Tag Archives: Renee McCown

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.

A pending AISD resignation is bound to roil the community

News does travel quickly.

I got word way down yonder in Collin County that an Amarillo Independent School District trustee who’s been implicated in an ongoing controversy in the district is resigning.

The school board is meeting on Thursday and one of the agenda items to be considered is whether to accept the resignation of trustee Renee McCown. This is a very big deal, folks. I now will explain why. Bear with me as I repeat a little of what is known already.

An Amarillo High School girls volleyball coach, Kori Clements, resigned earlier in the school year after a single season. She said in her resignation letter that a parent was hassling her over playing time she was giving the parent’s daughters. Clements said in her resignation that the board and the administration failed to back her.

The board accepted the coach’s resignation without comment after hearing from a number of AISD constituents who were displeased with the way the coach was treated. I heard the complaints first hand, as I attended that meeting.

Then came a complaint filed by an AISD constituent with the Texas Education Agency that named the offending parent: McCown, a trustee on the school board.

McCown has been silent on the allegation. So has the rest of the board. Superintendent Doug Loomis did issue a statement denying the allegation against McCown, although the statement offered virtually no specifics.

So now it appears that McCown is out. She leaves on the heels of the resignation of another trustee, John Ben Blanchard, and after two other trustees — John Betancourt and Jim Austin — lost their re-election bids in early May. A fifth incumbent, Scott Flow, did not seek a new term.

That means the board soon will have five new faces out of seven members on its body.

What does that mean in terms of the school system’s controversy? I haven’t a clue. If the board accepts McCown’s resignation, it will cleanse itself — not to mention the district — of an odorous chapter in its recent history.

The implication that a school trustee would interfere in the performance of a staffer’s duties is the kind of thing that needs to be dealt with openly. The AISD board has been stone-cold silent, citing “personnel policy” for its reticence. That silence has failed to serve the district, its constituents, its students, its faculty, administrators and, yes, even its trustees well.

I’ve noted already that I do not know Renee McCown, although I do wish her well as she prepares to leave local politics.

But there’s a stern and unmistakable lesson to be learned here. It is that elected officials are “hired” by their constituents to set educational policy. These officials are not elected to butt in where they don’t belong.

TEA kicks complaint against AISD back to Amarillo

Well, isn’t this just a kick in the booty?

The Texas Education Agency has said it lacks jurisdiction to hear a complaint filed by an Amarillo resident against the Amarillo Independent School District.

At issue is a complaint by Marc Henson, who alleges that a member of the AISD school board acted unethically by harassing a former Amarillo High School girls volleyball coach. Kori Clements quit as Sandies coach after a single season. In her resignation letter, she blamed it on interference from a parent who griped to her about playing time given to her daughter, a member of the Sandies volleyball team.

Henson went further. He named the parent: AISD trustee Renee McCown. 

So, what now? TEA officials said the complaint needs to be filed with the AISD itself. The school board and the superintendent must consider it before the TEA will consider it.

Henson told KFDA NewsChannel 10 that his fight isn’t over. He said he will seek a solution to what he has called unethical conduct.

I happen to agree with the gentleman. He has spoken on behalf of many AISD constituents who are concerned that a young coach of a vaunted high school athletic program would quit, citing parental interference and a lack of support from the school board and the AISD administration.

This decision by the TEA appears on its face to be a temporary pause in the effort to seek answers and solutions to avoid the kind of meddlesome behavior that Henson has alleged. If so, then Henson will need to stay the course.

I hope he does.