Tag Archives: Canyon 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?

City’s face is changing

AMARILLO, Texas — Returning on occasion to a city my wife and I called home for 23 years always is a treat in one important regard.

Every time I come back to Amarillo, I see development that was non-existent on previous visits. My latest foray to the unofficial capital of the Texas Panhandle provided a glaring example of what I mean.

We lived in far southwest Amarillo, in a neighborhood that served the Canyon Independent School District. I ventured to the old ‘hood to look at the house we had built in late 1996. The new residents are taking good care of the place. I drove down Hillside Road and saw strip malls galore that weren’t there just a few years ago. I ventured along Loop 335 and saw more of the same. Coulter Street is bustling, man.

I noticed construction of the new “loop” is well underway. Crews have erected overpasses and are moving many tons of dirt around.

A movie theater that once entertained crowds north of Interstate 40 is closed; that’s a downer, but then again, it’s probably a sign of the new era of “streaming.”

My son and I went out to the Town Square development for a night cap the other evening and it, too, has come a long way.

The fire department has erected a new station next door to the hotel where I am staying on Paramount Boulevard. Therefore, I am confident that firefighters would respond rapidly in case of well … emergency.

I ventured downtown to take care of some personal business and noticed that the parking garage across the street from the ballpark where the Sod Poodles play hardball is still virtually empty. There has been next to zero retail occupancy declared along all those storefronts. That, too, is a drag.

But the downtown district looks alive and well. The Barfield Hotel looks like a gem of a restoration project.

And so … the once moribund burg where I worked and offered opinions on issues of the day for the newspaper, appears to be in good health. That makes me happy.

Oh, the newspaper? The Amarillo Globe-News? Well, that’s another story for another day. It is pitiful.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

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.

Canyon ISD does the (seemingly) impossible

My jaw dropped when I saw this story on Amarillo.com — the online version of the Amarillo Globe-News: The Canyon Independent School District Board of Trustees has approved a budget that will decrease the tax rate for CISD constituents for the upcoming fiscal year.

What? Huh? How in the world?

I lived in the Canyon ISD for more than two decades. Most of that time I owned a home in southwest Amarillo. The Canyon district reaches into the southernmost portions of Amarillo. I don’t recall ever benefitting from a tax decrease from the governmental entity that comprises the largest portion of property owners’ tax bill.

This is a good deal.

I want to cheer the Canyon public school system that I used to support with my property tax money. It’s not every day when government can make such an announcement.

It’s not that dislike paying taxes. I know they are an essential part of financing the myriad duties we demand of our government. I don’t mind paying federal taxes, or college taxes, or city and county taxes ÔÇŽ or public school district taxes.

The good news for my wife and me is that we’re old enough to quality for a Texas homestead exemption that freezes our tax burden.

Still, the news out of Canyon ISD puts a smile on my mug. CISD managed to give its teachers a raise, build a new school, maintain and hopefully improve existing campuses ÔÇŽ and decrease the tax burden on the residents who foot the bill.

CISD board president Bruce Cobb called the decrease a “momentous” occasion. That might be a bit of an overstatement ÔÇŽ but not by much.

Vote early for city election? No thanks … I’ll wait

Social media are buzzing with pleas from the bevy of Amarillo City Council, Amarillo College, and Amarillo school board candidates for residents to vote early.

I am not taking the bait. Per my custom, I am going to wait until May 6, Election Day.

I’m a sucker for tradition. I’d even call it a bit of pageantry. I like going to the polling place on Election Day to chat with other voters. There won’t be a huge crowds at my polling place, which usually is at Arden Road Baptist Church. There won’t be much chance to hobnob with other folks about having to wait in long lines … blah, blah, blah.

I’ll wait, though, to make my statement.

I’ve made up my mind for the City Council. I’m getting closer to deciding how I intend to vote for Amarillo College’s Board of Regents. I live in the Canyon Independent School District, but there’s no election, given that no one filed to challenge the incumbents who serve on the CISD board.

My reason for waiting, though, is a bit more, um, sinister.

I don’t want to be surprised in the final 10 days of a campaign by something seriously negative coming out about the candidate for whom I have┬ácast my vote. Thus, I wait until the last day.

The City Council campaign is beginning to produce a smattering of negativity, to which I’ve alluded already in this forum. I’m a bit annoyed at the naysayers who keep yapping about how much money is being spent for an office that pays a lousy 10 bucks per public meeting.

Big bleeping deal?

My slate of City Council candidates looks solid to me. I’m sticking with them.

I trust they’ll understand that I intend to wait a few more days before making my ballot-box statement.

It’s dangerous to take anything — or anyone — for granted.

Taking the path of least resistance

This clearly is a minority view in this part of Texas, but I’ll offer it anyway.

The Amarillo Independent School District is taking the easy route in selecting its next superintendent. Why? It’s looking only at internal candidates, individuals already employed by the school district. The neighboring Canyon ISD, though, also is searching for a superintendent. CISD’s strategy is more comprehensive; it is looking nationally.

Of the two, CISD is challenging its board of trustees to work harder to look for the right man or woman to lead the school district.

AISD Superintendent Rod Schroder is retiring this summer, as is CISD Superintendent Mike Wartes. Both of them served their respective school districts well before climbing to the top spots.

But why is AISD choosing to look only in-house? I guess the school board believes it has a sufficient pool of potential candidates already on the payroll. I also presume the school board likes the direction the district is taking. It doesn’t particularly welcome new perspective, new outlook, a fresh set of administrative principles.

That’s their call.

I believe it is fair to ask whether a national search could introduce some new ideas to the district. Moreover, why not encourage such an influx of new thoughts and direction?

The best candidate to succeed Schroder well might already be on board at AISD. Why not, then, subject that candidate to a rigorous competition, making that individual work even harder to win the endorsement of the trustees who’ll make the hiring decision?

CISD is taking that route. Good for the Canyon trustees.

As for AISD, choose well.

School board elections matter, too

I think I’ve been scolded by a couple of followers of this blog for an apparent error of omission.

I posted a blog about the importance of municipal elections and then was reminded that, yep, school board elections matter just as much as those that elect city representatives.

https://highplainsblogger.com/2015/03/14/why-do-these-elections-matter/

I stand corrected.

The blog noted that local elections determine how much we pay for essential local government services. It also took note of an important public affairs program — “Live Here” — being broadcast soon on Panhandle PBS about the upcoming local elections.

School board elections, of course, allow us to choose people who set local educational policy that has a direct impact on our children’s education. Allow me to include community college board elections as well; Amarillo College also will elect regents in May and they, too, play critical roles in setting higher education policy here at home.

Lest we forget, in Texas the largest single line item in our property tax statement every year is for public education. That’s how it is in our home, where the Canyon Independent School District tax obligation is by far the largest single property tax we pay annually.

The thesis of the earlier blog post remains intact: Local elections matter the most to us and we need to pay careful attention to the people we want representing us at City Hall — and on educational boards.

Courthouse building: opportunity or eyesore?

I ventured recently to Canyon, Texas to interview a West Texas A&M University professor on a project for Panhandle PBS.

And as I usually do when I venture to the Randall County seat, I drove briefly around the Courthouse Square.

There it was. The old 1909 Courthouse building. All dolled up. The yard was manicured. The clock tower was keeping time. The building was nice and shiny. The windows were clean.

Then I looked closely at the windows from my car and noticed the interior was dark. Still. Not a thing going on in there — that I could see.

I keep wondering: What is going to happen to that building?

Randall County vacated that structure years ago. Commissioners Court has moved across the street into what used to be the old county jail. Virtually the rest of the government structure has moved a few blocks east to the Justice Center, which once was home to a Wal-Mart.

County Judge Ernie Houdashell told me a few years ago he was trying to swing a deal. With whom, he didn’t say. He just would tell me that some folks are interested in moving into the building.

It’s also interesting that the Randall County website features the old courthouse structure on his home page.

http://www.randallcounty.org/

Houdashell is a wheeler and dealer par excellence. I wish him well in his search for a worthy tenant. I have a few guesses on who or what might move in there. The Canyon Economic Development Corp. comes to mind. So does Canyon City Hall. I once thought the Canyon Independent School District might be interested, then CISD built that new office complex at the north end of town.

It’s just a shame to see a building with a┬árenovated exterior paid for with historical preservation grant┬áfunds and local tax money┬ájust sitting there. Empty. Waiting for someone to turn on the lights.

It’s too pretty a structure to┬áremain vacant.

When did state impose property tax?

State Sen. Dan Patrick is making some grand promises as he runs for Texas lieutenant governor.

One of them involves his vow to cut property taxes for homeowners if he gets elected next year. Thanks for making the promise, senator. How are you going to deliver on it?

http://www.texastribune.org/2013/10/23/in-new-tv-spot-patrick-says-hellcut-property-taxes/

His new TV ad doesn’t spell out how the lieutenant governor — who presides over the Texas Senate — can cut property taxes.

I watched the ad and pulled out my latest property tax statement from the Randall County Tax Collector-Assessor’s Office. Here’s what I noticed:

I pay taxes to the City of Amarillo, Amarillo College, Randall County, the Canyon Independent School District and the Randall High Plains Water District. Locally elected boards and commissions set every one of those rates. State law allows me to exempt $15,000 of my home value from CISD taxes, for which I am grateful. I’ll be able to freeze my property taxes when I turn 65, which is just around the corner. I thank the state for that, too.

Patrick, one of four major Republicans seeking the lieutenant governor’s job, offers a tantalizing sound bite in his latest ad. I’m waiting, though, to hear just how he intends to usurp local governing authorities’ power to reduce my property taxes.

Maybe he believes the lieutenant governor’s is even more powerful than everyone thought.