Tag Archives: AISD board of trustees

TEA kicks complaint against AISD back to Amarillo

Well, isn’t this just a kick in the booty?

The Texas Education Agency has said it lacks jurisdiction to hear a complaint filed by an Amarillo resident against the Amarillo Independent School District.

At issue is a complaint by Marc Henson, who alleges that a member of the AISD school board acted unethically by harassing a former Amarillo High School girls volleyball coach. Kori Clements quit as Sandies coach after a single season. In her resignation letter, she blamed it on interference from a parent who griped to her about playing time given to her daughter, a member of the Sandies volleyball team.

Henson went further. He named the parent: AISD trustee Renee McCown. 

So, what now? TEA officials said the complaint needs to be filed with the AISD itself. The school board and the superintendent must consider it before the TEA will consider it.

Henson told KFDA NewsChannel 10 that his fight isn’t over. He said he will seek a solution to what he has called unethical conduct.

I happen to agree with the gentleman. He has spoken on behalf of many AISD constituents who are concerned that a young coach of a vaunted high school athletic program would quit, citing parental interference and a lack of support from the school board and the AISD administration.

This decision by the TEA appears on its face to be a temporary pause in the effort to seek answers and solutions to avoid the kind of meddlesome behavior that Henson has alleged. If so, then Henson will need to stay the course.

I hope he does.

How can she stay on the job?

I actually have been trying to insert myself into the skull of an Amarillo, Texas, Independent School District trustee whose conduct in office has been called into serious question.

Renee McCown has been identified as the trustee who badgered the coach of a celebrated high school athletic program into resigning. The identity came forward in a complaint filed by an AISD resident to the Texas Education Agency.

McCown allegedly harassed former Amarillo High School girls volleyball coach Kori Clements over playing time given to her daughters who played for the Sandies team. The Amarillo High girls volleyball program is one of the more storied athletic programs in Texas. Clements, a 2006 AHS grad, is a product of that program.

Elected public officials simply must not interfere in the staffers’ performance of their job.

I’ve already declared my desire for McCown to resign. Her seat doesn’t come up for a vote until 2022. That means she has three more years to make policy decisions for the school district.

I cannot help but wonder: How does she stay in office? This trustee’s reputation has been damaged, perhaps beyond repair. She hasn’t answered any of the allegations. She wouldn’t look her constituents in the eye during an AISD board meeting a few weeks ago when they scolded the board over Clements’ resignation. The way I see it, the allegations seem quite credible.

This is an element of public service that I don’t get. Someone whose conduct in office has been challenged openly needs to rebuild community trust in order to make decisions on the community’s behalf.

I don’t know how Renee McCown does that.

I’ll say it again. She needs to resign and give her public service seat up to someone who won’t face the kind of accusations that have brought shame to the school board.

Resign from AISD board, Mme. Trustee

You are entitled to call me an interloper, an outsider, a peanut-gallery spectator if you wish, but I want to get this off my chest right now: Renee McCown, a member of the Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees, needs to resign her seat and disappear from school politics.

I’ll now get this off my chest as well. I am not an entirely nosy outsider. I lived and worked in Amarillo for 23 years. I spent most of those years commenting on public school affairs from my post as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. Yes, I’ve moved away, but I retain a deep interest in the affairs of the community.

McCown has been named in a complaint filed by an Amarillo ISD constituent, Marc Henson, who has submitted his gripes to the Texas Education Agency. He has accused McCown of acting unethically by pressuring a former Amarillo High School girls volleyball coach, Kori Clements, into giving her daughter more playing time. McCown reportedly was unhappy that her children weren’t getting enough time on the court and told Clements to do better by her daughters.

Clements quit the vaunted AHS Sandies program after a single season and accused the board and the AISD administration of failing to give her the backing she needed to do her job as an educator.

If this is true, and I believe the accusations are credible, then the trustee has committed a serious ethical breach of conduct by interfering in the duties of an educator who answers to administrative staff and to the board of trustees.

Is McCown actually guilty of what has been alleged? I don’t know. I do know that she hasn’t spoken out publicly on the matter. Her silence — along with the silence of her board colleagues and administrators — speaks volumes about what Henson has alleged in his complaint to the TEA.

There have no denials. No responses of any sort.

I happened to be in Amarillo recently and I had the pleasure of attending an AISD board meeting in which Clements’ resignation was the topic of the evening. Several school system constituents admonished the board for its conduct in the matter. They scolded trustees and administrators for failing to give Clements the support she deserved.

I was struck by the amazing body language of trustees. Several of them — including Renee McCown — refused to look their “accusers” in the eye. They all kept their heads down, looking at something on the dais in front of them.

It was an off-putting display of arrogance, not to mention cowardice. It also appeared to my eyes to be highly instructive of what was being said to them directly by the people whose taxes pay for operation of the public school system.

I do not know Renee McCown. However, I know enough about this story to make a couple of presumptions.

  • Her standing is likely damaged beyond repair, given what has been discussed openly and what has been alleged officially at the agency that governs public education in Texas.
  • It will be impossible for her to continue functioning effectively as a steward of Amarillo’s public school system, given all that has transpired to date.

She needs to resign. Moreover, a public apology to the coach and to her constituents would be in order as well.

AISD trustees need to face some community anger

A part of me wishes I could write the script for the upcoming election of the Amarillo Independent School District board of trustees.

If I could dictate how this election should be determined, it would have to be on the issue of school board and administrative support of educators who work directly with the children who attend the city’s public school system.

You know where I’m coming from, of course. My issue is predicated solely on the shameful exhibition of cowardice exhibited by the school board when a highly regarded girls volleyball coach resigned after one season at Amarillo High School, which has developed one of Texas’s most vaunted girls volleyball programs.

Kori Clements turned in her resignation letter that blasted administrators and board members for failing to support her in the face of a parent’s gripes over the way the coach was parceling out playing time for her daughter.

The school board remained silent. Administrators did, too. The coach resigned. Members of the community stood up for her; so did several members of the Sandies volleyball team.

The worst part of this story is that the offending parent — who hectored the coach and allegedly made an unannounced visit to the coach’s home to hassle her over playing time — is a member of the board of trustees.

The board accepted her resignation without comment.

So, AISD’s constituents — those who pay the bills with their property taxes — are left to still wonder: What gives with the school board?

Three seats are up for election in May. Two of the incumbents are running for re-election: Jim Austin and John Betancourt; a third one, Scott Flow, did not file for re-election.

I want all the school board candidates to answer the question directly: How do you guarantee that educators have the support of the administration and the board that they deserve?

Hey, I don’t live there any longer. I remain deeply interested in this story and hope it plays out eventually the way it should.

AISD board deserves a healthy roster of challengers

Political incumbents have gritted their teeth when I have said over the years that all of them deserves to be challenged at election time.

They usually ask, “Why should anyone challenge me if I’m doing a good job?” My answer usually goes something like this: “Because no one deserves a free ride when citizens are given the chance to offer themselves as a candidate for public office.”

The Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees is facing a potential plethora of challengers if enough residents want to challenge three incumbents who are up for re-election this year.

Heaven knows the board has earned the challenge, based on its performance in that controversial resignation of Amarillo High girls volleyball coach Kori Clements, who quit earlier this year citing parental interference in the way she was doing her job.

The board didn’t back the coach. Neither did the AISD administration, which answers to the board.

Friday is the final day for candidates to step up to challenge the incumbents whose terms are up this year: Jim Austin, Scott Flow and John Betancourt. Flow hasn’t yet declared his candidacy for re-election.

These incumbents need to be challenged. They need to answer for their non-action in the Clements matter. They need to explain why they dummied up. They must be held to account for the shabby treatment that befell the coach of a vaunted high school athletic program.

They should be challenged even if they were doing a good job. I am sorry to conclude that this bunch has fallen short.

Potential tumult awaits officials in Amarillo

A still-small part of me wishes I could settle into a ringside seat in Amarillo, Texas — where I used to live — to watch what might be a burgeoning political tumult involving two elected governing boards.

One of them is the Amarillo City Council, the other is the Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees.

Under the city charter, all five council seats are up for election in odd-numbered years. In 2017, voters elected an entirely new council, which had been roiled in dispute, tension and dissension.

The city has continued its march toward a serious economic revival in the two years since the new council took office. The council did manage to ensnare itself in a controversy involving policies governing public comment at public council meetings. I am not sure whether that tempest has subsided entirely.

Were I to vote in Amarillo, I likely would cast my ballot in favor of returning all the incumbents, if all them run for re-election. That cannot happen, as I now live in Collin County. However, I retain a considerable interest in Amarillo politics. It’s tough to shake it off after living there for 23 years, spending most of that time on post at the Amarillo Globe-News.

The Amarillo ISD board, though, is facing an entirely different circumstance. Three board members’ seats are up this year. AISD voters have a chance to select three new board members. It is my strong hunch they’ll have that chance, given the mess that has been stirred up on the board.

You might know the story. I’ll recap it briefly. An Amarillo High School girls volleyball coach, Kori Clements, quit her job after a single season. She walked away from one of the state’s most storied high school athletic programs, citing what she called parental interference; she also stated publicly that the AISD administration –and the school board — did not have her back.

It gets complicated. The allegedly offending parent reportedly is a member of the school board, who clearly should know better than to meddle in the work of a school district employee. That board member’s seat is not one of the three seats to be decided this year. Her term ends in 2021.

My equally strong hunch is that the three seats to be contested are likely to change hands, given the school board’s stone-cold silence on the coach’s resignation or on the issue that allegedly brought it about.

To be sure, I’ll be watching from afar. I simply hope for wisdom and discernment among voters when they go to the polls later this year. This election could be one for the books.

Upcoming school district election might portend big change

I am not normally a betting guy. I mean, I don’t even play any form of the Texas Lottery.

However, I am beginning to sense from distance away that the upcoming Amarillo Independent School District board of trustees election is going to be a barn-burner.

Three trustees are up for re-election later this year, but they are entering a campaign season fraught with questions — and a good bit of anger — among AISD constituents. Many voters appear to be steamed at the way the board handled the resignation of a popular high school girls volleyball coach and the circumstances reportedly surrounding it.

Kori Clements quit her Amarillo High School coaching job. She cited parental influence as the reason for her resignation. The school board has remained silent on the issue. Trustees got an earful from constituents the other evening. Then they accepted Clements’ resignation without comment.

Oh, and one of the trustees — Renee McCown — reportedly is the offending parent who hassled, harangued and harassed Clements over playing time policies involving one of McCown’s children.

McCown is not one of the candidates who will stand for re-election this year; her term expires in 2021. I hope to be able to hear how she might campaign for re-election in two years if she decides to run for another term.

Meanwhile, seats occupied by trustees Jim Austin, Scott Flow and John Betancourt are up for election this year. They, too, will have some explaining to do. They’ll need to justify — again, assuming they all run for new terms on the board — their decision to clam up publicly about a resignation that captured the community’s attention. I get that it’s a long-standing AISD policy to not comment on personnel matters. My sense, based on my attendance at the recent AISD board meeting, is that voters likely won’t care about policy; they likely might demand direct answers to direct questions.

Here’s a question that might get posed to candidates as they run for election to the board: Do you believe the school system has provided sufficient support for its educators, the individuals that the community entrusts to care for our children while they are attending public schools?

Kori Clements said she didn’t get it from the administration, or from the school board while she sought to fend off a hectoring parent.

Amarillo voters have been known to clean house on their governing bodies when circumstances merit it. They did it in 1989 when they replaced virtually the entire City Commission; the city’s economic condition drove voters to rebel against the status quo at City Hall. They did so again in 2017 when they replaced the entire City Council, some of whose members engaged in open sniping and quarreling with senior city administrators.

Amarillo’s public school system well might face a similar uprising — this year and in 2021.

Prediction: AISD’s coaching pain will linger

We’ve returned home after a wonderful but brief return to the Texas Panhandle.

I am left with this lingering feeling about what I have witnessed regarding the stunning resignation of a high school volleyball coach: The Amarillo Independent School District’s athletic community is going to be in pain for perhaps beyond the foreseeable future.

Kori Clements quit after a single season as head coach of the Amarillo High girls volleyball team. It is a vaunted sports program. Clements is one of its star products, graduating from AHS in 2006. She played under a coaching legend, Jan Barker, and returned to succeed her mentor when Barker retired.

It didn’t go well, according to the letter that Clements submitted announcing her resignation. She said she is leaving because of pressure exerted by a parent of one of her athletes. The parent allegedly said her daughter deserved more playing time and Clements implied in her resignation letter that the parent made it impossible for her continue as coach. I heard some testimony this week about the parent allegedly calling on the coach unannounced at her home to, um, discuss this playing time matter.

What’s worse is the chatter about the parent, who apparently is a member of the AISD board of trustees. Her name is Renee McCown. Where I come from, the school system is witnessing a serious abuse of power by an elected official over a school district faculty member.

It is an unconscionable circumstance. The athletic community is hurting. Several AISD constituents displayed their pain earlier this week at a school board meeting. I listened to them express their angst — even anger and disgust — at the lack of support given to the coach who, if you heard the testimony from some of the athletes who played for her, is a beloved figure.

The pain won’t dissipate soon. It might have been exacerbated when the school board accepted Clements’ resignation with no comment. There was no public expression of support for her, or public expression of regret over the circumstance she said precipitated her resignation.

I feel sad at this moment for my former Texas Panhandle neighbors. I’ll keep watching this matter continue to evolve from some distance. I just know that the wounds are deep and painful.

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!

Amarillo is showing how it is so ‘tightly bound’

The beans apparently have been spilled over the identity of the parent who harassed Amarillo High School girls volleyball coach Kori Clements enough to make her quit a plum coaching job after just one season.

Renee McCown, that would be you. Or so it appears.

Oh, brother. This is likel to get ugly. You see, McCown is a member of the Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees. It’s bad enough that a meddlesome parent would feel the need to hassle and harass a coach over the decisions the coach makes about giving her athletes playing time. Coach Clements quit because the parent griped incessantly that her daughter wasn’t getting time on the floor during volleyball matches.

The school board is meeting Tuesday. The chatter I’m getting from afar is that many in the community are outraged over the treatment of the coach. The outrage deepens because the person responsible for the messy treatment happens — allegedly — to be someone who most certainly should know better.

That the source of the harassment would be a school board trustee makes this matter even worse than it otherwise would be.

Every now and then you hear about elected officials meddling in administrative matters or worse, in the work of employees who report to the administrators. At City Hall, you might get a council member interfering in, say, police work, going over the head of the city manager and the chief of police. Don’t misunderstand: I am not saying that has happened in Amarillo; I use that example merely to illustrate a point.

School trustees make a single hire: that would be the superintendent. As chief administrator, the superintendent hires all the administrative staffers who report directly to the top person.

In the military, they call it the “chain of command.” One does not dare break that chain by going over and around the people who are responsible for those under their direct supervision.

If what I understand has happened in the relationship between an AISD school trustee and a highly respected high school volleyball coach is true, then we have a serious case of malfeasance — on the part of the trustee — on our hands.

One of two things ought to happen quickly. The trustee needs to apologize publicly and pledge to never interfere again. Or that person needs to resign from public office.