichelbaum ultimately lost his contract with DISD -- after some half a million in taxpayer's money was transferred to his firm for legal fees in long rounds of lawsuit and counter-suit. In the end the abuse of bond funds, failures of TEA audits, campaign finance violations, and other shenanigans of a school district were entirely subsumed by stalemated disputes over arcane legal matters between a highly paid lawyer and a gadfly acting pro se.
It's not entirely clear why Lancaster would want Eichelbaum, or why Eichelbaum would want to work in Lancaster, but the board is at least providing some excitement in this otherwise routine, if important, contracting issue.
There is no action or information item on the agenda regarding any ceremonial farewell to Ed Kirkland, Marie Elliott, or Debi Miller -- but their supporters are surely welcome to turn out for the meeting and wish them well in future endeavors.
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