Tag Archives: Amarillo High School

Trying to imagine a school system that can now move on

I am trying to put myself into the skulls of the remaining members of the Amarillo Independent School District board of trustees.

The board welcomed three new members after the May 4 election. Then a longtime board trustee resigned. Then, just like that, another trustee quit.

It’s the second trustee’s resignation that well might cause some relief among the trustees who are remaining. Renee McCown quit the board after being caught up in the swirl of a controversy involving the resignation of a popular high school girls volleyball coach.

The coach quit the Amarillo High program after a single season, then blamed the board and administrator for failing to support her against a meddlesome parent who griped about the coach’s playing-time decisions; the parent wanted her daughters to get more time.

Oh, the offending parent allegedly was Renee McCown, the aforementioned now former AISD board trustee.

What now? What should the district seek as it moves forward?

I want there to be a return to an undivided effort to providing the best possible quality education for the district’s 33,000 students.

I am now living some distance away. I have watched this coaching controversy from afar. I have been dismayed at how this matter played out. I wanted the school district board to clear the air about what the former coach alleged. It remained silent. Now that the implicated trustee has walked away I don’t believe the board will answer the questions that have swirled.

But I cannot do anything about any of it.

My hope is that with the final resignation occurring in the wake of the tempest that bubbled forth that the board can put this particular issue aside and concentrate solely on matters related to why they sought the public offices they now occupy.

Amarillo public school system needs to turn the corner

Where does the Amarillo Independent School District stand now that another elected school board member has packed it in?

Renee McCown, an embattled school trustee who got caught up in a controversy stemming from the resignation of a popular high school volleyball coach, has resigned. Her seat on the seven-member board is empty.

McCown became the focal point in an issue involving alleged meddling by an AISD parent over the way former coach Kori Clements was doing her job. Clements quit after a single season as Amarillo High volleyball coach.

The parent involved in the meddling allegedly was McCown, who — if the allegations are true — committed an egregious act of ethical misbehavior. School board trustees should not interfere with staffers seeking to do their job.

Do I know with absolute certainty that the trustee did what was alleged? No. However, her silence on the matter — let alone the silence from the entire board and the school administration — suggest a certain credibility to the allegations that have arisen. Thus, her continued service on the AISD board and the continuing questions that lingered over the community made her service untenable.

I don’t expect McCown, who is freed from any adherence to AISD policy requiring silence on “personnel matters,” to come forth and offer her side to a story that has roiled the AISD athletic community. She is as free to remain silent as she is free to speak out.

I do want to reiterate a critical point. School trustees who have children enrolled in the public school system they are elected or appointed to govern must keep their distance from educators who are hired to do certain jobs.

The AISD board will have to fill two seats soon with brand new members, joining the others who have just joined the board in the wake of the most recent election.

It is my sincere hope that they understand fully every single one of the boundaries they should not cross.

Time for a serious meeting of the minds on AISD board?

I am posting this item anticipating a resignation from the Amarillo Independent School District board of trustees.

The board is conducting a special meeting today to consider acceptance of a resignation letter from trustee Renee McCown. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill resignation, although McCown’s letter to the board makes no reference to the turmoil that has erupted in the district in recent months.

Indeed, McCown has been implicated deeply in the unrest that has roiled the AISD.

An Amarillo High girls volleyball coach quit; she blamed her resignation from a vaunted athletic program on parental interference; she said the board and administrators didn’t back her; she resigned; the board held a meeting and got an earful from angry constituents; the board accepted the coach’s resignation and has moved on.

Meanwhile, McCown was named in a complaint filed with the Texas Education Agency as the offending parent who allegedly harassed the coach over playing time allotted for the parent’s daughters on the Sandies’ volleyball team. The complaint and the allegations leveled against the trustee constitute a serious no-no, an egregious violation of governing ethics . . . in my humble view.

McCown has remained quiet, along with the rest of the board.

Her silence on the issue has spoken more loudly and vividly than perhaps she expected. I have commented several times on this matter, wanting the board to break its silence, wanting some accountability, seeking some transparency.

I expect the silence to continue even after McCown walks away from her public office. That would be a shame.

I am going to hope, though, that the school board along with the administration will have candid discussions among all the principals about the complaint that was filed, the reasons cited by the former volleyball coach, the TEA complaint filed by the constituent and the concerns of a parents group that is demanding more transparency.

Let them speak frankly to each other and let there be a clear understanding of the boundaries none of those trustees ever should cross.

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 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.

Amarillo ISD faces a most critical election

Dang, I hate to admit this, but the tumult caused by the resignation of a high school volleyball coach still sticks in my craw.

Kori Clements quit her job as head coach at Amarillo (Texas) High School. That she would resign after just one season caught the athletic community by surprise . . . or “shock” is more like it. Then came the letter that went public. She blamed her resignation on intense pressure from the parent of one of her athletes, who hassled her over the lack of playing time her daughter was (not) getting.

Clements’s resignation ignited a firestorm in the community.

The school board heard lots of testimony this past Tuesday night from constituents who are angry over the coach’s resignation. Some of them demanded the school board deal directly and openly with the circumstance.

The school board listened quietly. Most of them didn’t look their constituents in the eye while they were scolding board members.

Then they accepted Clements’s resignation without comment.

What now? The Amarillo Independent School District is going to conduct an election in May. Three seats are up. The school trustee who is widely believed to be the offending parent — the one who hassled Clements into quitting — isn’t up this year. Renee McCown’s term ends in 2021.

Given that Texas election law doesn’t allow for the recall of school trustees, then voters have a decision to make when they troop to the polls in May. I won’t have a say in this election, given that I have moved away; indeed, even when we did live in Amarillo, we resided in the Canyon Independent School District. However, my keen interest in Amarillo public school policy runs deep.

I’ll offer this suggestion to my former Amarillo neighbors: Give serious thought to voting against the incumbents who stiffed Coach Clements in the manner that they did. Scott Flow, Jim Austin and John Betancourt are standing for re-election this year. Amarillo ISD votes under a cumulative voting plan, enabling residents to group their three votes for anyone they wish.

I witnessed a breach in decorum Tuesday night when school board members didn’t look their “accusers” in the eye. I also am dismayed that the AISD board hasn’t yet addressed this matter in any sort of public way; they should, given that they set policy for a publicly funded school system.

The trustee who has drawn the community’s ire — Renee McCown — won’t be held to account by the voters this year. If she chooses to stay on the board, then seek re-election in 2021, voters will have their say into whether she deserves to stay in office.

Until then, voters likely will have other candidates to consider when they elect their school board.

It looks for all the world to me, based on what I have witnessed, that they can do better than what they are getting from their elected representatives.

Good luck, AISD voters. Think long and hard about these choices you will make.

Time to brag about another record

Time for a bit of braggin’, if you don’t mind.

High Plains Blogger has just recorded a record month of page views and unique visitors — and we still have another week to go!

This blog was able to set a record for “hits” in 2018 on the strength of an extraordinary month. In February, the blog smashed through the ceiling by recording its greatest — by far! — single day of page views and visitors.

We started 2019 with another smashing month. January will give way to February in week, but already High Plains Blogger has registered its best-ever monthly performance.

What drove this latest record? Unquestionably it was the resignation of Kori Clements from her post as head girls volleyball coach at Amarillo High School in Texas. I commented on it over the course of about four days. Traffic zoomed!

I guess that speaks to the depth of feeling that the Amarillo athletic community feels about itself and about the principals who give it a special standing.

On the strength of this tremendous month of traffic, I am now on track to set another record by year’s end. Sure, I’ve got to keep the momentum going.

I’ll do my best. Hey, we still have a federal government that will give High Plains Blogger plenty of grist to throw out there for discussion.

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.

‘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.