Tag Archives: Amarillo HS volleyball

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.


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.


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?

Upcoming school district election might portend big change

I am not normally a betting guy. I mean, I don’t even play any form of the Texas Lottery.

However, I am beginning to sense from distance away that the upcoming Amarillo Independent School District board of trustees election is going to be a barn-burner.

Three trustees are up for re-election later this year, but they are entering a campaign season fraught with questions — and a good bit of anger — among AISD constituents. Many voters appear to be steamed at the way the board handled the resignation of a popular high school girls volleyball coach and the circumstances reportedly surrounding it.

Kori Clements quit her Amarillo High School coaching job. She cited parental influence as the reason for her resignation. The school board has remained silent on the issue. Trustees got an earful from constituents the other evening. Then they accepted Clements’ resignation without comment.

Oh, and one of the trustees — Renee McCown — reportedly is the offending parent who hassled, harangued and harassed Clements over playing time policies involving one of McCown’s children.

McCown is not one of the candidates who will stand for re-election this year; her term expires in 2021. I hope to be able to hear how she might campaign for re-election in two years if she decides to run for another term.

Meanwhile, seats occupied by trustees Jim Austin, Scott Flow and John Betancourt are up for election this year. They, too, will have some explaining to do. They’ll need to justify — again, assuming they all run for new terms on the board — their decision to clam up publicly about a resignation that captured the community’s attention. I get that it’s a long-standing AISD policy to not comment on personnel matters. My sense, based on my attendance at the recent AISD board meeting, is that voters likely won’t care about policy; they likely might demand direct answers to direct questions.

Here’s a question that might get posed to candidates as they run for election to the board: Do you believe the school system has provided sufficient support for its educators, the individuals that the community entrusts to care for our children while they are attending public schools?

Kori Clements said she didn’t get it from the administration, or from the school board while she sought to fend off a hectoring parent.

Amarillo voters have been known to clean house on their governing bodies when circumstances merit it. They did it in 1989 when they replaced virtually the entire City Commission; the city’s economic condition drove voters to rebel against the status quo at City Hall. They did so again in 2017 when they replaced the entire City Council, some of whose members engaged in open sniping and quarreling with senior city administrators.

Amarillo’s public school system well might face a similar uprising — this year and in 2021.

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.

Coaching controversy reaffirms valuable lesson for community

AMARILLO, Texas — The Kori Clements Coaching Era at Amarillo High School was far too short-lived than the former coach and most of the community she served had ever intended.

Clements quit as Amarillo High School’s girls volleyball coach and tossed out some bitter medicine for the school district and the community at-large to swallow. It was that she left because of pressure she alleged she got from the parent of one of the girls she coached; the parent, allegedly a member of the school board, harassed Clements because she wasn’t giving her daughter enough playing time.

The Amarillo public school trustees accepted her resignation Tuesday night. Then they adjourned what had been a sometimes-testy public meeting and they all went home.

We are talking about a public school system, financed by public money and governed by public laws. It is unacceptable for the governing board to hide behind some policy that prohibits it from commenting on personnel matters. There needs to be a public airing of what went wrong and a public discussion about how to fix it.

To that end, I hope the Amarillo Independent School District trustees and administrators begin with some candid conversation with the offending parent and make changes to avoid a repeat of this kind of hectoring of the next Amarillo HS volleyball coach.

This sad episode simply drives home a fundamental point about public education. We entrust our educators — be they classroom teachers or coaches, band directors or theater directors — to do right by our children. We expect our educators to be fair, to be stern if necessary, to be caring. We also should expect our public school administrators to have our educators’ back if the educator is doing all the right things.

Kori Clements apparently did her job well for the single season she was allowed to do it. But she didn’t have that support from the administration or the board. The school system failed the coach and by extension failed the student-athletes she was hired to lead in athletic competition.

That dereliction of public responsibility cannot be allowed to stand.

I’m going home Thursday to Collin County. I’ll be looking back at Amarillo from time to time to see how this drama plays out. I hope the Amarillo public school community will discern some palpable change in policy.

Kori Clements deserved better than she got from the school system that hired her. Let’s hope this sad chapter ends with a reaffirmation of the need to nurture the efforts of top-quality educators.

Trustees should have looked at those who scolded them

AMARILLO, Texas — I cannot get past a bit of body language I observed Tuesday night at the Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees meeting.

I watched several AISD constituents stand before the board to offer public comment on the issue that brought them to the school district board room in the first place. They sought to speak to the board about the sudden and shocking resignation of Kori Clements, the head volleyball coach at Amarillo High School. Clements quit citing pressure she received from an AISD parent who didn’t like the lack of playing time her daughter was getting from the coach.

Some of the constituents who stood before the board spoke in tones that reminded me of a scolding you would get from your mom or dad. Many of the trustees never looked up from the dais where they sitting. They didn’t look their scolding constituents in the eye.

When Mom chewed me out when I was a kid, she usually would instruct me to “look at me when I’m talking to you!” I also had this annoying tendency to smirk when Mom scolded me, which prompted her to tell me to “wipe that smirk off your face or else I’ll wipe it off for you.” 

My point is that Mom demanded respect when she thought I messed up. I needed to show that respect by looking her in the eye.

I couldn’t help but think of what an AISD constituent might have said to trustees — particularly the one trustee who is believed to be the cause for Coach Clements’ resignation — while he or she was lecturing the board about the merits of offering total support for the school district’s educators.

It might go something like this: Ladies and gentlemen of the board, I am here to talk to you tonight about the resignation of a highly respected coach who has stated that she didn’t get the support she deserved from the board and the administration. She said she was pressured to do the “politically correct” thing . . . 

Oh, and by the way, I would appreciate it very much, board members, if you would look at me while I am talking to you. This is serious stuff and I think you owe it to me — as a taxpaying constituent whose money pays for this school system — to look me in the eye while I am addressing you.

I would bet you real American money that constituent would have received a standing ovation from the crowd that had crammed into the meeting room.

The trustees — especially the one who is believed to have pressured Kori Clements to quit her job after one season — most surely could have shown their “bosses” more respect than they did Tuesday night.

How? Just look ’em in the eye when they’re speaking!

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.