Tag Archives: TEA

School will be back … but should students and teachers return?

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has rung the 2020-21 school bell telling students, teachers and staff that classrooms will be open for the upcoming academic year.

Abbott shut down in-person class study this spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students kept current with their studies at home; our granddaughter and her older brother were two of them and, I should add, they did quite well studying at home.

Now what? Abbott’s back-to-school directive does give parents the flexibility to decide whether to send their children back to class.

As the Texas Tribune reports:

“It will be safe for Texas public school students, teachers, and staff to return to school campuses for in-person instruction this fall. But there will also be flexibility for families with health concerns so that their children can be educated remotely, if the parent so chooses,” said Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath.

When students return, school districts will not be required to mandate students wear masks or test them for COVID-19 symptoms, said Frank Ward, a spokesperson for the Texas Education Agency.

If I were King of the World, I most certainly would require masks and COVID-19 tests. I am not. I am just a concerned grandparent who wants to ensure that students, teachers and staff will be safe from becoming infected by a disease that could do them great harm.

Man, I hope Abbott knows what he’s doing. Texas is experiencing a serious spike in infection, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Yes, we want to return to what we like think is “normal” activity.

Given recent trends, I am just leery of sending young children back to school and instructing them to practice “social distancing.”

No, Mr. POTUS, do not encourage schools to reopen, too

Oh, Mr. President. There you go again. You don’t need to entice school boards or state governors or statewide educational officials to jump the gun and reopen public schools prior to the end of the current academic year.

Texas schools are closed for the rest of the year. They’ll reopen — we hope — when the 2020-21 school year is set to begin in August.

That’s not even a sure thing, given the rate of coronavirus infection we’re still experiencing.

But there you went again today, suggesting it would be all right with you if states want to reopen their school systems.

Forgive me for being blunt, Mr. President, but you’ve got a screw loose in that noggin of yours. You’re off your rocker. You seemingly are batsh** crazy ā€¦ but that’s just me speaking for myself.

Too many states have too many restrictions on the way we interact with each other. Social distancing is now the norm of the moment. How do we tell a kindergartner, or a first- or second-grader to stay at least six feet away from his or teacher or best friends?

My granddaughter is a bright first-grade student. I do not know how well, though, she would respond to directives to stay away from her two besties. I mean, the three of them are BFFs. They do everything together. Yes, she misses her pals, and they miss her. Now is not the time to let them back into the classroom together.

My hope is that we can keep the schools closed. The kids can continue to learn at home through lessons sent to them by their teachers. Our granddaughter is doing just fine under that circumstance.

Open the schools this academic year? Hah! That’s another good one, Mr. President ā€¦ except nothing you say makes me laugh except out of derision. Otherwise, you make me cringe.

School’s out … for the summer? Let’s hope so

There’s a shiny new elementary school in our Princeton, Texas, neighborhood. It opened this year, welcoming more than 400 students.

It’s been quiet at Dorothy Lowe School since spring break. The marquee in front of the school tells the kids that their teachers miss them and that they will see them on May 4.

I don’t think that’s a good idea.

You see, the school’s been closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Greg Abbott issued a recent order that keeps all Texas public schools closed until May 4. The closure affects about 5.4 million students, about 357,000 teachers and an untold number of administrative and support staff, vendors and contractors.

If I were King of the World, I’d say school should be out for the summer. The outbreak isn’t going to diminish in time for the doors to open in one month. Indeed, the greater Dallas/Fort Worth metro area is being identified as a possible new “hot spot” for the killer disease.

With that prospect possibly awaiting us, it is my considered opinion that Gov. Abbott ought to just order the schools closed for the duration of the 2019-20 academic year.

Independent school districts could just issue pass/fail grades to students and let the students who pass move on to the next grade.

The threat to students’ and teachers’ health and well-being is too great. They must not be exposed to the threat that continues to loom out there.

Spring break while WHO declares a pandemic among us? Well …

When someone speaks to me and asks that his or her comments are off the record, I will honor that request ā€¦ even when the individual tells me something of extreme significance.

That said, I spoke today with a Texas state legislator whose name will remain my secret. He told me was meeting in Austin with state education agency officials on the topic of the Covid-19 outbreak and its potential impact on the Texas public education system.

Get a load of this:

Millions of Texas students are on spring break this week; thousands of Texas teachers are on break, too. Many thousands of students, their families and teachers are going to travel abroad during this time. They will return home late this week and are slated to return to school next week.

This legislator is concerned about the impact that the Covid-19 will have on the system, namely whether it would be wise to allow students and teachers back into classrooms when they might potentially have been exposed abroad to those who are carrying the coronavirus germs.

Hmm. I asked the legislator: Do you think the Texas Education Agency is going to close our schools? This legislator doesn’t think so.

Here, though, is the question I would ask someone in authority: Wouldn’t it be prudent to close Texas’ public school system for two weeks to examine all those who traveled abroad to see if they had been exposed to coronavirus carriers and then extend the school year two weeks at the end of the academic year?

The World Health Organization today declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a pandemic, which means it’s beyond epidemic status, that it’s now a worldwide threat to potentially every human being on Earth. The virus is reported in 142 countries, killing more than 4,000 victims worldwide.

Italy has shut down. There might be more nations that follow the Italians’ lead. I don’t expect the United States of America to join them. Still, there well might be some drastic measures on tap to deal with those who ventured perhaps too close to where the coronavirus is doing its worst.

Big-time turnover on tap for Amarillo school board

Let’s see how this works out, but it looks to my eye as though the Amarillo Independent School District board is set for a potentially major shakeup.

The personnel lineup on the board is going to change this week.

Scott Flow didn’t seek re-election. Jim Austin and John Betancourt did seek new terms, but they lost in the election early this month. That means three incumbents on the seven-member board aren’t taking the oath for their new terms.

Then there’s this: There could be an AISD resignation coming up, which means four incumbents are out of the picture.

Why is this a big deal? Well, the board has been under the gun lately. Board members have been excoriated over the way they handled the resignation of a popular Amarillo High girls volleyball coach, who resigned after a single season at the helm of one of Texas’s top athletic programs.

It looks to me as though the school system is suffering from a possible leadership controversy. I won’t call it a crisis just yet, but it’s looking dicey at AISD.

The former coach quit while citing pressure from a parent who hassled over playing time decisions. The board didn’t back the coach. Neither did the administration. The board has kept its collective mouth shut, citing “personnel matter” as its reason. Meanwhile, the chatter is growing around the district.

The school system’s governing entity has not helped itself, or the system it governs.

An AISD constituent has filed a complaint with the Texas Education Agency — naming the offending parent as a member of the AISD board! Ohh, not good . . . you know? The whispering and tittering continues. Still, nothing from the board.

A “coalition” of parents who are demanding AISD transparency is now getting into the picture.

At minimum starting this week, the AISD board will have a significant minority of new faces and possibly clearer voices.

Or . . . there might be a new majority in the making.

I’m looking forward to seeing how all this plays out.

Amarillo school voters sending a message to district?

I awoke this morning in Collin County not knowing what to expect when I searched for results from Saturday’s vote results way up yonder in Amarillo.

Then I saw it: Two Amarillo school trustee incumbents lost their bids for re-election, which I hope means a potential change is in the works for the way the school board might clean up a mess it has on its hands.

Jim Austin and John Betancourt are out. Three newbies are joining the Amarillo Independent School District board of trustees: Dick Ford, Kimberly Anderson and Alonzo Everhart. I don’t know the new folks. Of the two incumbents who lost, I have met only one of them, Austin.

So, what gives?

The AISD election occurred in the midst of a mess created when an Amarillo High School girls volleyball coach, Kori Clements, resigned. She said a parent hassled her over playing time she was giving the parent’s daughters. Clements is an AHS grad, a product of the vaunted high school volleyball program. She quit after a single season. She also said the school board and the administration didn’t give her the backing she believes she deserved.

The school board hasn’t handled this situation well . . . at all! An AISD constituent filed a complaint with the Texas Education Association; a group of parents has formed to call for an “independent investigation” into one of the specific complaints filed by the constituent, that the offending parent is a member of the AISD school board.

The board has been silent on all of this.

Voters had their say Saturday night. They gave two incumbents the boot. I don’t know what was in the minds of voters who cast their ballots. I hope they were speaking on behalf of those observers who want more transparency and accountability from the school board and administration over this and other matters.

Here’s what I do know: The AISD board would do well to look inward and decide if it has handled this Kori Clements in the most up-front manner possible. If not, then it ought to change its ways. If it fails to do so, then another election cycle likely will continue the job of housecleaning that began this weekend.

AISD faces potential landmine

Amarillo Independent School District board members and senior administrators face a possible landmine or two unless they deal forthrightly with what I believe is a potentially serious ethics issue.

This will be the last comment I’ll make on this matter until — or unless — something significant occurs within the school district.

The Texas Education Agency has been made aware of a complaint filed by an Amarillo ISD constituent concerning the alleged conduct of a school board trustee and the role she might have played in the resignation of a popular high school girls volleyball coach.

The issue isn’t going away. TEA kicked the issue back to the district. It might consider possible action later, but the school district has to go through its normal personnel-related procedures.

At issue is the resignation of Kori Clements from her job as Amarillo High School Sandies girls volleyball coach. Clements said she didn’t get the support she deserved from the school board or the administration after a parent supposedly hassled her over playing time for the parent’s daughter. To worsen matters — as if it could get worse, given the anger that has roiled the community — AISD resident Marc Henson identified the parent as a school trustee, Renee McCown, who has remained quiet through all of this turmoil.

The board has some decisions to make. Does it remain quiet? Does it tell the offending parent — regardless of who it is — to no longer hassle an educator who is trying to do the best at his or her job? If the offending parent is a member of the board, how does the rest of the governing body deal with that?

I do not intend to sound any alarms here, but I do feel the need to remind AISD officials that they might be facing some serious blowback from TEA if they don’t solve what might be a serious dilemma. TEA has shown it is capable of inflicting serious punishment on public school systems.

I once worked in Beaumont. I left that community in early 1995, but not long after I departed the Golden Triangle, TEA took over a floundering school district; it dismissed the school board and the superintendent and installed caretakers who managed the school system until it righted itself. The issues there dealt with serious fiscal malfeasance.

I don’t detect such misbehavior with the Amarillo situation. I do sense there might be an issue regarding ethical conduct that needs the district’s attention.

A citizens group has formed to seek an outside investigation into what might have occurred to force a high school coach to resign, causing considerable community anxiety and downright anger.

TEA officials must be concerned, given that they already are aware of one complaint.

Amarillo school officials must respond in some meaningful manner to the concerns that have arisen. They surely won’t like the possible “or else” that could come later.

With that . . . I am out.

AISD coach-resignation tempest picks up steam

Oh, brother. The Amarillo Independent School District plot is thickening.

An Amarillo High School girls volleyball coach quits, citing parental interference into the job she was doing. She chastises the school board and administrators for failing to back her up. The board accepts her resignation. A resident files a complaint with the Texas Education Agency, which kicks the issue back to AISD.

Now a group of parents has formed a coalition and is demanding and outside probe into the mess that continues to sully the AISD athletic program, the board of trustees, its senior administration and, most sadly, the children who are caught in the middle of it all.

Kori Clements quit the vaunted AHS volleyball coaching post after a single season. Marc Henson’s complaint with the TEA named AISD trustee Renee McCown as the offending parent.

Now comes a group called the Parents for Transparency Coalition. It wants an outsider to look into what happened. Did the parent named in the TEA complaint do what has been alleged? If it was the trustee, why did the board allow her to interfere in an unethical manner? Why did the administration, led by then-interim and now permanent Superintendent Doug Loomis fail to support Clements?

I believe those are fair questions. They need answers. AISD has shown a maddening reluctance to speak to these matters in any meaningful way. Its silence likely has infuriated residents who are angry over the coach’s resignation and the reasons she stated for quitting her job.

I continue to watch drama play out from afar.

What’s next? I understand that TEA might review the complaint from Henson after the issue jumps through the normal hoops at AISD; TEA said it lacked “jurisdiction” until the school district had a chance to review the issue at hand.

As for the coalition, its founders — Tom and Kathy Tortero — tell KFDA NewsChannel 10 that they intend to act professionally while they seek “every legal remedy at our disposal” to get to the bottom of why Kori Clements quit what was thought to be a dream job.

I believe this story is a long way to go before we get to the end.

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.Ā 

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.

‘Plague’ in inappropriate student-teacher relationships?

Texas legislators are seeking to do something that, to be honest, I am surprised hasn’t been done already.

They want to make it illegal forĀ school administratorsĀ to fail to report incidents of improper student-teacher relationships. Really? It’s not illegal already? I guess not.

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt has collected the support of all 30 of his Senate colleagues in proposing legislation that would make failure to report such hideous behavior a Class A misdemeanor. To be honest, the level of criminality seems light.

As the Texas Tribune reports: “Bettencourt said that many of the teachers involved in such conduct are able to beĀ rehired in other districts, a phenomenon knownĀ as ‘pass the trash,’ because districts fail to report them to the Texas Education Agency. The bill seeks to end that practice by slapping a Class A misdemeanor onĀ administrators whoĀ fail to report such relationships, and if it is an intentional cover-up, administrators could be charged with a state jail felony.”

Has this circumstance reached “plague” status? I am not qualified to answer that question. Yes, we’ve read about such ghastly behavior in some of our Texas Panhandle school systems. Teachers have been fired; they have faced criminal charges. What isn’t generally reported here is whether administrators have kept their eyes closed to it, or if they have deliberately covered it up.

An administrator who purposely protects a teacher who has been romancing a student ought to lose his or her job and should be prosecuted and, if convicted, thrown in prison for contributing to the sexual abuse of children.

No more “passing the trash,” legislators.