Tag Archives: Amarillo ISD

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.

Just remember: they work for us!

I somehow feel the need to declare the obvious.

People who hold down elected or appointed public office are our servants. They work for us. Whether they are presidents of the United States, members of Congress, city council members, school board members . . . you name it. They are our employees.

I mention this because of what I am witnessing at a couple of levels of government.

Donald J. Trump demands personal loyalty from those he nominates to high office. If they don’t grant him what he wants, he cans ’em, demands that they quit or he tells one of his other underlings to do his dirty work for him.

This kind of would-be autocracy speaks ill of the notion that we live and function in a representative democracy. In other words, the folks who sit at the seat of power are there to do our bidding.

Let’s skip down a few rungs on the government ladder for a moment. Amarillo school trustees have dummied up over the resignation of a highly touted girls volleyball coach who quit a vaunted athletic program after a single season. Parents who pay the bills for the Amarillo Independent School District are demanding accountability and transparency from the elected school trustees. So far, as near as I can tell, they are getting neither from their “employees,” the men and women who work for them and serve their children.

Political leaders too often act as though they are the bosses. Wrong! They aren’t! We are! You and me, man!

I want to bring up for a moment something I watched about two decades ago in Congress. Republicans had just taken control of both congressional chambers. The new speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, wanted to enact a radical overhaul of the nation’s farm policy. He ran into stiff resistance from my congressman, Republican Larry Combest, who told the speaker — in so many words — to stuff his farm program where the sun didn’t shine.

Why the resistance? Combest told Gingrich that West Texas ranchers and farmers keep sending him back to the House to represent them. They didn’t like Gingrich’s idea of farm policy overhaul. Therefore, neither did their congressman.

Gingrich decided to punish Combest by denying him the House Agriculture Committee chairmanship.

Combest attained the chairmanship eventually, but only after Gingrich had been run out of office because of a failed effort to impeach and remove President Clinton from office and because of some personal indiscretions involving the speaker that came to light.

The moral of the story, though, remains the same. These folks are our employees. They work for us, not the other way around.

There are times when we the people need to flex our muscle and exercise the power inherent in our system of government . . . at all levels.

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.

Retirement hobby keeps juices flowing

Time for a quick update. Here goes . . .

This blog is on an 893-consecutive-day streak. I have posted items on High Plains Blogger for those many days in a row.

I have no intention of letting up.

I want to share (boast, if you don’t) some news with you.

  • March was the second-best month recorded by this blog in terms of page views and unique visitors. I am proud to make that announcement.
  • ┬áThe second-best month followed by the best month ever by just two months. High Plains Blogger posted its most productive month in January.

Those two record-setting months have set me up for another record year of page views and visitors. I intend to seek to keep the heat burning.

I have discovered a pattern as it regards these best-ever blog performances. They usually include some comment on local matters.

The January and March figures were driven by some posts I published concerning the resignation of an Amarillo High School volleyball coach. There is intense interest in Amarillo in what prompted Kori Clements to quit the AHS post after a single season. Her resignation letter was one of the more, um, declarative such statements I’ve ever seen. She blamed the school board and the administration for failing to back her as she fended off complaints from a parent who griped at her over playing time given to the parent’s daughter.

There will be more to come as developments warrant.

I also intend to keep the heat on Donald Trump and those who serve in the president’s administration. I want to emphasize what I believe is a critical point as I continue to comment: The president and his administration work for us, for you and me. The individuals who report to the president are not paid by him; they are not answerable ultimately to him.

We are the bosses. They all are our employees.

So, I’m heading for a 900-consecutive-day streak. I want you to stay with me. I also ask you to share these musings with those with whom you share social media networks.

There. Boasting is over. Until the next time.

Casting my gaze over my shoulder

I love my life in my new home. There’s much to explore about Collin County, the rest of North Texas, the Metroplex. The growth all around our home is astonishing.

However, I remain committed to casting my gaze backward, perhaps for beyond the foreseeable future. I know that might seem counterintuitive, looking backward as we move forward.

However, the community my wife and I departed in 2018 has some issues that are boiling. Two of them stand out:

  • Downtown Amarillo is moving into a new existence, with a new energy and a new purpose. I want to keep my eye on how that progresses. I have high hope that the city’s future is looking brighter week by week.
  • The Amarillo Independent School District is facing some potentially critical policy debates over the short and perhaps the medium terms. The board of trustees is suffering a lack of community confidence. It has fumbled — in my view — in its handling of the resignation of a high school girls volleyball coach and the alleged misconduct by one of the elected trustees.

I am in touch with Amarillo ISD residents who are intent on getting to the bottom of matters. I intend to stay in touch with them and I intend to keep talking about those issues on this blog. I want the Amarillo ISD to resolve these problems constructively and permanently.

But I have to tell you that based on what I am hearing, there well might be some more AISD issues to tackle than what I’ve laid out with this brief blog post.

I also intend to get more involved with the community where my wife and I — along with our precious puppy, Toby — have settled. Princeton is a community on the move. My still-developing relationship with KETR-FM public radio will allow me a chance to get more deeply acquainted with the individuals and groups who are calling the shots in Collin County and throughout KETR’s listening area.

So . . . retirement has brought some new challenges my way. They involve getting involved with our new surroundings.

And keeping tabs on the community we recently departed, but did not leave behind.

AISD faces potential landmine

Amarillo Independent School District board members and senior administrators face a possible landmine or two unless they deal forthrightly with what I believe is a potentially serious ethics issue.

This will be the last comment I’ll make on this matter until — or unless — something significant occurs within the school district.

The Texas Education Agency has been made aware of a complaint filed by an Amarillo ISD constituent concerning the alleged conduct of a school board trustee and the role she might have played in the resignation of a popular high school girls volleyball coach.

The issue isn’t going away. TEA kicked the issue back to the district. It might consider possible action later, but the school district has to go through its normal personnel-related procedures.

At issue is the resignation of Kori Clements from her job as Amarillo High School Sandies girls volleyball coach. Clements said she didn’t get the support she deserved from the school board or the administration after a parent supposedly hassled her over playing time for the parent’s daughter. To worsen matters — as if it could get worse, given the anger that has roiled the community — AISD resident Marc Henson identified the parent as a school trustee, Renee McCown, who has remained quiet through all of this turmoil.

The board has some decisions to make. Does it remain quiet? Does it tell the offending parent — regardless of who it is — to no longer hassle an educator who is trying to do the best at his or her job? If the offending parent is a member of the board, how does the rest of the governing body deal with that?

I do not intend to sound any alarms here, but I do feel the need to remind AISD officials that they might be facing some serious blowback from TEA if they don’t solve what might be a serious dilemma. TEA has shown it is capable of inflicting serious punishment on public school systems.

I once worked in Beaumont. I left that community in early 1995, but not long after I departed the Golden Triangle, TEA took over a floundering school district; it dismissed the school board and the superintendent and installed caretakers who managed the school system until it righted itself. The issues there dealt with serious fiscal malfeasance.

I don’t detect such misbehavior with the Amarillo situation. I do sense there might be an issue regarding ethical conduct that needs the district’s attention.

A citizens group has formed to seek an outside investigation into what might have occurred to force a high school coach to resign, causing considerable community anxiety and downright anger.

TEA officials must be concerned, given that they already are aware of one complaint.

Amarillo school officials must respond in some meaningful manner to the concerns that have arisen. They surely won’t like the possible “or else” that could come later.

With that . . . I am out.

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.

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.

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.