The ceremonial groundbreakings in Texas City and La Marque on Monday were the same in many ways as every other such event ever held — the shiny, beribboned shovels, little mounds of sand and a coterie of dignitaries and civic-minded residents.
This turning of some dirt symbolized something far more significant than usual, however.
Most directly, the events marked the beginning of three new elementary schools — Guajardo at 2300 21st Street N. in Texas City, Simms at 529 N. Westward in Texas City and Hayley at 1431 Bayou Road in La Marque.
That direct reason was itself charged with meaning. It was residents coming together to celebrate an investment of time, effort and, especially, money in the future. That’s always a good thing.
This time, the events also were a benchmark in a story about people in two communities stepping over numerous pitfalls and around numerous tripwires to pursue the greater good.
The state of affairs between the La Marque and Texas City over the public schools could have turned out much differently than what we witnessed Monday, if not for the work of civically engaged people in both communities.
Some observers might have bet that things would go badly when in 2015 former Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams ordered La Marque’s public school district closed, and ordered neighboring Texas City ISD to annex its students and facilities.
That decision, which culminated in 2016, began with accusation, recrimination and litigation and the change it launched might have stalled there had people in both communities not worked to ensure it didn’t.
The clearest example of that might be the fact that voters in both cities supported the $136 million bond proposition that provided the money to build the schools that were celebrated Monday. School bond propositions can be fragile endeavors. Although they tend to pass under normal conditions, they can fail in even a mild political headwind. We’ve seen it happen more than once.
Despite the combined school district’s rocky start, and some lingering ill feeling, less than three years after the closure and annexation, voters approved the bond issue, which meant higher taxes on themselves, by more than 2 to 1.
That was a testament to good leadership and good sense in both communities, and it made Monday’s events far more than simple groundbreakings.
• Michael A. Smith