Tag Archives: Amarillo HS volleyball

Amarillo ISD coach controversy faces stern ballot test

Amarillo Independent School District has been roiled in recent weeks by a controversy involving the resignation of a popular coach of a highly acclaimed high school athletic program.

As it turns out, the school district is now getting ready for a school board election on May 4 that shows two incumbents — Jim Austin and John Betancourt — seeking re-election. Voters, therefore, have some choices to make. Do they endorse the conduct of the school board by returning the two trustees for another term in office, or do they wipe the slate clean and elect those who aren’t stained by what many observers — such as yours truly — consider to be a dubious act of stonewalling.

Here’s the issue, yet again. Amarillo High girls volleyball coach Kori Clements quit after one season. Her resignation letter takes aim at trustees because they didn’t back her when she complained about a parent who was interfering with her duties as coach of a vaunted athletic program; nor did the administration, Clements asserted.

The parent? She reportedly is a member of the board of trustees. She is someone who allegedly violated a standard operating rule of governance: Do not interfere, meddle or insert yourself into the job being done by staff members. School trustees set policy, then they let the staff implement that policy.

The school board has been silent on this issue all along, citing a policy that supposedly prohibits trustees from commenting on “personnel matters.” That, of course, is a smokescreen.

One resident, Dr. Marc Henson, complained to the Texas Education Agency about this matter, naming the trustee in question: Renee McCown. TEA kicked the issue back to the AISD, citing lack of jurisdiction.

Then a group called the Parents for Transparency Coalition formed. They want the school system to be as up front and revealing as it can be about the situation. The coalition wants answers to the reasons Clements cited in her resignation. The group is demanding an “independent investigation” into her resignation.

So here’s the challenge facing the school district’s voters. Do they want to retain the incumbents who accepted Clements’s resignation without comment or without ever speaking publicly about the reasons she cited, or do they want a fresh start?

If I had a vote — and I do not — I would seek to wipe the slate clean. Start over. I would demand that trustee candidates pledge to get to the bottom of what happened, who is culpable and vow publicly to support the educators who work for the school district’s voters — not exclusively for the school board.

If voters proceed down the same path, well, then Amarillo ISD constituents have to live with what they get.

In search of ‘transparency’ at the Amarillo school district

A coalition of Amarillo Independent School District constituents is getting fired up.

They want answers. The Parents for Transparency Coalition isn’t getting them. So, what is the course the coalition must travel? Beats me, although I certainly to respect the group’s demand for answers to a couple of questions that are continuing to roil the AISD community.

The school board is meeting Monday night at the Rod Schroder Education Support Center. The transparency coalition wants the school board to open an “independent investigation” into the resignation of Kori Clements, the former Amarillo High School girls volleyball coach. This resignation has roiled the AISD community. Clements quit a vaunted high school athletic program after a single season. She cited interference into her coaching duties from a parent and the lack of board and administrative support as her reasons for quitting.

The coalition has been advised that the school board will not take up the matter at its Monday meeting.

The Parents for Transparency want answers. They deserve them. They want to know if the allegation that the offending parent is a school trustee is true. They want to know why the board failed to back Clements’s complaint about the parental interference. They want the school board to explain itself. They are demanding that the school administration — now led by newly named Superintendent Doug Loomis — do the same thing.

Is that an unreasonable request? It is not.

However, asking the school board to hand this matter to an independent investigative team is like asking members of Congress to enact a constitutional amendment to limit the number of terms they can serve on Capitol Hill. It’s not going to happen.

Still, I stand with the Parents for Transparency as they seek answers to questions that continue to gnaw at the guts of the public school system.

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.

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.

Welcome to the fire pit, AISD’s new superintendent

Amarillo’s public school board has done it, hiring Doug Loomis as the school district’s newest superintendent.

I’ll concede up front that I do not know Loomis. I hope he does a good job. I also believe the Amarillo Independent School District should have looked beyond its administrative staff to find a new head educator. It didn’t. School trustees relied on the quality of the in-house hands to provide them with a quality applicant.

So, it’s Doug Loomis — the lone finalist for the superintendent post — who gets to step into the fire pit.

He inherits a job fraught with potential trouble. You see, the school board is under considerable community scrutiny over the resignation of an Amarillo High School girls volleyball coach who quit while complaining about parental interference into the way she did her job. Kori Clements said the board and the administration did not give her adequate support as she sought to fend off what she said was harassment from the interfering parent.

Indeed, Loomis was serving as acting superintendent when Clements quit one of Texas’s most vaunted athletic programs after just a single season as head coach. It was on his watch, therefore, that this matter blew apart.

To make matters worse, an Amarillo ISD resident — Marc Henson — has filed a complaint with the Texas Education Agency. What’s more, Henson has identified the person who allegedly interfered with Coach Clements’ duties: school trustee Renee McCown.

The new superintendent answers to the board. This person is the only individual the board hires directly. Loomis will work for a board that has drawn considerable community anger over its handling of the Clements matter. He will walk the finest line possible.

I hope Loomis finds it within himself to counsel his bosses that they must remain acutely mindful that they are elected to set educational policy and not to monkey around with the way educators are doing their job. Trustees presumably hired him because they trust his judgment as he gives them his best advice and counsel. The community well could get a good look at how far that trust extends.

Not only must they be mindful, they must do only what they are empowered to do.

So . . . good luck, Doug Loomis.

Amarillo ISD complaint offers opportunity for ethics lesson

A constituent of Amarillo’s public school system, has peeled away the shroud from a story that has been brewing in the community for several weeks.

Marc Henson has filed a complaint with the Texas Education Agency against a member of the Amarillo school district board who, according to Henson, interfered with a high school coach’s ability to do her job. The board trustee, Renee McCown, badgered former Amarillo High School volleyball coach Kori Clements, griping about the playing time being given to the trustee’s daughters.

Clements quit after a single season coaching in one of Texas’s most storied high school athletic programs.

There’s a lesson to be learned, no matter how this story plays out.

It is that elected officials — be they school board members, city council members, county commissioners, college or university regents — have no business meddling in the day-to-day work of the staff members who serve the public.

I am going to presume that Renee McCown received that advice as she was preparing to become an Amarillo public school trustee. If she never received those words of wisdom from senior school administrators or fellow trustees, shame on them for neglecting to inform her.

If she got that advice and then ignored it, then shame on her.

I am acutely aware that all of this is an allegation. However, it rings more credible to me — and to others who are much closer to the matter than I am — every time I consider it.

McCown hasn’t denied anything publicly. Clements’ resignation letter set the table for a heated community discussion. Marc Henson’s complaint to the TEA has blown the lid off the alleged culprit in this bizarre story.

As for the lesson to be learned, it is a simple one. Read my lips: Elected officials set governing policy and then let the paid staff implement that policy. Period. End of story.

Any involvement in the implementation of policy beyond that simple mandate smacks of unethical conduct and must be dealt with sharply.

It should hit the fan at Amarillo ISD . . . but will it?

A high school volleyball coach’s stunning resignation is continuing to reverberate around the Amarillo Independent School District.

Indeed, the coach’s resignation has now gone to the Texas Education Agency, which has received a complaint from an angry AISD constituent who is accusing the school board and the administration of unethical conduct.

Hold on, folks. This might get rough. Indeed, it should.

Kori Clements resigned as Amarillo High School’s volleyball coach after just one season. She cited parental interference into the way she was parceling out playing time. She said in her resignation letter that the school board and administration failed to give her the backing she deserved.

She quit one of the state’s premier volleyball programs after a single season. Clements, a 2006 AHS graduate, walked away.

Are you still with me? Here’s the fun part.

Marc Henson, an AISD constituent and the parent of future AHS students, has filed a complaint with the TEA. He names AISD trustee Renee McCown specifically as the parent who interfered with the coach’s playing-time decisions, which reportedly affected McCown’s two daughters.

Henson said he wants McCown to resign from the board. He also believes the allegations against her are credible. He also believes the administration is complicit, along with the board, in fomenting what he calls unethical conduct.

I have tried to soft-pedal the alleged involvement of a particular trustee in this mess. Marc Henson’s complaint has more or less blown the lid off the matter.

According to KFDA NewsChannel 10: The complaint alleges Renee McCown, an AISD school board trustee, spoke with the former coach privately about her decisions, athletes and playing times on the volleyball team, specifically targeting her two daughters.

What he is alleging here is a serious breach of ethical conduct on the part of an elected public official. That a member of the AISD board would meddle into the coaching decisions of an educator is reprehensible on its face. What we well might have witnessed is a case of coercion and intimidation that has no place in public education — at any level.

What’s more is that the school board has remained silent about it. It hides behind some policy that mutes the board because we are dealing with a “personnel matter.”

Henson wants the TEA to invoke some form of punishment against the Amarillo public school system — presuming the allegations prove true.

This saga has some way to go before it finishes playing out.

My hope is that the TEA gives this complaint serious attention.

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.

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.

Hey, AISD board . . . will you speak to your ‘bosses’?

I want to stand with my friend and former Amarillo Globe-News colleague Jon Mark Beilue, who is demanding answers from the Amarillo Independent School District board of trustees.

The AISD board accepted the resignation of a highly valued girls volleyball coach who quit because of pressure she was getting from the mother of one of her athletes.

The coach, Kori Cooper Clements, lasted one season. The Amarillo High girls volleyball program is among the best in Texas history. What Clements has alleged is shameful interference by a parent.

The school board has remained silent. The school district’s constituents — the board’s “bosses” — deserve an explanation on what has been alleged.

What’s more, the chatter all over Amarillo implicates Renee McCown, an AISD board member, as the offending parent.

So, as Beilue has suggested, it is past time for the board to speak to the constituents. Explain its action or it inaction on this matter.

Here is what Beilue posted the other day on Facebook. Take a moment or two to read it. It’s worth your time.

***

So it’s been one week since the Amarillo ISD school board heard from an angry public at its regularly scheduled meeting, including two Amarillo High volleyball players among 10 there to support head coach Kori Clements, voted to accept Clements resignation, and then has publicly done what anyone who has been paying attention to this board expected.

Nothing.

No word of support for fellow board member Rene McCown who’s been twisting in the wind, no admonishment of allegations of her misuse of her school board position, no announcing they are looking into this troubling situation and will issue their findings as soon as possible.

Nothing.

It’s as if Amarillo voters elected a bunch of Marcel Marceaus, the famous French mime.

To recap quickly, promising young coach Kori Cooper-Clements resigned earlier this month in her first year with the storied program, and also her alma mater. She publicly accused a board member – read, McCown, who has two daughters on the team – of what appears to be greatly overstepping her bounds as a board member with regard to playing time for her daughters, and an administration who did not back the coach and played the political game of siding with the board member.

It has ignited a community firestorm that far exceeds the interest level of a high school volleyball program for the bigger picture of what appears to be a violation of the public trust of a board member, an administration that caved and a board that sits in stubborn silence.

There’s an old axiom in coaching when bad behavior, or lack of discipline on a team, occurs: “You’re either coaching it or allowing it to happen.”

Since I doubt the board is coaching it, let’s just vote for allowing it to happen. Board members can stiffen their backs all they want, but what conclusion should reasonable people reach when a board’s response seems to be just wishing it would go away?

At this moment, the entire public trust of the board from those who vote is about as low as it gets. If they disagree, they need to get out more.

This is not some run-of-the-mill parental interference of an athletic program that occurs frequently. This is not a parent who works at – oh, I don’t know – Owens-Corning who’s raising a stink. No, a board does not need nor should it get involved in those instances.

This is much different. This is one of your own who has allegedly inserted herself into the process almost from the moment Cooper-Clements was hired last March and attempted to use her position for personal gain that is not in the best interest of AISD.

That demands an internal investigation and public accountability to a public that put this board in that position in the first place. It demands transparency and getting on top of this instead of sticking their heads in the nearest Sod Poodle hole. To not do that is an insult to Amarillo and reeking of arrogance.

This goes beyond the tepid statement last week of a policy that “AISD does not comment on personnel matters out of confidentiality and respect for our employees.” This is a bigger matter than that, and the board knows it. Or should know it.

So as the board continues to play the public for a fool by remaining silent and invite even more questions, and the same public is left to wonder if board members can just play by their own rules, maybe the question is exactly that: Is the board coaching it or allowing it to happen?