Amarillo ISD finds a bit of wisdom with name change

I have been beating up on the Amarillo Independent School District in recent months, but today I want to offer a good word or maybe three to the AISD Board of Trustees.

Trustees have voted unanimously to change the name of a school that carried the name of a Confederate general while serving a community comprising a significant population of African-American students.

Robert E. Lee Elementary School had been changed to Lee Elementary School. However, today the school’s name was changed to Park Hills Elementary School.

The irony of African-American students attending school carrying the name of a soldier who fought for the right of states to legalize slavery became too much, even for normally staid and reticent Amarillo, Texas. Lee led the Confederate forces against the Union during the Civil War.

So the board decided to change the name.

To which I want to offer a rhetorical high-five, a bouquet, a word of recognition for making the right decision, given the contentiousness that the issue of racial sensitivity — and a particularly grim chapter of our nation’s history — continues to engender.

Well done, Amarillo ISD trustees.

Trump has become the cause for serious depression

Donald Trump causes depression. I believe it might be a clinical depression at that.

Here I sit in Flyover Country, Collin County in Texas, a place where Trump still stands tall. I write this blog full time in my retirement years. I spend a lot of time cogitating over what to write, offering commentary on this and that public policy and those who make those policies.

The president’s latest Twitter tirade/torrent/tempest has taken aim at four members of Congress who have been critical of Trump and his policies. He has gone after them with racist rants.

It’s depressing, man. I find myself looking for positive elements.

The Amarillo Sod Poodles, the minor-league baseball team that now plays in the city where I used to live, is one option. I take joy in reading about the big crowds they’re drawing and that ballpark that graces the downtown district.

So, too, is the ongoing renovation of that city’s downtown business/entertainment district.

I like commenting on adventures with out 5-year-old pooch, Toby the Puppy.

I relish talking to you about retirement, travel and spending time with our precious granddaughter, Emma.

High Plains Blogger, though, is built largely around the discussion of public policy and the politics that drive it. I make no apologies for my bias. I know I have it, although my bias is no more pronounced than anyone else’s bias.

My commentary on the president, however, is getting me down. As in down in the dumps. I don’t like feeling this way. I don’t like the feeling of hopelessness that at times creeps into my skull when I think of this guy, which — I regret to acknowledge — is quite often … perhaps too often.

I’ll have to get over it. I’ll work through it.

If only Donald John Trump would stop providing all that grist that gets me down.

Dissent, protest … so very American

Donald Trump is accusing four freshman members of Congress of “hating” the United States, of “hating” Israel and of speaking ill of the country they purport to love.

They need to go back to where they come from, says the president of the United States. If they don’t like it here, they are “free to leave,” he says.

Oh, my. I am going to respond this way: Shouldn’t Donald Trump, while running for the presidency in 2016, followed such advice when he was trashing the policies of the man he sought to succeed?

The president has declared rhetorical war against Reps. Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and Alexandria Ocasio -Cortez. They’re all Democrats, all women of color, all U.S. citizens. They’ve been vocal in their criticism of Trump and his policies.

The president has launched a frontal attack on all of them.

But to my point: Donald Trump called our political leadership “stupid” while running for president in 2016. He lambasted our national trade policies, our national defense policies, our economic policies. Beginning in 2011, he became a chief proponent of the lie that President Obama was not constitutionally qualified to serve in the White House, referring to phony allegations that Obama was born in Africa. He questioned Obama’s academic credentials, even suggesting that Obama never even attended Harvard University, where he served as president of the Harvard Law Review.

Did anyone ever suggest that Donald Trump should “go back to where he came from,” or from where his mother emigrated?

No. Nor should they.

Trump was entitled under the rights granted by our Constitution to criticize the government, even if he was incorrect in his criticism. The four women he is challenging today are equally qualified to criticize government policies.

The president’s utter and unmistakable lack of self-awareness is on full display as he criticizes four duly elected members of Congress for doing the very thing he did while he ran for the only public office he ever has sought.

Amazing.

Trump digs in against accusation of racism

“If you’re not happy here, then you can leave.”

There you have it. That’s the view of the president of the United States of those who have the temerity to criticize government policy, who seek radical change, who believe the government needs to do a better job for all Americans.

Donald Trump has doubled down on his racist Twitter rant against four congresswoman who have been highly critical of the government.

They are Alexandrea Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanne Pressley and Rashida Tlaib. What do these women have in common? They are women “of color.” That’s it. Oh, they also are all U.S. citizens, three of whom were born in this country; the fourth congresswoman, Omar, is a naturalized citizen.

Trump said they all could return to where they came from and fix the problems there. That, I submit, is one more testament to the stupidity that the president exhibits with shocking regularity.

I’ll make one final point: This nation was founded by dissenters. Its very first constitutional amendment speaks directly to the rights of citizens to seek “redress” from their government.

Trump doesn’t get that. He needs to read the U.S. Constitution. He needs to come to grips with its meaning and the philosophy that led to its ratification as the governing framework for this great nation.

Transparency is MIA at Amarillo ISD

I believe I can state with confidence that a coalition of parents demanding transparency at the Amarillo Independent School District has identified a seriously legitimate area of concern.

It involves the “resignation” of a high school girls volleyball coach and the circumstances that led to her departure after a single season at the helm of a vaunted athletic program.

You know the story: Kori Clements left her post as Amarillo High School’s volleyball coach at the beginning of this year. It was called a resignation. She submitted a letter stating her desire to resign, citing harassment from a parent and a lack of support from the school board and the senior administration at AISD.

I have learned there is a whole lot more to the story than was declared publicly.

Clements’s contract was not renewed. She was, in effect, terminated by the school system. Why? Well, it gets sticky. AISD administrators told Clements she wasn’t “communicating” effectively with parents who said they were concerned about the coach’s parceling out of playing time to some of the girls on her team.

Clements asked her bosses at AISD to cite specifics. She asked them to give her an avenue to correct what they said was wrong with her communication skills. Clements said administrators refused to give her the chance to fix the problem.

She had a series of meetings with administrators, including Amarillo High principal David Vincent, AISD athletic director Brad Thiessen and others. Ultimately, she was told her contract would not be renewed. Clements was a first-year teacher and, thus, was a “probationary” faculty member, meaning the district could choose to not renew her contract if that was the decision.

One of they key principals in this “playing time” matter happened to be a school board trustee, Renee McCown, who had two daughters playing for the Sandies volleyball team. McCown has since resigned from the board, which currently is looking to fill her vacant seat along with a seat vacated by the resignation of  trustee John Ben Blanchard.

The Parents for Transparency Coalition is demanding a more thorough accounting of AISD policies, actions and decisions. I believe, based on what I have learned, that the coalition has a legitimate concern.

Clements’ departure from AHS was not as it was portrayed publicly when she made her announcement. She was forced to quit by administrators and, by association, by the board of trustees that chose to keep its hands off this discussion. The irony is that one of the trustees was implicated in the mess that that has smeared the school system.

Did the Sandies volleyball team underperform during Clements’ single year at the helm? No. Their record was nearly identical to what it was the previous year, the final season that Jan Barker coached before retiring.

So, what do we have here? We have a situation that needs to be aired out. Clements’ departure from the Amarillo HS job, to my understanding of it, bears virtually no resemblance to what has been portrayed by the school system.

Transparency? It is missing in action.

Go back to … Sweden, Norway, the UK? Hah!

If we are going to be totally candid and honest, the Twitter tirade that Donald J. Trump let loose this weekend against four Democratic members of Congress reveals a nasty and sinister side of the president of the United States.

He told four women of color to return to “where they came from.” Three of the women were born in the United States of America; a fourth was born in Somalia but is a naturalized U.S. citizen.

We have just witnessed an evil side of one human being’s attitude toward individuals of certain ethnic or racial backgrounds. Indeed, have we ever heard folks say such things of those from, say, Scandinavia, or western Europe, or even from southern Europe?

No. This is the kind of blathering that flies out of the mouths of those who proclaim western European heritage. They aim such nonsense at those who, um, look differently than they do. Or, they might worship a non-Christian religious faith.

The four congresswomen are well-known to political junkies: Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandrea Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. They all have spoken out frequently and loudly. They apparently have gotten under the president’s skin.

So he lashed out via Twitter with that vile message about them return to “where they came from.”

There longer can be an “Is this it?” moment for Trump. One might think any one of dozens of hideous statements or insults would have doomed this individual’s political career. They didn’t. This one likely won’t, either. Why? Because the president has managed to redefine the standards of decency we normally have set for those who seek to represent us in government.

His political base, the only audience he seems to aim his remarks, will continue to slobber all over him. The rest of us will shake our heads in disgust.

So very sad.

Trump lets his xenophobia show

What’s next from the president of the United States? Will he tell his critics that their “mother wears combat boots”?

Donald Trump went on another Twitter tirade today, telling four progressive members of the U.S. House of Representatives to go back to where they came from. He wrote on Twitter: “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.”

Oh, wait! Except that only one of them — Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. — was born in a faraway land. She emigrated here from Somalia. She became a naturalized citizen, ran for Congress and then won. Oh, and she then took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States. The other three, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts all are native-born Americans.

Gosh, do you think Trump’s tirade has anything to do with the fact that two of the congresswomen are black, one is Hispanic and one is of Middle Eastern descent?

I, too, have been critical at times of the overexposure some of these congressional rookies have gotten. However, for the president to blurt out that sophomoric, childish, petulant response reveals — as if we haven’t seen it already — a seedy side of what passes for his character.

The progressive congresswoman have become known as The Squad. They are making a good bit of news these days in their open challenge of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s leadership of the lower legislative chamber. They want Pelosi to fast-track impeachment of Trump; Pelosi keeps hitting the brakes.

Now we have the president turning this battle into something seriously ugly and despicable.

Another ‘acting’ Cabinet official set to take over

Donald Trump has set an unofficial record for overseeing an executive branch of government with the most “acting” Cabinet secretaries and senior administrative aides.

It means that the “fine-tuned machine” Trump has boasted about only is acting like one. It also means that these critical federal agencies have no continuity, no solid command structure, no rock-solid leadership.

Labor Secretary Alex Acosta is the latest Cabinet secretary to quit. He did so under duress, of course, given his role in the shamefully light sentencing of a pedophile who’s now accused of sex trafficking.

Three of 15 Cabinet posts are now filled by acting secretaries/administrators. Four of eight Cabinet-level posts are being run by acting heads.

Most disturbing are these items: The Defense Department, the White House chief of staff, the United Nations ambassador and the Department of Homeland Security all are being filled by acting leaders.

This makes me shudder on a couple of levels. One of them involves the lack of leadership I’ve mentioned already. Another of them means that these individuals are operating without the requisite confirmation by the U.S. Senate. There’s also noise about Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats being the next presidential target for dismissal.

As for the chief of staff post, that one doesn’t require Senate approval, but the acting COS, Mick Mulvaney, still lacks the authority he ought to command as the individual charged with ensuring the White House runs with maximum efficiency.

This all is a direct reflection of the president, the master of chaos and confusion. What’s more, key posts charged with national security missions — Homeland Security, Defense, the U.N. — have no clear, rock-solid leadership in place to call the shots.

We are left, therefore, to rely on the president of the United States to run these departments. Don’t you feel safer now?

How can you ‘honor’ a Klansman?

How in the name of human decency can a governor of one of our 50 states proclaim a desire to honor the memory of a Ku Klux Klan leader?

That’s what happened in Tennessee, where Gov. Bill Lee signed a proclamation honoring Nathan Bedford Forrest, a onetime Confederate general … who also happened to be a slave trader and a grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

Honor a Klansman? Really?

This is disgraceful in the extreme. Lee’s declaration has drawn rebuke, understandably, from Democrats but also from fellow Republicans, such as U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

“This is wrong,” Cruz said on Twitter. “Nathan Bedford Forrest was a Confederate general & delegate to the 1868 Democratic convention. He was also a slave trader 1st Grand Wizard of the KKK. Tennessee should not have an official day honoring him. Change the law.”

Cruz also said he doesn’t necessarily disagree with honoring Confederate soldiers, but that’s another topic for another day.

Any law that sanctions such commemoration of individuals who took part in brutality against fellow human beings, such as the Klan, must be repealed.

Gov. Lee said he was following the law. Are you kidding? Does the law require a governor to honor someone who sanctioned the killing of others because of their race?

Disgraceful.

Where, oh where are those parking garage businesses?

I’m a bit baffled. The opening of the downtown Amarillo ballpark was supposed to bring a surge of business onto the ground floor of a shiny new parking garage across the street from what is now called Hodgetown.

The Amarillo Sod Poodles have been playing hardball at Hodgetown for a few weeks now. They’re drawing big crowds to the ballpark, recently listed a the top AA baseball venue in the United States of America. The fans are getting their money’s worth, too, with the Sod Poodles winning the first half of the Texas League season.

That parking garage is holding vehicles of fans attending the games at stadium. The businesses that were thought to be standing by after the ballpark opened have yet to sign on at the garage, or so I understand.

I saw a story in the Amarillo Globe-News online edition posted this past month that talked about the Local Government Corporation meeting to discuss the business activity slated to arrive at the garage.

Any word yet on what’s going on here?

The ballpark, the relocation of the baseball franchise from San Antonio to Amarillo and the parking garage were supposed to constitute a sort of three-part story that brought about the city’s downtown revival. I am pleased to see from afar that the city is experiencing a tangible renovation of its downtown business/entertainment district.

The Sod Poodles are drawing large crowds to the ballpark. They’re playing some good baseball under the watchful eye of a National League parent franchise, the San Diego Padres. And, oh, that ballpark is a sight to see.

I’m still hoping for the best that the city’s business and civic leadership can persuade the businesses slated for the parking garage to open up shop.

If and when that happens, I believe the future of the city will brighten even more.

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