Time of My Life, Part 13: The sign is gone!

AMARILLO, Texas — I wish I had taken a picture of this building Tuesday when I drove past it en route to a meeting with a friend.

For some reason, I didn’t think to snap it with my smarty-pants cell phone. This building is where I used to work for nearly 18 years. I had a blast here for most of that time.

The sign you see on the front of this iconic structure is gone. It’s been peeled off by the newspaper’s owners, GateHouse Media, which purchased the newspaper from Morris Communications in October 2017. GateHouse has vacated the building and relocated its gutted news/editorial and advertising staff to a bank tower a few blocks away.

I won’t talk about that.

I came to work at this building in January 1995. An opportunity presented itself with an opening that occurred on the editorial page staff. I interviewed with the publisher in late 1994. He called me a few days after the interview and offered me the job.

I arrived a few weeks later and thought I had died and gone to heaven. I inherited a fine staff of two editorial writers, an administrative assistant and a part-time editorial cartoonist.

We published two newspapers back then: the morning Amarillo Daily News and the afternoon Amarillo Globe-Times. I also inherited a legacy of journalistic excellence, as the Globe-Times was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service in 1961. The late legendary editor Tommy Thompson had uncovered corruption at county government and revealed it to the community. The Pulitzer board thought enough of that work to bestow print journalism’s highest honor.

We published separate editorials those days in each newspaper. We ran separate syndicated columns. Letters to the editor were submitted exclusively to either the morning or the afternoon papers.

We had a talented staff of writers and thinkers then. Our administrative assistant was a premier gatekeeper and a marvelous editor of the letters we received from readers. She had this inherent ability to make the correspondents’ words sing — without changing their intent. 

Those were the days. I got asked on my most recent visit to the Texas Panhandle if I “missed working” at the newspaper. My response was candid: I would miss it only if that work had remained as it was when I first got here. It didn’t.

Oh, but what a ride it was!

Coaching controversy reaffirms valuable lesson for community

AMARILLO, Texas — The Kori Clements Coaching Era at Amarillo High School was far too short-lived than the former coach and most of the community she served had ever intended.

Clements quit as Amarillo High School’s girls volleyball coach and tossed out some bitter medicine for the school district and the community at-large to swallow. It was that she left because of pressure she alleged she got from the parent of one of the girls she coached; the parent, allegedly a member of the school board, harassed Clements because she wasn’t giving her daughter enough playing time.

The Amarillo public school trustees accepted her resignation Tuesday night. Then they adjourned what had been a sometimes-testy public meeting and they all went home.

We are talking about a public school system, financed by public money and governed by public laws. It is unacceptable for the governing board to hide behind some policy that prohibits it from commenting on personnel matters. There needs to be a public airing of what went wrong and a public discussion about how to fix it.

To that end, I hope the Amarillo Independent School District trustees and administrators begin with some candid conversation with the offending parent and make changes to avoid a repeat of this kind of hectoring of the next Amarillo HS volleyball coach.

This sad episode simply drives home a fundamental point about public education. We entrust our educators — be they classroom teachers or coaches, band directors or theater directors — to do right by our children. We expect our educators to be fair, to be stern if necessary, to be caring. We also should expect our public school administrators to have our educators’ back if the educator is doing all the right things.

Kori Clements apparently did her job well for the single season she was allowed to do it. But she didn’t have that support from the administration or the board. The school system failed the coach and by extension failed the student-athletes she was hired to lead in athletic competition.

That dereliction of public responsibility cannot be allowed to stand.

I’m going home Thursday to Collin County. I’ll be looking back at Amarillo from time to time to see how this drama plays out. I hope the Amarillo public school community will discern some palpable change in policy.

Kori Clements deserved better than she got from the school system that hired her. Let’s hope this sad chapter ends with a reaffirmation of the need to nurture the efforts of top-quality educators.

Speaker demonstrates the ‘co-equal branch’ clause

Hello, Mr. President.

I know you thought you could just crash the House Party by declaring your intention to deliver the State of the Union speech next week in front of a joint congressional session.

Except for this little item: The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has exercised precisely the clause in the U.S. Constitution that sets forth “co-equal” governmental power. She won’t allow the House to vote on a resolution that would invite you to speak to a joint session.

So, the way I see it, you’re outta luck, sir.

The speaker will let you make your SOTU speech on one condition, that you allow the government to reopen. I believe she feels more deeply about the families affected by the partial government shutdown than you do, Mr. President. She wants their pay restored. She doesn’t want them working for free, as you have ordered many thousands of them to do.

Hey, not everyone in America is as filthy rich as you are, Mr. President. They cannot afford to miss paychecks. They have mortgages to pay, credit cards to pay; they have to pay for school tuition, groceries, child care. You know, those things many of us face on a regular basis.

I hate to tell you this — no, actually I love saying it — but the speaker knows a lot more about the limits of executive power than you do. She is exercising the power she has as a legislative leader.

If you intend to give your SOTU speech on Jan. 29 and the government is still partially shuttered, you’ll have to do so elsewhere. How about sitting behind your desk in the Oval Office?

The founders had it right when they created these co-equal branches of government. Their intent was to protect us from dictatorial executives.

They made a good call, don’t you think, Mr. President?

Trustees should have looked at those who scolded them

AMARILLO, Texas — I cannot get past a bit of body language I observed Tuesday night at the Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees meeting.

I watched several AISD constituents stand before the board to offer public comment on the issue that brought them to the school district board room in the first place. They sought to speak to the board about the sudden and shocking resignation of Kori Clements, the head volleyball coach at Amarillo High School. Clements quit citing pressure she received from an AISD parent who didn’t like the lack of playing time her daughter was getting from the coach.

Some of the constituents who stood before the board spoke in tones that reminded me of a scolding you would get from your mom or dad. Many of the trustees never looked up from the dais where they sitting. They didn’t look their scolding constituents in the eye.

When Mom chewed me out when I was a kid, she usually would instruct me to “look at me when I’m talking to you!” I also had this annoying tendency to smirk when Mom scolded me, which prompted her to tell me to “wipe that smirk off your face or else I’ll wipe it off for you.” 

My point is that Mom demanded respect when she thought I messed up. I needed to show that respect by looking her in the eye.

I couldn’t help but think of what an AISD constituent might have said to trustees — particularly the one trustee who is believed to be the cause for Coach Clements’ resignation — while he or she was lecturing the board about the merits of offering total support for the school district’s educators.

It might go something like this: Ladies and gentlemen of the board, I am here to talk to you tonight about the resignation of a highly respected coach who has stated that she didn’t get the support she deserved from the board and the administration. She said she was pressured to do the “politically correct” thing . . . 

Oh, and by the way, I would appreciate it very much, board members, if you would look at me while I am talking to you. This is serious stuff and I think you owe it to me — as a taxpaying constituent whose money pays for this school system — to look me in the eye while I am addressing you.

I would bet you real American money that constituent would have received a standing ovation from the crowd that had crammed into the meeting room.

The trustees — especially the one who is believed to have pressured Kori Clements to quit her job after one season — most surely could have shown their “bosses” more respect than they did Tuesday night.

How? Just look ’em in the eye when they’re speaking!

Hall of Fame induction finally goes unanimous

I am delighted to see that the great “closer” Mariano Rivera became the first Major League baseball player to win induction into the Hall of Fame unanimously.

Rivera could be depended on to finish off a game by coming in during the eighth or ninth inning to get the final outs. He belongs in MLB’s Hall of Fame.

However, I have to wonder: What in the world took the baseball writers so long to induct someone unanimously?

How in the world did, oh, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Johnny Bench, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio — I could go on forever — fail to obtain unanimous induction into the Hall of Fame?

I can see how some of the all-time greats might have gotten “no” votes from the baseball writers. Ted Williams was pretty much despised by the writers who covered him, and he returned the negative vibes during his entire career. But still . . .

My bet for the first unanimous pick would have been Derek Jeter, the retired New York Yankee infielder who soon will become eligible for HofF induction soon.

Whatever. It’s politics, I suppose.

Now that the baseball scribes have broken the unanimous-vote ice, there might be more to come. That would be my hope.

Political toxicity spills over . . . into Austin

He never would say such a thing publicly, let alone within earshot of a key state government aide, but Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger’s brief stint as Texas Senate Agriculture Committee chairman well might have been “beneath” his legislative skill.

There. I’ve said it for him.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick pulled the chairmanship from Seliger after the Amarillo Republican reportedly made an impolite comment about a Patrick assistant’s stated view that Seliger should seek another chairmanship if he thought the Ag Committee post was “beneath” him. Patrick said Seliger should have apologized for the comment. Seliger didn’t do it, but said he should have directed his remark at Patrick instead.

But . . . what about the Agriculture Committee?

It’s a brand new panel that Patrick created. Why is that? I guess it’s because the Texas Legislature traditionally has taken little direct legislative action affecting our farms and ranches. Congress enacts federal farm legislation every couple of years to protect the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers against years when harvests don’t allow them to repay their loans or feed their livestock.

What does the Legislature do in that regard? Umm, not much.

Sen. Seliger used to chair a meaningful committee: the Senate Higher Education Committee, which is where the Legislature does have a tremendous impact on our state’s publicly funded colleges and universities. Oh, but Patrick and Seliger aren’t exactly BFFs, given their different approaches to governance. Accordingly, Patrick took the gavel away from Seliger and then removed him altogether from the Higher Ed panel; he also took Seliger off the Education Committee and the Finance Committee.

How might any of us react if we were treated so shabbily? I wouldn’t like being denied a chance to represent my constituents in a more meaningful way.

So the 2019 Texas Legislature has gotten off to a bit of a rocky start — at least where it concerns one of the Senate’s most senior Republicans, who since 2004 has taken his responsibilities most seriously representing the interests of West Texas.

Resignation accepted . . . that’s the end of it? Hardly

Amarillo public school trustees have accepted the controversial resignation of a highly regarded high school volleyball coach.

Kori Clements quit as Amarillo High’s girls volleyball coach while alleging that she lacked the support of trustees and school administrators. Why did she need that support? A parent of one of the athletes who played for the Sandies harassed the coach because she wasn’t giving her daughter sufficient playing time.

So, Clements quit after a single season.

Amarillo board trustees heard from disgruntled constituents tonight about the offending parent, who allegedly is a member of the Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees. They listened, didn’t respond to any of the testimonials given on behalf of the former coach.

Then they accepted the coach’s resignation.

Hmm. What does that mean? I hope it doesn’t mean the end of this tempest. I hope the board won’t slap the dust off its hands and go on as if nothing happened. I hope trustees will assure its constituents that they will give coaches their support; that they will insist that school administrators do the same; and that they will pass those assurances on to all the coaches and classroom teachers who they entrust to educate the district’s 33,000 students.

I also hope the district’s constituents receive a fuller explanation of what caused the coach of a vaunted athletic program to walk away while declaring publicly her frustration with a parent who should have known better than to interfere with the coach doing her job.

The attention span of a ‘fruit fly’?

Robert Reich leans to the left; his critics surely would say “the far left.” He served as secretary of labor in President Clinton’s administration. His progressive chops are well-known.

Still, for this former Cabinet official to say what he has said about Donald Trump is, well, quite stunning. Reich posted this on Facebook:

In all my years advising presidents and working in government, I have never heard of anything like this happening in the White House. During a meeting with Paul Ryan on health care, Trump reportedly became so disinterested that he stared blankly out the window and finally wandered out of the Oval Office to watch television in another room. Mike Pence had to convince (Trump) to return to the Oval Office to finish the meeting.

This man has the attention span of a fruit fly. He has no interest in facts and figures nor does he pretend to care. Even the simplest duties of the office bore him. He is more interested in what’s on Fox News than actually running the government. This is (a) real national emergency, not migrant women and children seeking asylum at the border.

I am not aware of Reich’s sourcing for what he says occurred during that meeting with the former House speaker. It sure sounds like what so many of us have heard already about the president’s lack of attention to anything approaching the details of public policy.

Thus, I have to concur with Secretary Reich’s assertion that the “real national emergency” is present inside the Oval Office, in the West Wing, in the White House.

Donald Trump’s base has elected a menace.

Amarillo ISD, you have a problem

They came, they saw and some of them spoke out — almost unanimously in favor of a high school volleyball coach who walked away from one of the plum jobs in Texas high school athletics after only a single season.

The Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees held its first meeting of 2019. It convened amid a good bit of community angst over the resignation of Kori Clements as head coach of the Amarillo High School Sandies girls volleyball team.

Board president F. Scott Flow, taking note of the standing-room-only crowd jammed into the board meeting room, flip-flopped the board agenda and allowed public comment to lead off the meeting.

Clements quit, citing a lack of school board and administration support for her in the face of what she has called parental interference. Clements said the parent had harassed her regarding the playing time the parent’s daughter was getting — or not getting — during Sandies’ volleyball matches.

AISD has not commented on the matter, standing behind its policy of reticence regarding personnel matters. That didn’t stem the criticism from school district residents, who aimed much of their comments in the direction of a school board trustee, who allegedly is the parent who hassled and harassed Clements.

All the trustees were present at tonight’s meeting.

A couple of AISD residents called for a full investigation into the trustee’s behavior. One of them called for her resignation from the board. Several of the residents speaking out tonight noted that coaches and classroom educators deserve the full support of the administration and trustees, while alleging that Clements was denied that support, prompting her to resign in the public and angry manner that she did.

It’s bad enough that a parent would interfere with a coach doing his or her job. That such interference allegedly is coming from an elected member of the school district’s governing body crosses the line into shameful.

Some of those who spoke to the board professed to be Amarillo High grads. One man said he is “ashamed” of his school over the resignation, not to mention the lack of support given to a coach who herself was a product of the storied Amarillo High volleyball program. Another speaker, a member of the Amarillo HS volleyball team, asked the board to “not accept” her coach’s resignation.

What now? Well, I don’t have a dog in this fight, given that I no longer live in the Panhandle. Given that my wife and I had returned to Amarillo on personal business, I felt pulled to the board meeting tonight to listen for myself.

I’ll offer this suggestion just as someone with a forum to offer an opinion or two: The AISD board needs to talk privately and candidly among themselves about what has transpired. It needs to find a way to address this matter fully. Its insistence on remaining silent because of a policy requirement isn’t going to assuage the concerns board members heard from a roomful of disheartened constituents.

I cannot say this absolute certainty, but I am quite certain that the folks crammed into that meeting room spoke volumes for thousands of other constituents who weren’t there.

Amarillo ISD, you have a problem that needs immediate attention.

Seliger vs. Patrick: The feud escalates

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has the power of appointments on his side.

Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger has, well, I don’t quite know what it is precisely. However, I am going to stand with my friend — Seliger — in this seemingly escalating feud with Patrick, someone I cannot support.

Patrick yanked the chairmanship of the Senate Agriculture Committee from Seliger after the senator told a senior Patrick aide that she could kiss his backside. Patrick demanded an apology for the “lewd” comment; Seliger refused; Patrick then took the chairmanship away.

It’s getting ugly in Austin, ladies and gents.

Seliger and Patrick are far from soulmates. They belong to the same Republican Party, but they surely view the political landscape from different perspectives. Yes, Seliger campaigned for re-election in 2018 as a “conservative,” touting his NRA membership as an example of his conservative chops. Patrick, meanwhile, pushed a right-wing agenda as he ran the Senate, most notably the Bathroom Bill that sought to discriminate against transgender individuals; in fairness, I should note that Seliger voted for the Bathroom Bill along with the rest of the GOP Senate majority.

Seliger declined to sign a letter from Texas Senate Republicans endorsing Patrick, who then declined to endorse Seliger’s bid for re-election.

Now it’s come down to this. Patrick stripped the Higher Education Committee chairmanship from Seliger and removed him from that panel altogether as well as from the Education and Finance committees.

According to the Texas Tribune: “Seliger called the snub a ‘very clear warning’ that Republican better toe the line, teeing up the battle.”

See the Tribune story here.

The Patrick aide made some snarky remark that Seliger could ask for another chairmanship if he thought the Ag Committee assignment was “beneath him.”

That’s when Seliger reportedly told the aide, Sherry Silvester to, um … well, you know.

So, Sylvester poured the fuel on the fire on Patrick’s behalf. Seliger decided to respond. Patrick acted within his legislative and statutory authority as the Senate’s presiding officer.

However, in acting in this manner, Patrick — who hails from way down yonder in Houston — has denied the Texas Panhandle an experienced and seasoned voice in the on-going battle for legislative attention.

The way I see it, Patrick is simply throwing his weight around.

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