Tag Archives: Kori Clements.

AISD board deserves a healthy roster of challengers

Political incumbents have gritted their teeth when I have said over the years that all of them deserves to be challenged at election time.

They usually ask, “Why should anyone challenge me if I’m doing a good job?” My answer usually goes something like this: “Because no one deserves a free ride when citizens are given the chance to offer themselves as a candidate for public office.”

The Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees is facing a potential plethora of challengers if enough residents want to challenge three incumbents who are up for re-election this year.

Heaven knows the board has earned the challenge, based on its performance in that controversial resignation of Amarillo High girls volleyball coach Kori Clements, who quit earlier this year citing parental interference in the way she was doing her job.

The board didn’t back the coach. Neither did the AISD administration, which answers to the board.

Friday is the final day for candidates to step up to challenge the incumbents whose terms are up this year: Jim Austin, Scott Flow and John Betancourt. Flow hasn’t yet declared his candidacy for re-election.

These incumbents need to be challenged. They need to answer for their non-action in the Clements matter. They need to explain why they dummied up. They must be held to account for the shabby treatment that befell the coach of a vaunted high school athletic program.

They should be challenged even if they were doing a good job. I am sorry to conclude that this bunch has fallen short.

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.

Lessons to be learned from coach/parent confrontation

The coaching crisis that erupted in Amarillo, Texas, a few weeks ago has stuck in my craw ever since it came to my attention.

Absent any explicit denials of what caused the head coach of a vaunted girls high school volleyball program to quit after a single season, I am left to conclude that what she alleged about parental interference is essentially true.

Kori Clements resigned as Amarillo High’s volleyball coach. She blamed parental interference into playing time decisions the coach was making as her reason for quitting. Clements cited a lack of support from the Amarillo school district administration and the board as the catalyst for her resignation.

I won’t get into the details of what allegedly occurred, or discuss the parent involved.

However, there is a stern lesson that must not be lost on parents of children who are enrolled in public schools. The lesson also applies — perhaps even more stringently — to parents of those students who participate in extracurricular activities.

The bottom line? Let the educators in whose trust we put our children do the jobs they are paid to do!

Coaches, or band directors, or theatrical instructors all play a part in extending children’s educational experience. We should trust that they are doing their jobs ethically, with compassion, patience and even love for our children.

Absent demonstrable abuse or incompetence on an educator’s part, parents are asked simply to do the right thing by their children, which is to give them support and to encourage them to do their best. It’s in the unwritten rule book under Parenthood 101.

There appears to be no sign — none whatsoever! — of anything approaching malfeasance on the part of Coach Clements. She wasn’t abusing her athletes or mistreating them in any way. She reportedly was seeking to put the best players on the floor and seeking to manage their playing time to produce the most victories for her school volleyball team as possible.

There is a lesson here for all parents and, yes, for all school administrators.

Just as parents must support their children, school administrators must demonstrate support for the faculty members they hire to educate the children parents put in their trust.

This Amarillo Independent School District story likely hasn’t played itself out all the way. I’ll continue to watch it unfold as time goes by.

But, dang it, man! Let’s not allow the horrendous mistakes — and alleged misconduct — of a fanatical parent cause us to lose sight of the need to protect our children properly or of the need to support the educators who are doing the right thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Nothing.

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

Nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Coach kerfuffle serves as a reminder

The recent outrage that occurred in Amarillo’s public school system over the resignation of a highly regarded volleyball coach reminded me of some hideous parental conduct I witnessed long ago in another state.

Kori Clements resigned as head coach of Amarillo High School’s highly regarded volleyball program. The Sandies have won multiple state titles and Clements, a 2006 AHS graduate, was brought back to coach the girls who reportedly revere her. But she quit, citing pressure from a parent who didn’t like the way she was parceling out playing time; the parent’s daughter wasn’t getting enough time.

What’s worse is that the parent allegedly is a member of Amarillo Independent School District board of trustees, who clearly should know better than to interfere with a coach’s policy.

OK, what did I witness in the old days?

I used to cover a high school football program in Clackamas County, Ore. This particular high school (which I won’t identify) had a very good team in the early 1980s. They were led by a quarterback who, upon graduating from high school, went on to compile a highly successful collegiate football record. He was drafted by an NFL team and had a brief — and modest — pro career.

However, the young man’s father was insufferable in his berating of the coaching staff during games. He would prowl the sideline standing directly behind the head coach, yelling at the top of his lungs about the play-calling that was taking place. If the young quarterback didn’t complete a pass for substantial yardage, let alone score a touchdown, dear ol’ Dad would come unglued.

I never discussed the father’s behavior with his son. It wasn’t my place. I would talk about it, though, with the coach. I never reported on Dad’s boorish behavior and, indeed, this is the first time I’ve ever mentioned it in any form or fashion. I cannot recall all these years later whether the coach spoke ill of Dad personally. He surely did detest the way he behaved during the games. The coach professed to blocking out the profanities yelled from behind him, but surely he had to hear it.

I don’t know whether Coach Clements endured that kind of disgraceful behavior from the parent she said harassed her incessantly over her coaching policies. It’s just that what she endured is hardly unique to Amarillo High School.

That doesn’t make it right, any more than it was right for that fanatic father to act as he did in the old days.

It’s shameful, man!

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.

Prediction: AISD’s coaching pain will linger

We’ve returned home after a wonderful but brief return to the Texas Panhandle.

I am left with this lingering feeling about what I have witnessed regarding the stunning resignation of a high school volleyball coach: The Amarillo Independent School District’s athletic community is going to be in pain for perhaps beyond the foreseeable future.

Kori Clements quit after a single season as head coach of the Amarillo High girls volleyball team. It is a vaunted sports program. Clements is one of its star products, graduating from AHS in 2006. She played under a coaching legend, Jan Barker, and returned to succeed her mentor when Barker retired.

It didn’t go well, according to the letter that Clements submitted announcing her resignation. She said she is leaving because of pressure exerted by a parent of one of her athletes. The parent allegedly said her daughter deserved more playing time and Clements implied in her resignation letter that the parent made it impossible for her continue as coach. I heard some testimony this week about the parent allegedly calling on the coach unannounced at her home to, um, discuss this playing time matter.

What’s worse is the chatter about the parent, who apparently is a member of the AISD board of trustees. Her name is Renee McCown. Where I come from, the school system is witnessing a serious abuse of power by an elected official over a school district faculty member.

It is an unconscionable circumstance. The athletic community is hurting. Several AISD constituents displayed their pain earlier this week at a school board meeting. I listened to them express their angst — even anger and disgust — at the lack of support given to the coach who, if you heard the testimony from some of the athletes who played for her, is a beloved figure.

The pain won’t dissipate soon. It might have been exacerbated when the school board accepted Clements’ resignation with no comment. There was no public expression of support for her, or public expression of regret over the circumstance she said precipitated her resignation.

I feel sad at this moment for my former Texas Panhandle neighbors. I’ll keep watching this matter continue to evolve from some distance. I just know that the wounds are deep and painful.