Tag Archives: AISD

AISD board is now full … time to get to work

Kayla Mendez and David Nance now are members of the Amarillo Independent School District board of trustees.

Good for them. I wish them well from afar.

I will stipulate that I don’t know either of them. I am left to presume the school board that chose them did so after doing its due diligence. I actually spoke in this blog in favor of former Amarillo Mayor Debra McCartt. So, she didn’t get the nod. Time to move on, Mme. Mayor.

The board also wisely avoided selecting an applicant who got defeated in the AISD election in May, but who wanted to return to the fray.

So, what’s the challenge awaiting the board? Transparency seems to stand out.

AISD is still trying to slog its way out of the mess created by the removal of an Amarillo High School volleyball coach and the mess that swirled around a former trustee who hassled, harassed and harangued the coach over playing time delivered to the trustee’s daughters.

Here’s a thought: How about revealing to the community the circumstance that led to the departure of the coach, who left a post she held for a single season?

The trustee implicated in the coach’s departure, Renee McCown, has quit; so did former trustee John Ben Blanchard.

Mendez and Nance now get to step into what all observers should hope is a public school system that is prepared to fix what went wrong and then explain fully how it repaired it.

AISD board ought to include this applicant

This just in: A former Amarillo mayor has tossed her name into the mix to be considered for appointment to the Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees.

Yep, that would be Debra McCartt.

This news excites me. I happen to know McCartt. I also happen to believe she would lend some needed gravitas to the board. She also would bring some important governing experience to a board that has gone through its share of turmoil in recent months.

Here is what McCartt said today on Facebook: I’m excited to announce that I have officially thrown my name into the hat to fill one of the two open spots on the Amarillo Independent School District’s Board of Trustees. As you know, I’ve always had a passion for serving my community and have a long history of working in education, including eight years as a teacher and most recently a substitute. Educating our children is one of the most critical investments that we can make! I would love to be able to work to make our already excellent school district even better for our students. Stay tuned! 

I’m going to “stay tuned,” all right.

Two board seats need filling, as McCartt points out. One of them once was occupied by John Ben Blanchard, the other by Renee McCown. They both resigned shortly after the May election that produced several newcomers to the seven-member board.

Why is McCartt a fascinating candidate for appointment? It’s because she brings an enormous level of energy to a governing body such as this.

She served three terms as mayor of Amarillo. Prior to that she served a couple of terms as city commissioner. She earned her spurs on that governing board. Indeed, I was fond of suggesting that McCartt defied “the laws of physics” by seeming to be everywhere in the city all at once. She was a tremendous advocate and spokeswoman for the city.

I believe her ability to speak passionately for the city transfers to the Amarillo Independent School District.

I mentioned the tumult that enveloped the school district. It involved the resignation of a high school volleyball coach the implication that a school trustee had interfered with the coach’s performance of her job. McCown was the trustee allegedly involved in that mess. A complaint filed with the Texas Education Agency said that McCown had interfered on behalf of her daughters, who played for the Amarillo High School Sandies volleyball team. The coach quit and said in her resignation letter that the board and administration had failed to give her the backing she believed she needed.

To the best of my knowledge, McCartt does not have any children currently enrolled in the Amarillo public school system. I do not know if she has any grandchildren in the system.

I do know, though, that her time as a city commissioner and mayor did not include any accusations of meddling. She knows her limits as a member of a governing board and follows the rules to the letter.

There will be other good candidates, to be sure. I just feel the need to weigh in on this application in the hope that the AISD board gives Debra McCartt full consideration for an appointment.

I believe she would be a great addition to the school board.

Resignation is a big deal, but not a cure

Renee McCown, the Amarillo school trustee implicated in an ongoing controversy surrounding the resignation of a popular high school coach of a vaunted athletic program, is going to resign her position on Thursday effective immediately.

She said the usual thing, that she intends to spend time with her family and will look for other opportunities to serve the community.

But, her silence on the controversy is not a matter of breaking some mythical state law, as one of her board colleagues has suggested. Newly seated trustee Dick Ford reportedly said that McCown could not comment on the matter because of restrictions set forth in policy and law. Ford said, “The only way she could had defended herself would had been to violate rules, state laws and AISD policy as it relates to AISD employees.”

I get the policy matter might have stood in the way. State law? Not an issue.

You know the story. Kori Clements quit as Amarillo High’s girls volleyball coach. She cited interference from a meddlesome parent who disliked the coach’s decision regarding playing time for the parent’s daughters. A complaint filed with the Texas Education Agency identified the parent as McCown, a member of the Amarillo ISD board. If McCown did what was alleged, she has committed a serious ethical error. Trustees set policy, but are supposed to leave the nuts and bolts of staffing matters up to the staff and to administrators.

Ford also said McCown has been “unfairly chastised” by constituents and in the media.

I won’t respond to that, except to say that McCown was not under any legal obligation to remain quiet. She could have answered the criticism directly. She has remained silent, which to my mind lends credibility to the accusation of interference.

She will submit her resignation. The Parents for Transparency Coalition, formed in recent months to seek an “independent inquiry” into the matter, said her resignation won’t solve any problems.

I’ll disagree respectfully with a portion of that argument. This resignation will help lift a cloud from the school system. OK, so there will remain some issues to resolve. This particular matter involving a former coach who said she was hassled out of her job, however, will be lifted from the Amarillo Independent School District.

It also allows school trustees to speak candidly among themselves so that they all understand fully the ethical standards of the public office they all occupy.

Big-time turnover on tap for Amarillo school board

Let’s see how this works out, but it looks to my eye as though the Amarillo Independent School District board is set for a potentially major shakeup.

The personnel lineup on the board is going to change this week.

Scott Flow didn’t seek re-election. Jim Austin and John Betancourt did seek new terms, but they lost in the election early this month. That means three incumbents on the seven-member board aren’t taking the oath for their new terms.

Then there’s this: There could be an AISD resignation coming up, which means four incumbents are out of the picture.

Why is this a big deal? Well, the board has been under the gun lately. Board members have been excoriated over the way they handled the resignation of a popular Amarillo High girls volleyball coach, who resigned after a single season at the helm of one of Texas’s top athletic programs.

It looks to me as though the school system is suffering from a possible leadership controversy. I won’t call it a crisis just yet, but it’s looking dicey at AISD.

The former coach quit while citing pressure from a parent who hassled over playing time decisions. The board didn’t back the coach. Neither did the administration. The board has kept its collective mouth shut, citing “personnel matter” as its reason. Meanwhile, the chatter is growing around the district.

The school system’s governing entity has not helped itself, or the system it governs.

An AISD constituent has filed a complaint with the Texas Education Agency — naming the offending parent as a member of the AISD board! Ohh, not good . . . you know? The whispering and tittering continues. Still, nothing from the board.

A “coalition” of parents who are demanding AISD transparency is now getting into the picture.

At minimum starting this week, the AISD board will have a significant minority of new faces and possibly clearer voices.

Or . . . there might be a new majority in the making.

I’m looking forward to seeing how all this plays out.

AISD coach-resignation tempest picks up steam

Oh, brother. The Amarillo Independent School District plot is thickening.

An Amarillo High School girls volleyball coach quits, citing parental interference into the job she was doing. She chastises the school board and administrators for failing to back her up. The board accepts her resignation. A resident files a complaint with the Texas Education Agency, which kicks the issue back to AISD.

Now a group of parents has formed a coalition and is demanding and outside probe into the mess that continues to sully the AISD athletic program, the board of trustees, its senior administration and, most sadly, the children who are caught in the middle of it all.

Kori Clements quit the vaunted AHS volleyball coaching post after a single season. Marc Henson’s complaint with the TEA named AISD trustee Renee McCown as the offending parent.

Now comes a group called the Parents for Transparency Coalition. It wants an outsider to look into what happened. Did the parent named in the TEA complaint do what has been alleged? If it was the trustee, why did the board allow her to interfere in an unethical manner? Why did the administration, led by then-interim and now permanent Superintendent Doug Loomis fail to support Clements?

I believe those are fair questions. They need answers. AISD has shown a maddening reluctance to speak to these matters in any meaningful way. Its silence likely has infuriated residents who are angry over the coach’s resignation and the reasons she stated for quitting her job.

I continue to watch drama play out from afar.

What’s next? I understand that TEA might review the complaint from Henson after the issue jumps through the normal hoops at AISD; TEA said it lacked “jurisdiction” until the school district had a chance to review the issue at hand.

As for the coalition, its founders — Tom and Kathy Tortero — tell KFDA NewsChannel 10 that they intend to act professionally while they seek “every legal remedy at our disposal” to get to the bottom of why Kori Clements quit what was thought to be a dream job.

I believe this story is a long way to go before we get to the end.

AISD should have expanded search . . . here’s why

I feel the need to comment on the selection of a new Amarillo school superintendent. Then I’ll move on.

I’ve stated already that I do not know the new Amarillo public school superintendent, Doug Loomis. I wish him well and hope he succeeds. Given that I live some distance away from Amarillo, I have no particular axe to grind. I do have some thoughts on the process that brought Loomis to the top education administrator job in Amarillo.

The Amarillo Independent School District board conducted an in-house search. It did not look beyond the staff already on hand. I believe it should have done that very thing. My reason why has nothing to do with Loomis. He well might be the greatest superintendent AISD will ever employ.

However, a narrow search, one that doesn’t cast a wide net, does not give board members a chance to have assess the local applicants against those who might have a different view on how to implement educational policy. Loomis emerged as the sole finalist for the job vacated when Dana West resigned suddenly this past year.

Does the board know with absolute certainty that Loomis is the best it could have found to compete for this post?

When I was working as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News, we tackled similar issues involving the hiring of chief administrators: at City Hall and at Amarillo College.

  • John Ward resigned as city manager after being on the job for 20 years. The City Council chose to look inward only. It elevated Alan Taylor to the manager’s job. We insisted the council look beyond the city. Taylor took our position as a criticism of him personally, even though we said expressly that it bore no reflection on him. We merely wanted the city to expand its search to include as broad a field of applicants as possible.

Taylor eventually retired and moved away. He did a fine job, although he continued to harbor ill feelings toward me personally and the Globe-News. I am sorry he felt that way.

  • Steve Jones became ill and eventually succumbed to cancer, leaving the Amarillo College Board of Regents with the task of looking for a new president. The man who served as acting president, Paul Matney, was elevated to the permanent post. The Globe-News argued yet again that the AC board should look nationally. Regents decided to stick with Matney. Our rationale for the AC search was the same as it was for City Hall.

It pained me greatly to make that argument, given my immense professional respect and personal affection for Paul Matney. He turned out to be an outstanding AC president and retired with his head held high and the gratitude for a job well done. To his great credit, Matney did not take our editorial position as a criticism of the job he would do.

AISD has some issues to tackle. My hope is that the new superintendent is up to the job. If only the AISD board had decided to expand its search far and wide.

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.

AISD faces big challenges with new superintendent

So, it appears Doug Loomis is going to be the new superintendent of the Amarillo Independent School District.

How does that sound? OK . . . I guess.

I don’t know Loomis. He’s been employed by AISD for three decades. He’s been filling in as superintendent since Dana West quit suddenly in 2018 after just three years on the job.

I have two takeaways from the AISD board’s decision to name Loomis its sole finalist.

First . . .

Trustees John Betancourt and Robin Malone think the school district should have gone outside the district to look for the next superintendent. I agree with them. It’s not that an outsider would have risen to the top necessarily. It merely is that a strong field of candidates from other districts, with other outlooks, different perspectives would have given AISD trustees a wider range of options to consider.

I have argued in the past — during my days as an opinion journalist — for governing bodies to cast a wide net in their search for top administrators. The Amarillo Globe-News made that argument when Amarillo City Manager John Ward left the city; the council then elevated his deputy, Alan Taylor, to the manager’s job. Taylor did a fine job, but the paper argued that the council would serve itself better by conducting a national search. Taylor took the “criticism” personally, even though we said at the time we had nothing against Taylor per se as a candidate for the top administrative job.

AISD could have strengthened the field of contenders by opening it up rather than conducting an exclusively in-house search for superintendent.

Second . . .

Loomis inherits a district in turmoil. Indeed, he is part of the reason for AISD’s tumult. You see, it was on his watch that Amarillo High School girls volleyball coach Kori Clements resigned suddenly after a single season. She blamed the administration for a lack of support when she was confronted by the parent of one of the girls who played for her at Amarillo HS, one of the state’s most heralded volleyball programs.

The AISD administration and the board of trustees should have stood behind Clements. Neither of them did. Indeed, the offending parent — the one who harassed and hassled Clements over her daughter’s playing time — reportedly is a member of the AISD board!

I don’t live in Amarillo any longer, so I don’t yet know how much of this controversy has subsided. I have a strong hunch there remains a great deal of latent distrust of the school board and administration over the support they give to their educators and support staff.

Is the superintendent-to-be going to deal with that up front and aggressively?

My advice: He had better.

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.