Tag Archives: AISD trustees

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.

If I were able to vote for Amarillo school trustee . . .

I would vote against the Amarillo Independent School District board of trustees incumbents who are running for re-election. However, I cannot, given that I have moved away from Amarillo.

Although I do have a voice, using this blog.

Which brings me to an interesting point.

Amarillo ISD residents cast their school trustee votes under a plan called “cumulative voting.” The voting plan was the result of a settlement the school district reached years ago with Latino groups that had sued the school system over what they thought was inadequate Latino representation on the board.

Here’s how it works: Three trustee positions are being decided in May. Voters have a chance to parcel votes in varying combinations. They can cast all three votes for one; they can cast two votes for one candidate and one for another; they can cast a single vote for each candidate.

Two of the three candidates are incumbents seeking re-election. From my faraway vantage point, I believe the incumbents do not deserve to be sent back to office. They have mishandled — and are continuing to mishandle — the matter involving the resignation of Kori Clements, the former Amarillo High School girls volleyball coach who quit while citing interference by a parent who sought to pressure the coach to give her daughter more playing time. Clements’ resignation letter cited a lack of board and administration support.

This story is far from over.

A resident filed a complaint with the Texas Education Agency, which kicked the issue back to the school district. A coalition of parents has formed to seek an independent inquiry into the conduct that forced Clements to resign from the vaunted high school athletic program.

In the meantime, the school district is conducting an election in May. Two incumbents, Jim Austin and John Betancourt, are running along with five other candidates; incumbent Robin Malone also is running unopposed in a “special election.”

Amarillo voters can change the makeup of their public school board next month. Given what I believe has been a serious mishandling of the coaching controversy, they have it within their power to make a fundamental change in the makeup of their school system’s governing body.

As for where this coaching controversy is heading . . . my trick knee and couple of little Amarillo birdies are telling me there will be more tales to tell. I believe we should stay tuned.

Change in Amarillo school voting plan? Don’t count on it

Amarillo’s public school trustees are going to meet tonight to “discuss” possible changes in the way they get elected.

The item was proposed by Amarillo Independent School District Trustee James Allen, the board’s lone African-American.

There might be a move toward electing trustees from single-member districts. Or — if very recent history is a guide — there will be virtually no change.

Given the way the AISD board choked on a measure to rename Robert E. Lee Elementary School, I won’t bet the farm that the board will change, at least not right away.

AISD trustees had a chance to rename the school named after a Confederate army general who fought to preserve slavery in the nation. The school sits in a neighborhood populated by African-American residents. What did the board do? It  took the name “Robert E.” off the school and named it only “Lee Elementary School.”

As if that is meaningful?

Well, now the board is considering — maybe, possibly — moving from a cumulative voting system to a plan that elects trustees from single-member districts. The aim, as I understand it, would be to spread representation to all neighborhoods. The current board currently resides mostly in southwest Amarillo and the tony Wolflin neighborhood; only two trustees live in north or east Amarillo.

Cumulative voting was created as a compromise to settle a lawsuit brought by the League of United Latin-American Citizens, which sought to force AISD to get more minority representation on its board. Cumulative voting allows voters to cast ballots proportionately. For example: If three seats are up for election, voters can cast all three votes for a single candidate; or they can cast two for one and one for another; or … they can cast single ballots for each of the candidates.

AISD trustees now are going to begin the discussion about possible changes in the district’s voting plan.

It’s a fascinating idea that, given the changing demographics of Amarillo, could be implemented with great success. AISD could have representation from all neighborhoods on the board that sets public education policy. Every neighborhood deserves have a voice. Let’s face it: The desires of Sleepy Hollow residents are significantly different from those who live in The North Heights.

To paraphrase the song: The times may be a changin’.

Or, given AISD’s recent history, maybe not.