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.