Tag Archives: Kori Clements.

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.

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.
  •  The 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.

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.

TEA kicks complaint against AISD back to Amarillo

Well, isn’t this just a kick in the booty?

The Texas Education Agency has said it lacks jurisdiction to hear a complaint filed by an Amarillo resident against the Amarillo Independent School District.

At issue is a complaint by Marc Henson, who alleges that a member of the AISD school board acted unethically by harassing a former Amarillo High School girls volleyball coach. Kori Clements quit as Sandies coach after a single season. In her resignation letter, she blamed it on interference from a parent who griped to her about playing time given to her daughter, a member of the Sandies volleyball team.

Henson went further. He named the parent: AISD trustee Renee McCown. 

So, what now? TEA officials said the complaint needs to be filed with the AISD itself. The school board and the superintendent must consider it before the TEA will consider it.

Henson told KFDA NewsChannel 10 that his fight isn’t over. He said he will seek a solution to what he has called unethical conduct.

I happen to agree with the gentleman. He has spoken on behalf of many AISD constituents who are concerned that a young coach of a vaunted high school athletic program would quit, citing parental interference and a lack of support from the school board and the AISD administration.

This decision by the TEA appears on its face to be a temporary pause in the effort to seek answers and solutions to avoid the kind of meddlesome behavior that Henson has alleged. If so, then Henson will need to stay the course.

I hope he does.

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.

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.