Tag Archives: AISD

Voters retain ultimate power

Two political incidents in the Texas Panhandle have provided significant evidence of just who holds the power in these disputes.

I refer to two dustups: one involving Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick; the other one involves the Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees.

In both instances, the voters are getting the shaft by those in power.

First, the Seliger-Patrick battle.

Patrick is angry with Seliger because the Amarillo Republican lawmaker doesn’t always vote the way Patrick prefers. What the lieutenant governor needs to understand — and I am sure he does at some level — is that Seliger works for West Texans, not for Dan Patrick.

Patrick yanked the chairman’s gavel from Seliger, who chaired the Senate Higher Education Committee. Seliger said something supposedly unkind about a Patrick aide. Patrick then responded by pulling Seliger out of the chairmanship of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Seliger owes his allegiance to the voters of the sprawling Texas Senate District 31. As for Lt. Gov. Patrick, he is acting like a legend in his own mind.

Now, the AISD board.

An Amarillo High School volleyball coach, Kori Clements, resigned after one season. She cited parental interference as the reason she quit; she also said the school district administration didn’t back her.

The chatter around the school district is that the offending parent is a member of the AISD board of trustees.

The board has been silent. It has refused to speak to the issue directly. It needs to do exactly that. Why? Because the board works for the public, which pays the salaries of the administrators and educators and which pays to keep the lights on at all of AISD’s campuses.

The voters are the bosses. The AISD board answers to them, not to each other, or to the superintendent.

There needs to be a public accounting for what happened to make Coach Clements pack it in after just a single season as head coach of a vaunted high school volleyball program.

The public needs to know. It has every right to demand answers.

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.

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.

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.

‘Little League Moms’ need to be called out

I refer to them as “Little League Moms.” Actually, the term also applies to zealous fathers who want the best for their pride and joy.

Amarillo appears to have such a Little League Mom who took it upon herself — allegedly — to tell a high school varsity coach how to do her job. The coach didn’t like it. So she quit a seriously good job as head coach of the Amarillo High School volleyball team, one of the most vaunted such programs in Texas.

I am referring, of course, to young Kori Clements, a 2006 AHS grad who took over for a legendary coach, Jan Barker, who retired at the end of the previous season.

I truly don’t know everyone’s side of this story. I only have read Clements’ resignation letter. She claims the parent of one of her athletes harassed her because the coach wasn’t playing the parent’s daughter enough. Clements argued in her resignation letter that she always seeks to put the best athletes she has on the floor. The object, of course, is to win volleyball matches.

Maybe the community will hear the other side of it, if there’s another side worth telling. I understand that the Amarillo Independent School District athletic community is all riled up over this resignation. The school district has put Clements on temporary “administrative leave,” meaning she’ll get paid even though she’s no longer coaching.

This kind of story can get ugly. I hope it doesn’t regress to the point of sheer ugliness. We’re venturing back to Amarillo this week for a brief visit. Thus, I plan to attend the AISD board meeting Tuesday night. I want to see this matter play out from a ringside seat.

If the parent in question is the person generally believed to be involved in this mess, then the individual might have some serious explaining to do, given her position in the school community.

Make no mistake about this point, too: Disputes involving adults — parents and coaches — almost always inflict their share of collateral damage.

I refer to the children. So very sad.

Yes, there’s another side to this coaching kerfuffle

I’m going to give credit where it’s due.

The Amarillo Globe-News has sought to put the burgeoning coaching kerfuffle at Amarillo High School into some much-needed perspective. In an editorial posted/published today, the AGN notes that we’ve only one side of the story involving the sudden resignation of Kori Clements, the head coach of the vaunted Sandies volleyball program. She resigned as coach of the one of Texas’ premier high school athletic programs after just a single season.

Read the AGN editorial here.

Clements has cited parental interference involving the playing time of one of the student-athletes under charge; the athlete is the daughter of the parent. Clements alleged in her resignation letter that the parent’s harassment was too much for her to handle and that the school district administration didn’t give her the support she believes she needs and deserves.

Has the school district responded? No. It is standing behind its policy of declining to comment on a personnel matter.

I, too, am interested in hearing the whole story. The offending parent — who allegedly is a member of the Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees — likely will feel the heat from constituents to explain her side of the story.

I’ll just offer this bit of perspective, admittedly from some distance: It is that Coach Clements’ assertion has exposed both the parent — and her daughter — to an embarrassing circumstance. If the coach is as highly regarded as many parents have said she is — and I have no reason to disbelieve anything I’ve heard so far — it seems impossible for me to believe she would throw out a reckless accusation without it having some basis in fact.

The AISD school board will meet Tuesday night. I am waiting for some more disclosure on what happened and hoping for a resolution that satisfies as many people as is humanly possible.

AISD makes potentially huge move

Well, ruffle my hair and call me Frankie!

I spoke rather skeptically in an earlier blog post about whether Amarillo’s public school board would take this step, but — as is often the case — they proved me wrong.

The Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees voted 7-0 Monday to begin researching ways to dramatically change its voting plan. It wants to look at how it can move from an at-large plan to one that elects trustees from single-member districts.

It’s a realization of the changing demographics within the district and whether the school board reflects the needs and wishes of all 33,000 students and their parents.

This decision doesn’t guarantee a change in the voting plan. It does move the district a big step forward toward that end.

Trustees, acting on a recommendation from the lone African-American on the board, James Allen, have directed the AISD legal team to begin researching ways to achieve the transition.

AISD comprises many disparate neighborhoods comprising residents of equally disparate socio-economic backgrounds. There are plenty of high-end neighborhoods, along with neighborhoods at the other end of the scale.

And, yes, we also have this issue of racial and ethnic diversity. Amarillo’s student body census is comprising an increasing number of Latin-American, African and Asian backgrounds. Their needs are quite different from their Anglo classmates.

AISD doesn’t elect trustees from a purely at-large system. It instituted a cumulative voting plan some years ago to settle a lawsuit brought by Latin-American residents.

AISD’s legal counsel has many issues to consider. I’m glad the board has given the OK to begin that journey.

So, let the studies commence. May they bear fruit.

Can this school board revisit a tough issue?

I haven’t seen every scrap of social media chatter bouncing around Amarillo, Texas during the past couple of days.

What I have seen regarding an Amarillo Independent School District board non-decision has been — shall we say — less than flattering toward most of the board members.

The AISD board voted 4-3 the other night to “change” the name of Robert E.  Lee Elementary School to Lee Elementary School.

I believe Amarillo has just witnessed the unveiling of a profile in timidity, if not outright cowardice.

The school in question sits smack in the middle of a community that serves a significant population of African-Americans. Children attend a school that is named after a man — Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee — who led a military effort to defeat the United States in a war that began over whether states could allow the ownership of slaves.

Gen. Lee’s name has been in the news of late. Communities have sought to remove statues commemorating this man who I and others consider to be a traitor to the United States of America. They rioted in Virginia because white supremacists, KKK’men and neo-Nazis protested attempts to remove a Robert E. Lee statue from a public park; the riot killed a young woman and injured scores of others. Moreover, it prompted an intense national discussion about how we commemorate the Confederate States of America.

AISD board members agreed to discuss and consider changing the name of the school. Then they choked. They fumbled. They missed their chance to send a powerful statement that this community would take a proactive step that removes the name of a national enemy from one of its public buildings.

“Lee Elementary” does not do a single thing to promote that notion.

So … here’s a thought. The AISD board represents a constituency that appears to oppose the non-decision the board made on the naming of a public school.

Perhaps the AISD board members can reflect just a bit on the nutty notion they thought would eliminate a community controversy.

This so-called “name change” didn’t do anything of the kind.

There’s not a single thing wrong with acknowledging a mistake, AISD trustees. Nor is there anything wrong with taking measures to repairing it.

This is proactive leadership? Hardly

Amarillo’s public school system governing board had a chance to do something courageous. Instead, in a 4-3 vote, it decided Monday night to take a significantly more timid path.

I’m still shaking my head in amazement.

The Amarillo Independent School District decided to remove “Robert E.” from the name of a school that carries the name of a Confederate States of America army general. Beginning with the 2018-19, the school formerly known as Robert E. Lee Elementary School will be known as Lee Elementary.

There. How does that go down?

AISD had decided to consider changing the name of the school in the wake of serious national discussion about whether Confederate figures should be memorialized at all. It all came to a nasty head this past summer in Charlottesville, Va., when white supremacists, Ku Klux Klansmen and neo-Nazis instigated a tragic riot when officials there wanted to remove a statue of Gen. Lee from a public park.

The debate found its way to Amarillo, where the school district is home to a school named after the same general. That school sits in the middle of a neighborhood comprising a significant African-American population.

Why the question? Well, Gen. Lee led an army against the United States of America during the Civil War. He fought to protect states’ right to allow the enslavement of human beings, who — I need to stipulate — were black Americans.

I favor removing Lee’s name from that public school building altogether. An AISD board majority feels differently.

Here is what Panhandle PBS posted on its Facebook page about AISD’s bizarre “compromise”:

Learn Here: Amarillo ISD’s board has voted 4-3 to drop “Robert E.” from the name to just Lee Elementary. Board members Jim Austin, Scott Flow, Cristy Wilkinson, and Renee McCown voted in favor of the partial name change, which was viewed as a “compromise” idea during the months of discussion. The motion was made by Cristy Wilkinson, and the change will go into effect in the 2018-2019 school year. Scott Flow seconded the motion.

James Allen, John Betancourt, and John Ben Blanchard voted against, wanting a complete name change after the surrounding neighborhood, Park Hills.

The vote came after an hour of public comment during which 25 people spoke on the issue, with only six in favor of keeping the name.

I am puzzled by this non-decision. How in the world does keeping the “Lee” on the building address the concerns of those who believe it somehow honors the name of a man who fought to destroy the United States — for the purpose of keeping human beings in bondage?

Did the slim school board majority conclude that hiding the full name of an enemy of the Union would somehow make it disappear all by itself?

I believe the AISD board of trustees has made a mistake.

Demerson scores historic win

Say whatever you want about the tone, tenor and tenacity of the campaign between City Councilman-elect Elisha Demerson and the incumbent he defeated today, Ellen Robertson Green.

Demerson’s victory is historic in that an African-American has been elected to a citywide public office.

The city’s at-large voting plan has been a point of contention among civil rights groups, minority-oriented political action organizations and citizens interested in changing the plan to a single-member district voting plan.

They’ve contended the at-large plan puts minority candidates at a disadvantage. Amarillo’s black population is less than 10 percent, so it stands to reason — those activists contend — that black candidates fare poorly when they put their names up before a voting public that doesn’t “identify” with them.

The League of United Latin American Citizens sued the Amarillo school district in 1998 to create a single-member voting plan for the school system. LULAC and the school district then agreed on a cumulative voting compromise plan that later was adopted by Amarillo College’s Board of Regents.

Well, perhaps we can put that “minorities can’t win in Amarillo” rationale to bed.

Demerson scored a solid victory. The voting turnout still was pitiful. None of the City Council winners can claim an absolute majority supports their election. What they all got was a majority of a slim minority of voters’ support.

It’s true as well that Demerson had been elected already to a countywide office when he became Potter County judge in 1987. So, he’s no stranger to bucking stiff electoral odds.

He’s just blazed a new trail along Amarillo’s political path.