Tag Archives: Amarillo ISD

College stands tall

Someone will have to help me solve a mystery about a community my wife and I called home for more than 23 years.

Of all the public institutions with which we dealt over the years, only one of them — Amarillo College — has remained unscathed by tension, turmoil, tumult. AC recently bid adieu to its latest president, Russell Lowery-Hart, who has become chancellor of the Austin Community College System.

He received a rousing sendoff from the college and the community that supports it. Contrast that with the recent departure of Amarillo City Manager Jared Miller, who basically got canned by the City Council over differences between Miller and council policy direction.

I will acknowledge it hasn’t always been this smooth at AC. I arrived in Amarillo in early 1995 and became acquainted immediately with former AC president Bud Joyner. Fred Williams and Steve Jones followed Joyner; Williams’ tenure didn’t go quite so well. Then came longtime AC administrator Paul Matney’s turn as president. He restored the college’s standing in grand fashion, guiding the school to expanding its presence in communities outside of Amarillo.

You want some more contrast? How about the dust-up with the Canyon ISD over curriculum and books being offered to students? Then we have the 2019 brouhaha in the Amarillo ISD over the resignation of a high school volleyball coach and her assertion that an AISD trustee had meddled in the way the coach was doing her job.

Meanwhile, Amarillo College has continued to flourish, continued to expand its reach into the community. It has restored intercollegiate athletic offerings to its students, plastering the Badger image all over the main campus on Washington Street to remind us of the school’s athletic team nickname and mascot.

AC has selected an interim president. The board of regents will look for a permanent president in due course. The good news for the regents, I’ll venture a guess, will be that it won’t be in a huge hurry to find a permanent president, given the school’s current solid condition.

Back to my initial inquiry at the top of this post. Is there a way for AC to market its formula for success and pitch it to other public institutions that have struggled with maintaining the trust of its constituents?

Memo to pols: No meddling allowed

My thoughts turned immediately to a story I followed for a time up yonder in Amarillo when I heard about the Granbury school trustee getting censured by her colleagues for sneaking around a high school library.

There was a certain parallel that shouldn’t be repeated.

The Granbury ISD board censured trustee Karen Lowery for pestering school library officials over the books they were allowing to be read by students. Lowery went through the high school library in the dark, using a smart-phone flashlight to look at book titles she might find objectionable. She also lied about her involvement.

The school board was right to censure her, even though Lowery insists she didn’t do anything wrong. Well, actually, she did merely by injecting herself into the administration of policy.

This issue reminded me of the time — in 2019 — when an Amarillo ISD trustee, Renee McCown, pestered an Amarillo High School volleyball coach, Kori Clements, over the lack of playing time McCown’s daughter was getting under the coach’s leadership.

Clements, who served for just a year as coach in what she had described as her dream job, resigned and then stated in her letter to the school board that the trustee had applied undue — and improper — pressure on her to give her daughter more playing time.

Well, the trustee ended up resigning, but the school board should have shown the mettle demonstrated by the Granbury board by censuring McCown. Instead, the Amarillo ISD board remained stone-cold silent.

There is a lesson to be learned here. It is that elected public officials have no business getting involved in the administration of policy. Period. Full fu**ing stop!

This book-banning business that has infested school districts throughout Texas and the nation has given rise to the potential for the meddling we witnessed in Granbury. A censure delivered by a governing body has no actual effect on anything, other than to state for the record that the offending official has been sanctioned.

Lowery only made matters worse in Granbury by lying to authorities and sneaking into the library under false pretenses. The deal is, though, that she was motivated to act inappropriately because of the book-ban movement that has lit fires in school communities everywhere.

Let us be cognizant of politicians’ roles here. They do not include meddling in the work of the employees they hire.

Cheers to this inductee

As the saying goes, what goes around comes around … or words to that effect.

It is with interest that I saw the name of Kori Cooper Clements on the list of the latest group of sports figures to be inducted into the Texas Panhandle Hall of Fame. Who is this person?

Well, she found herself in the midst of a tempest when she resigned after coaching for one year at Amarillo High School, citing interference and meddling from a school board trustee.  She accused the trustee of forcing her to quit because she — the coach — wasn’t giving the daughter of the trustee enough playing time for the Sandies.

The school board never owned up to the conduct of the trustee, who eventually resigned from the board and has moved on to — oh, I don’t know — somewhere else.

Clements was a standout volleyball player in high school and in college and surely deserves a spot in the Panhandle Sports HoF. She became coach of one of Texas’s premier high school volleyball programs.

I just had to recall the turmoil that surrounded her departure from what she described as a dream job.

Clements has ended up in the right place … for certain.


Teachers deserve our honor and respect

My wife and I live one block from an elementary school in Princeton, Texas and each day when we take our stroll through the ‘hood, we see evidence of great things happening with the children who go there each day.

I want to salute the men and women who serve those children, their parents and, yes, the rest of us who don’t have kids attending that particular school or even in the school district where we live. What I witness often are teachers interacting joyfully with their students, who interact with equal amounts of joy with the teachers.

I know it’s a little thing. Then again, it’s not so little, particularly if the child gets too little joy when he or she goes home at the end of the day.

Some years ago I took a turn as a substitute teacher in Amarillo, where my wife and I lived before we relocated to Princeton. It was an eye-opening experience for me. I learned one thing about myself right away from that stint: I am not wired to teach children. 

More to the point is that I am not wired to take the abuse that kids dish out to subs who fill in for the regular teachers. Yes, I got a form of abuse from those kids. They were high schoolers. I won’t tell you which high school; just know that it was one of the public HS’s in Amarillo.

I am not casting aspersions on a particular generation of children, or on the community where we lived, or on the school system. It’s just the way it is and the way it has always been since the beginning of recorded human history. Kids look for ways to game the system in their favor. Their “victims” are their elders. I did some of it myself when I was that age.

My experience as a substitute teacher filled me with admiration for those who choose that profession. I also am amazed at those full-time substitute teachers who answer the call to report for work wherever the school district needs them.

The good ones are among the most special human beings I can imagine.

I salute you.


GOP can’t face truth?

(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The TV cameras didn’t allow us to watch the members of the U.S. Senate jury that heard the arguments presented by the House of Reps’ managers prosecuting the case against Donald J. Trump.

The managers wrapped up their presentation today in the second impeachment trial of Trump, who is accused of inciting an insurrection. It occurred on Jan. 6. The mob stormed Capitol Hill seeking to prevent Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election results.

Some reporting from the Senate, though, takes me back to something I witnessed in early 2019 in Amarillo, while covering a school board meeting. I’ll get to that in a second.

The Senate reporting tells us how Republican senators looked away from the hideous video of the riot presented by the House managers. They were seen doodling on note pads, leaving the Senate altogether, looking away, not paying attention to what senators were asked to watch. Why is that? They appear to be hiding from the reality of the ghastly insurrection for which Donald Trump stands accused of inciting.

In January 2019, my wife and I traveled back to Amarillo — where we lived for 23 years — to visit our son. The Amarillo public school district’s board was meeting one night. The board had just received a resignation letter from a high school girls volleyball coach, Kori Clements, who accused one of the school trustees of bullying her and of interfering in her coaching decisions. The trustee’s daughter played on the high school team and she believed the coach wasn’t giving her little darlin’ enough playing time.

The school board had a public hearing one evening. Residents were invited to speak to the board about the coach’s resignation, which caused quite an uproar in the community.

Every one of the residents who spoke to the board scolded them for the way the coach was treated. They admonished the trustee in question — Renee McCown, who has since resigned — for her conduct in pressuring the coach, forcing her to resign from a vaunted high school athletic program.

Where am I going with this? McCown never looked up from whatever she was looking at while her bosses — the taxpayers — were scolding her; nor did her board colleagues. They all should have looked them in the eye. I thought at the time it was a disgraceful display of arrogance. And I said so.

Trustees should have looked at those who scolded them | High Plains Blogger

The same sort of arrogance played out in the Senate as GOP senators didn’t bother to look at the horror that an ex-president wrought with his inciteful rhetoric.

Happy to report sanity in our local school system

I am delighted to report some good news — if you allow me to call it that — regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is that our granddaughter and her brother are going to be kept out of their classrooms for at least the first semester of the upcoming academic year. We got the word from our son and daughter-in-law that the Allen (Texas) Independent School District, absent any guarantee that it can prevent spread of the virus in schools, has decided to give parents the option of online schooling at home.

Our son and daughter-in-law have exercised that option.

Thus, the Allen ISD will not follow Donald Trump’s blind and stupid call to reopen our classrooms despite the surge in coronavirus infection in states such as ours.

For the president to insist on school reopening is beyond irresponsible. He exhibits no outward interest in protecting the lives of our precious children and the teachers who expose themselves to potential illness or worse.

So local school districts here in North Texas are calling their own shots. Princeton ISD, where my wife and I live, isn’t going along with the president’s urging. Neither are the Amarillo and Canyon ISDs, from where we moved two years ago. They are going to online teaching, giving students materials they can study at home.

Our granddaughter and her brother — who is entering his senior year in high school — did well in the second half of the preceding school year learning at home. They will do so again once the new year begins in August.

Meanwhile, the search for vaccines continues. May the brainiacs assigned to find them hit pay dirt sooner rather than later.

Has the outcry subsided at Amarillo ISD?

It occurs to me that it was nearly a year ago when a heralded coach of a heralded high school athletic program tendered her resignation.

Kori Clements was the first-year coach of the Amarillo High girls volleyball team, a perennial Texas high school athletic powerhouse. Clements quit the job she wanted since she was a player for the Sandies after a single season. She blamed the school board, the administration and implicated a now former school trustee for bullying her over playing time given to the trustee’s daughters.

Then came a coalition of parents forming a group to demand transparency. The school trustee quit the board, which had accepted the coach’s resignation without comment. The community reportedly was fired up over the tumult. The Parents for Transparency Coalition was asking the right questions about the school district administration.

Oh, and then two more trustees resigned. They had an election. Yet another trustee just recently quit. The board has essentially turned completely over.

I am now wondering: What happened to all that rough stuff? Has the school district established a more “transparent” policy regarding its treatment of educators? Has there been any accounting for the circumstances surrounding Clements’ resignation, which I learned over time was actually forced upon her by administrators who weren’t going to renew her contract as the Sandies volleyball coach?

So, a resignation turned out to be something else. The board, to my knowledge, hasn’t yet offered any public explanation for any of the circumstances that preceded the departure of this young coach.

Transparency? Is it there? Hello?

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.

Here’s to you, the best of our public educators

School has begun in many districts around Texas. The brand new elementary school just down the street from my wife and me in Princeton opens its doors tomorrow morning.

They’re still gussying up the grounds, getting ready to lay down the last of the sod. But … this blog post is aimed at saluting the teachers who will stand in classrooms at Dorothy Lowe Elementary School here in Princeton and in classrooms everywhere.

They are special in every meaningful definition of the word.

I want to salute them. I want to tell them out loud and in public through this forum how much I appreciate the work they do to care for our children, to teach them the lessons they must learn and to be there for them when they need emotional support.

My sons are middle-aged men now. But I do have a granddaughter attending elementary school in a nearby district. She loves school, and for that I am so grateful.

I have experienced just a bit of what these teachers have to do. You see, not long after my journalism career ended in 2012, I decided to become a substitute teacher. I applied for a position with the Amarillo Independent School District. I got accepted, passed the background check, attended an orientation session … and then went to work.

I learned something important about myself. It was that I am not wired for this line of work. Thus, my admiration for good teachers grew mightily as I dealt with the challenges the students threw at me on a daily basis.

I was told during the orientation that if students gave me too much grief, I could call the office and the staff would scurry to the classroom and remove the troublesome student or students. I was highly reluctant to make that call.

So, I suffered some of the indignities the students would throw at me. This occurred mostly at the high school level. The students seemed to know intuitively that the “sub” was in over his head.

Thus, my “career” as a substitute teacher didn’t last a school year. I couldn’t cope.

This is my way of saluting those teachers who do far more than “cope” with the kids. They teach them. They counsel them. They guide them on their path to productive adulthood.

They are the often-unsung heroes of contemporary society.

Therefore, I want to wish them all the very best as they meet the challenges that the students will present to them.

Godspeed to you all.

Amarillo ISD finds a bit of wisdom with name change

I have been beating up on the Amarillo Independent School District in recent months, but today I want to offer a good word or maybe three to the AISD Board of Trustees.

Trustees have voted unanimously to change the name of a school that carried the name of a Confederate general while serving a community comprising a significant population of African-American students.

Robert E. Lee Elementary School had been changed to Lee Elementary School. However, today the school’s name was changed to Park Hills Elementary School.

The irony of African-American students attending school carrying the name of a soldier who fought for the right of states to legalize slavery became too much, even for normally staid and reticent Amarillo, Texas. Lee led the Confederate forces against the Union during the Civil War.

So the board decided to change the name.

To which I want to offer a rhetorical high-five, a bouquet, a word of recognition for making the right decision, given the contentiousness that the issue of racial sensitivity — and a particularly grim chapter of our nation’s history — continues to engender.

Well done, Amarillo ISD trustees.