Tag Archives: Kori Clements.

Hey, Amarillo ISD trustees … you’ve got another issue to ponder

I just read a story about the full complement of Amarillo Independent School District board of trustees getting ready for the upcoming school year.

They’re talking about cohesion, educational excellence and boosting teacher morale. That’s all great. Good luck. I wish you well, even from afar, as I no longer live in Amarillo.

However, the newspaper story I read didn’t mention this little matter that continues to hang over the board of trustees. Let’s call it “administrative transparency.”

The former school board accepted the resignation of a high school volleyball coach from the district’s vaunted Amarillo High School Sandies volleyball program after just a single season. Kori Clements resigned — or, more to the point, was not granted a contract renewal. In her letter of resignation, she said the school board and administration didn’t give her support as sought to fend off the harassment of a meddlesome parent who objected to the way Clements was granting playing to her daughters.

Oh, and then there’s this: The parent in question was herself a school trustee. Oops! Not good! School trustees always should keep their mitts off of educators’ performance of their duties. This one didn’t. The trustee then quit the school board. The episode raised a lot of hackles throughout the AISD athletic community.

However, the board and the administration has remained stone-cold silent on the issues surrounding Clements’ forced resignation.

I mention this because transparency is vital to the running of a public school system. The board and the administration’s silence on this matter has continued to hang over the system. A coalition of parents has formed to demand greater transparency. I happen to believe they have a point.

So … with that, trustees, my suggestion to you as you commence this new academic year is to ensure that all of you allow your district’s educators to do their jobs without meddling, especially from within your ranks.

I am glad you have been made whole with the appointments of two new trustees. Get to work, folks, but do it the right way.

Transparency is MIA at Amarillo ISD

I believe I can state with confidence that a coalition of parents demanding transparency at the Amarillo Independent School District has identified a seriously legitimate area of concern.

It involves the “resignation” of a high school girls volleyball coach and the circumstances that led to her departure after a single season at the helm of a vaunted athletic program.

You know the story: Kori Clements left her post as Amarillo High School’s volleyball coach at the beginning of this year. It was called a resignation. She submitted a letter stating her desire to resign, citing harassment from a parent and a lack of support from the school board and the senior administration at AISD.

I have learned there is a whole lot more to the story than was declared publicly.

Clements’s contract was not renewed. She was, in effect, terminated by the school system. Why? Well, it gets sticky. AISD administrators told Clements she wasn’t “communicating” effectively with parents who said they were concerned about the coach’s parceling out of playing time to some of the girls on her team.

Clements asked her bosses at AISD to cite specifics. She asked them to give her an avenue to correct what they said was wrong with her communication skills. Clements said administrators refused to give her the chance to fix the problem.

She had a series of meetings with administrators, including Amarillo High principal David Vincent, AISD athletic director Brad Thiessen and others. Ultimately, she was told her contract would not be renewed. Clements was a first-year teacher and, thus, was a “probationary” faculty member, meaning the district could choose to not renew her contract if that was the decision.

One of they key principals in this “playing time” matter happened to be a school board trustee, Renee McCown, who had two daughters playing for the Sandies volleyball team. McCown has since resigned from the board, which currently is looking to fill her vacant seat along with a seat vacated by the resignation of  trustee John Ben Blanchard.

The Parents for Transparency Coalition is demanding a more thorough accounting of AISD policies, actions and decisions. I believe, based on what I have learned, that the coalition has a legitimate concern.

Clements’ departure from AHS was not as it was portrayed publicly when she made her announcement. She was forced to quit by administrators and, by association, by the board of trustees that chose to keep its hands off this discussion. The irony is that one of the trustees was implicated in the mess that that has smeared the school system.

Did the Sandies volleyball team underperform during Clements’ single year at the helm? No. Their record was nearly identical to what it was the previous year, the final season that Jan Barker coached before retiring.

So, what do we have here? We have a situation that needs to be aired out. Clements’ departure from the Amarillo HS job, to my understanding of it, bears virtually no resemblance to what has been portrayed by the school system.

Transparency? It is missing in action.

A defeated AISD trustee wants back on?

Another applicant has jumped into the soup.

It’s official! I just submitted my application to be considered for one of the two vacant seats of the Amarillo ISD Board of Trustees! If you would like to support me in this process please contact the Board via the Contact Board Form link. Voice your support and ask that I get appointed to the board. Thank you everyone who has supported me along this process!

Well, I will offer a brief rejoinder to this applicant’s request for an appointment to a governing board … from which he was just ousted in a districtwide election in early May.

John Betancourt, a former Amarillo Independent School District trustee, wants the current board to select him to fill one of two vacancies on the seven-member board. He announced his application on his Facebook page today.

I normally would endorse such an appointment, given that Betancourt would represent an underserved constituency on the board: the AISD’s growing Hispanic population.

Except that he stood for re-election in May and was defeated in that effort. AISD voters — those who bothered to cast their ballots — decided he wasn’t worthy of being re-elected.

I shall stipulate that I don’t have a tangible role to play here. I don’t even live within the AISD boundaries. I am just a former Amarillo resident who retains an interest in the community where I lived for 23 years.

Betancourt well might deserve to return to the AISD board — one day. Were he to run for a spot on the board in the next election, that would be OK. However, for the board to appoint Betancourt so soon after the voters spoke against him would in my view be the epitome of insult to the constituents whose voice will have been ignored.

The AISD board, which comprises mostly new faces at the moment, is still trying to get its bearings in what I believe is an uncertain political climate. The district is still reeling a bit from the controversial resignation of a high school volleyball coach, the resignation of two trustees — including one trustee who was implicated in the coach’s resignation.

Betancourt was part of that dust-up, which well might have played a role in his being defeated for re-election. Return him now, so soon after he was kicked out of office?

Don’t do it.

AISD board ought to include this applicant

This just in: A former Amarillo mayor has tossed her name into the mix to be considered for appointment to the Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees.

Yep, that would be Debra McCartt.

This news excites me. I happen to know McCartt. I also happen to believe she would lend some needed gravitas to the board. She also would bring some important governing experience to a board that has gone through its share of turmoil in recent months.

Here is what McCartt said today on Facebook: I’m excited to announce that I have officially thrown my name into the hat to fill one of the two open spots on the Amarillo Independent School District’s Board of Trustees. As you know, I’ve always had a passion for serving my community and have a long history of working in education, including eight years as a teacher and most recently a substitute. Educating our children is one of the most critical investments that we can make! I would love to be able to work to make our already excellent school district even better for our students. Stay tuned! 

I’m going to “stay tuned,” all right.

Two board seats need filling, as McCartt points out. One of them once was occupied by John Ben Blanchard, the other by Renee McCown. They both resigned shortly after the May election that produced several newcomers to the seven-member board.

Why is McCartt a fascinating candidate for appointment? It’s because she brings an enormous level of energy to a governing body such as this.

She served three terms as mayor of Amarillo. Prior to that she served a couple of terms as city commissioner. She earned her spurs on that governing board. Indeed, I was fond of suggesting that McCartt defied “the laws of physics” by seeming to be everywhere in the city all at once. She was a tremendous advocate and spokeswoman for the city.

I believe her ability to speak passionately for the city transfers to the Amarillo Independent School District.

I mentioned the tumult that enveloped the school district. It involved the resignation of a high school volleyball coach the implication that a school trustee had interfered with the coach’s performance of her job. McCown was the trustee allegedly involved in that mess. A complaint filed with the Texas Education Agency said that McCown had interfered on behalf of her daughters, who played for the Amarillo High School Sandies volleyball team. The coach quit and said in her resignation letter that the board and administration had failed to give her the backing she believed she needed.

To the best of my knowledge, McCartt does not have any children currently enrolled in the Amarillo public school system. I do not know if she has any grandchildren in the system.

I do know, though, that her time as a city commissioner and mayor did not include any accusations of meddling. She knows her limits as a member of a governing board and follows the rules to the letter.

There will be other good candidates, to be sure. I just feel the need to weigh in on this application in the hope that the AISD board gives Debra McCartt full consideration for an appointment.

I believe she would be a great addition to the school board.

How must governments define ‘personnel’ matters?

I won’t take credit for this idea. It comes from a reader of this blog and a frequent critic of local government in Amarillo, Texas.

My friend wonders whether the Amarillo Independent School District board of trustees should examine carefully its policy of declining to comment on “personnel matters” when the matter involves an elected member of the governing board.

The Parents for Transparency Coalition is seeking answers from the school board on an array of issues. The coalition believes the board and senior administration are too opaque in their conduct of public business.

I need to revisit the resignation of the Amarillo High volleyball coach. Kori Clements resigned her post after asserting that a parent had interfered with her coaching decisions. The parent allegedly was a member of the school board. Renee McCown, the now former trustee, resigned. Still, the board has declined to comment on the matter, citing the “personnel” policy as prohibiting them from making any public comment.

I’ll ask the question: Is a school trustee “employed” by the district? Does the trustee’s reticence and the board’s reluctance to comment fall under that personnel-related policy? I tend to view the elected trustee as someone who is distinctly different from the paid administrators, faculty and staff.

I agree with my friend, who said: Someone needs to mount a legal challenge to determine whether a board member is “personnel” and the state press association needs to lobby for changes in the way public personnel are protected under the sunshine laws.

Therein might lie the Parents for Transparency Coalition’s opening to seek — and hopefully get — more transparency from its local public school district.

That’s a pretty good starting point.

AISD might soon learn about power of social media

Amarillo’s public school system is still facing pressure from a parental group whose aim is to demand — and receive — more “transparency” from those who educate the community’s children.

I wish the parents well in their quest, although it might be a futile one.

The Parents for Transparency Coalition is using social media as a weapon in their quest to reveal more about what is happening behind the scenes at the Amarillo Independent School District. AISD, thus, might get a stern lesson on the impact social media has on political causes.

The coalition wants an “independent” investigation. It is demanding it through its Facebook account. The group is unhappy with some of the decisions made at the highest levels of the AISD administration.

Why the possible futility?

Well, the board recently accepted the resignation of a trustee, Renee McCown, who got caught up in a controversy over the resignation of Kori Clements, the Amarillo High School girls volleyball coach, who quit after complaining about a meddlesome parent who sought to influence the coach’s decisions regarding playing time for her athletes. Two of those student-athletes happened to be daughters of the parent … who allegedly was McCown, the now-former AISD school trustee.

McCown quit board before her seat was to be decided at the next election set for 2022.

That should be the end of it, right? Not according to the Parents for Transparency Coalition. They are angry with newly installed trustee Dick Ford, who took up for McCown, saying she did nothing wrong.

The coalition is continuing to raise a ruckus about the state of affairs within the AISD, suggesting on Facebook that the group will continue to insist on an independent probe. They have singled Ford out, too, apparently because of the trustee’s defense of McCown.

I am in no position to comment specifically on the merits of what the transparency coalition wants or whether there should be an independent investigation. However, I do sense a growing tension between the parents group and senior administrators that somehow needs a resolution.

Why? Because I do not sense that the Parents for Transparency Coalition is going to let up until someone on the receiving end of its demands — at the AISD headquarters — starts paying attention.

Therefore, we will witness the power of social media.

There will be more to come. Of that I am certain.

Trying to imagine a school system that can now move on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I cannot do anything about any of it.

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

Amarillo public school system needs to turn the corner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resignation is a big deal, but not a cure

Renee McCown, the Amarillo school trustee implicated in an ongoing controversy surrounding the resignation of a popular high school coach of a vaunted athletic program, is going to resign her position on Thursday effective immediately.

She said the usual thing, that she intends to spend time with her family and will look for other opportunities to serve the community.

But, her silence on the controversy is not a matter of breaking some mythical state law, as one of her board colleagues has suggested. Newly seated trustee Dick Ford reportedly said that McCown could not comment on the matter because of restrictions set forth in policy and law. Ford said, “The only way she could had defended herself would had been to violate rules, state laws and AISD policy as it relates to AISD employees.”

I get the policy matter might have stood in the way. State law? Not an issue.

You know the story. Kori Clements quit as Amarillo High’s girls volleyball coach. She cited interference from a meddlesome parent who disliked the coach’s decision regarding playing time for the parent’s daughters. A complaint filed with the Texas Education Agency identified the parent as McCown, a member of the Amarillo ISD board. If McCown did what was alleged, she has committed a serious ethical error. Trustees set policy, but are supposed to leave the nuts and bolts of staffing matters up to the staff and to administrators.

Ford also said McCown has been “unfairly chastised” by constituents and in the media.

I won’t respond to that, except to say that McCown was not under any legal obligation to remain quiet. She could have answered the criticism directly. She has remained silent, which to my mind lends credibility to the accusation of interference.

She will submit her resignation. The Parents for Transparency Coalition, formed in recent months to seek an “independent inquiry” into the matter, said her resignation won’t solve any problems.

I’ll disagree respectfully with a portion of that argument. This resignation will help lift a cloud from the school system. OK, so there will remain some issues to resolve. This particular matter involving a former coach who said she was hassled out of her job, however, will be lifted from the Amarillo Independent School District.

It also allows school trustees to speak candidly among themselves so that they all understand fully the ethical standards of the public office they all occupy.