The Texas Education Agency recently reviewed Jacksonville Independent School District’s purchase of 33 acres of land in 2000, as well as JISD Superintendent Stuart Bird’s contract, and decided “it appears that the district has not violated any statutory rule.”

TEA initiated the investigation after a complaint from a Jacksonville citizen about the purchase not being posted in the newspaper 60 days in advance. The complainant also expressed concern about Bird receiving a $10,000 bonus for getting the 2005 school bond election on the ballot.

“The Texas Education Agency does not have the authority to dictate how an employment contract between a superintendent and the board of trustees is structured,” the letter from TEA stated.

According to TEA, the land transaction involved a deed of trust that created a lien on the property, and Texas Local Government Code states “real property means land, improvement, or an estate or interest in real property, other than a mortgage or deed of trust creating a lien on property or an interest securing payment or performance of an obligation in real property.”

JISD Financial Director Lindy Finley said “in a nutshell,” that because the purchase was done with a lien note, Subchapter 271 does not apply to the purchase. Therefore, the district was not required to post the purchase 60 days beforehand in the newspaper.

“A lien note just means that if you don’t make the payments, then the owner gets it back,” Finley said.

According to a copy of the description of the 2000 land purchase received through an open records request by the Daily Progress, a lien note was obtained.

“This note is secured by a vendor’s lien retained in a deed from Louise Stripling, as owner and trustee for the C.H. Stripling Trust to the Jacksonville Independent School District to the maker dated November 1, 2000 ...,” according to the lien note.

Although, TEA did not find any violations stemming from the complaints of the land purchase, they have requested additional information pertaining to the field house contract, according to Bird.

“I’m glad someone is finally asking for the right information, because those who made the complaints don’t know what went on,” Bird said, “and I think they’re not going to like what the TEA finds about that transaction either, because I don’t believe that we had any violations.”

TEA has requested a description of the competitive procurement method employed by the district to select the field house contractor.

Finley said the procurement method is the process of having the school board approve how a project is to be done. She said there are six different ways the board can decide to have a contractor proceed with a project.

“We informed them of all of the ways, and they chose the construction manager at risk method. It was approved on Feb. 16, 2004,” Finley said.

Construction manager at risk means the manager takes responsibility for the general and sub-contractors. If extra expenses incur during the project, the manager has to pay them, Finley said.

Also requested by TEA was a copy of the field house contract, the initial price quoted for the field house, the final price paid, a copy of the board minutes approving the construction and also of any change orders to the contract, if applicable, and “other relevant information that the district may have regarding this issue.”

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