Tag Archives: Texas Education Agency

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.┬áIf 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.

Students are the real victims in this coaching controversy

I’ll admit it: I cannot let go of the story that has roiled the Amarillo Independent School District athletic community.

An Amarillo High girls volleyball coach quit after a single season at the helm of one of the state’s most vaunted athletic programs. She was critical of the school board and the administration for what she said was a lack of support for the coach who alleged she was hassled by a parent over the playing time the coach was giving to the parent’s daughters who played volleyball for the Sandies.

I won’t get into the individuals alleged to be involved here. I do want to echo a comment made to me on social media about the collateral damage that has been inflicted by this matter.

It likely has damaged the student-athletes who play for the high school. They have been whipsawed by the tension that has gripped the AISD athletic program. They are caught in the glare of a community that has been looking a lot more closely at the program and how a future girls volleyball coach is going to respond to the tension.

The daughters of the parent who allegedly hassled the coach, of course, are the primary victims of this collateral damage. None of this would seem to be fair to them. I don’t know the girls. For that matter, I don’t know the parent who reportedly hassled and harangued the former Sandies coach.

But I do know how these matters potentially play out. I also have beliefs on how the governing body ought to respond. The AISD school board hasn’t responded well to date, as near as I can tell.

Trustees’ silence is not doing anyone any good.

I managed to attend the school board meeting when the resignation of the former coach, Kori Clements, was accepted by the board. I heard the testimony of a couple of the Sandies players who spoke in support of their coach. I am absolutely certain they were hurt by what transpired.

Those student-athletes’ needs to be considered by the school board and the administration as they move forward.

Yes, the damage has been done. It need not fester.

AISD should prepare for a new school board majority

Here’s the latest from the Amarillo Independent School District: AISD Trustee John Ben Blanchard has resigned, citing the need to spend more time with his family.

What does this mean, then, for a school district in turmoil at the moment? It means the board will have a new majority replacing four trustees who stood by while a popular high school volleyball coach resigned and laid the responsibility for her resignation at the feet of the board and senior administration.

Three new trustees have taken their seats; two of them replace incumbents who lost their re-election bids earlier this month, while a third trustee succeeds an incumbent who didn’t run for a new term. Now it’s John Ben Blanchard who’s heading for the exit. It falls on the board to find a suitable replacement.

At issue, of course, is how the board reacted to the resignation of Kori Clements, the former head girls volleyball coach at Amarillo High School. She quit after a single season and said a parent — allegedly a member of the board — hassled her over her daughters’ playing time.

The board has remained stone-cold silent on it, citing some sort of personnel policy requirement that compels trustees to clam up.

I will continue to argue for as long as I feel like it that the board needs to deal far more forthrightly with the questions being asked in the community.

One constituent filed a complaint with the Texas Education Agency, which declared it lacks jurisdiction and kicked it back to the AISD. The new superintendent, Doug Loomis, has issued a letter denying the complaint that the constituent leveled, while avoiding any specific explanation of what transpired between the former coach and the offending parent. That’s not good enough, Mr. Superintendent.

A group called the Coalition of Parents for Transparency has formed and is demanding answers, too.

The board is still quiet.

One question the board might ask applicants to fill Blanchard’s seat ought to deal with how they feel about the tumult that roiled the AISD athletic community.

Will the new majority see fit to put these questions to rest? AISD’s constituents should hope it does.

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.

Welcome to the fire pit, AISD’s new superintendent

Amarillo’s public school board has done it, hiring Doug Loomis as the school district’s newest superintendent.

I’ll concede up front that I do not know Loomis. I hope he does a good job. I also believe the Amarillo Independent School District should have looked beyond its administrative staff to find a new head educator. It didn’t. School trustees relied on the quality of the in-house hands to provide them with a quality applicant.

So, it’s Doug Loomis — the lone finalist for the superintendent post — who gets to step into the fire pit.

He inherits a job fraught with potential trouble. You see, the school board is under considerable community scrutiny over the resignation of an Amarillo High School girls volleyball coach who quit while complaining about parental interference into the way she did her job. Kori Clements said the board and the administration did not give her adequate support as she sought to fend off what she said was harassment from the interfering parent.

Indeed, Loomis was serving as acting superintendent when Clements quit one of Texas’s most vaunted athletic programs after just a single season as head coach. It was on his watch, therefore, that this matter blew apart.

To make matters worse, an Amarillo ISD resident — Marc Henson — has filed a complaint with the Texas Education Agency. What’s more, Henson has identified the person who allegedly interfered with Coach Clements’ duties: school trustee Renee McCown.

The new superintendent answers to the board. This person is the only individual the board hires directly. Loomis will work for a board that has drawn considerable community anger over its handling of the Clements matter. He will walk the finest line possible.

I hope Loomis finds it within himself to counsel his bosses that they must remain acutely mindful that they are elected to set educational policy and not to monkey around with the way educators are doing their job. Trustees presumably hired him because they trust his judgment as he gives them his best advice and counsel. The community well could get a good look at how far that trust extends.

Not only must they be mindful, they must do only what they are empowered to do.

So . . . good luck, Doug Loomis.

Resign from AISD board, Mme. Trustee

You are entitled to call me an interloper, an outsider, a peanut-gallery spectator if you wish, but I want to get this off my chest right now: Renee McCown, a member of the Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees, needs to resign her seat and disappear from school politics.

I’ll now get this off my chest as well. I am not an entirely nosy outsider. I lived and worked in Amarillo for 23 years. I spent most of those years commenting on public school affairs from my post as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. Yes, I’ve moved away, but I retain a deep interest in the affairs of the community.

McCown has been named in a complaint filed by an Amarillo ISD constituent, Marc Henson, who has submitted his gripes to the Texas Education Agency. He has accused McCown of acting unethically by pressuring a former Amarillo High School girls volleyball coach, Kori Clements, into giving her daughter more playing time. McCown reportedly was unhappy that her children weren’t getting enough time on the court and told Clements to do better by her daughters.

Clements quit the vaunted AHS Sandies program after a single season and accused the board and the AISD administration of failing to give her the backing she needed to do her job as an educator.

If this is true, and I believe the accusations are credible, then the trustee has committed a serious ethical breach of conduct by interfering in the duties of an educator who answers to administrative staff and to the board of trustees.

Is McCown actually guilty of what has been alleged? I don’t know. I do know that she hasn’t spoken out publicly on the matter. Her silence — along with the silence of her board colleagues and administrators — speaks volumes about what Henson has alleged in his complaint to the TEA.

There have no denials. No responses of any sort.

I happened to be in Amarillo recently and I had the pleasure of attending an AISD board meeting in which Clements’ resignation was the topic of the evening. Several school system constituents admonished the board for its conduct in the matter. They scolded trustees and administrators for failing to give Clements the support she deserved.

I was struck by the amazing body language of trustees. Several of them — including Renee McCown — refused to look their “accusers” in the eye. They all kept their heads down, looking at something on the dais in front of them.

It was an off-putting display of arrogance, not to mention cowardice. It also appeared to my eyes to be highly instructive of what was being said to them directly by the people whose taxes pay for operation of the public school system.

I do not know Renee McCown. However, I know enough about this story to make a couple of presumptions.

  • Her standing is likely damaged beyond repair, given what has been discussed openly and what has been alleged officially at the agency that governs public education in Texas.
  • It will be impossible for her to continue functioning effectively as a steward of Amarillo’s public school system, given all that has transpired to date.

She needs to resign. Moreover, a public apology to the coach and to her constituents would be in order as well.

It should hit the fan at Amarillo ISD . . . but will it?

A high school volleyball coach’s stunning resignation is continuing to reverberate around the Amarillo Independent School District.

Indeed, the coach’s resignation has now gone to the Texas Education Agency, which has received a complaint from an angry AISD constituent who is accusing the school board and the administration of unethical conduct.

Hold on, folks. This might get rough. Indeed, it should.

Kori Clements resigned as Amarillo High School’s volleyball coach after just one season. She cited parental interference into the way she was parceling out playing time. She said in her resignation letter that the school board and administration failed to give her the backing she deserved.

She quit one of the state’s premier volleyball programs after a single season. Clements, a 2006 AHS graduate, walked away.

Are you still with me? Here’s the fun part.

Marc Henson, an AISD constituent and the parent of future AHS students, has filed a complaint with the TEA. He names AISD trustee Renee McCown specifically as the parent who interfered with the coach’s playing-time decisions, which reportedly affected McCown’s two daughters.

Henson said he wants McCown to resign from the board. He also believes the allegations against her are credible. He also believes the administration is complicit, along with the board, in fomenting what he calls unethical conduct.

I have tried to soft-pedal the alleged involvement of a particular trustee in this mess. Marc Henson’s complaint has more or less blown the lid off the matter.

According to KFDA NewsChannel 10: The complaint alleges Renee McCown, an AISD school board trustee, spoke with the former coach privately about her decisions, athletes and playing times on the volleyball team, specifically targeting her two daughters.

What he is alleging here is a serious breach of ethical conduct on the part of an elected public official. That a member of the AISD board would meddle into the coaching decisions of an educator is reprehensible on its face. What we well might have witnessed is a case of coercion and intimidation that has no place in public education — at any level.

What’s more is that the school board has remained silent about it. It hides behind some policy that mutes the board because we are dealing with a “personnel matter.”

Henson wants the TEA to invoke some form of punishment against the Amarillo public school system — presuming the allegations prove true.

This saga has some way to go before it finishes playing out.

My hope is that the TEA gives this complaint serious attention.

Bushland ISD ought to start over with search

I almost couldn’t believe what I read: Bushland Independent School District is about to hire a superintendent whose previous district is facing potentially severe sanctions from the Texas Education Agency.

Bushland ISD, just west of Amarillo, has for years been a district on the move — in the right direction. It has experienced tremendous growth; just a few years ago it opened a high school.

Then when a vacancy occurred at BISD’s top administrative job with the announcement that Superintendent Dan Wood wanted to retire, school trustees started looking for a new superintendent. You’d think BISD would be able to have its pick of top administrators.

Then it selected Chris Wigington, superintendent of Big Spring ISD, as its lone finalist for the Bushland job.

Now we hear that Big Spring has struggled academically and that it has what is reported as “failing campuses.” TEA reportedly is about to slap some sanctions on Big Spring ISD.

This begs the question: Can Bushland do better than this in searching for a superintendent? I believe it can.

I also believe it should.

How are they going to find that kind of dough?

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Stories like this pique my interest partly because I once was part of this community, and also because I wonder about the nature of the judgment handed down by the court.

Here’s the summary: A Jefferson County, Texas, judge has ordered two former Beaumont Independent School District administrators to pay the district $4 million apiece in funds they admitted to embezzling.

http://www.beaumontenterprise.com/news/article/Ex-Beaumont-ISD-officials-ordered-to-pay-back-4-7397631.php

Devin McCraney once served as┬áBISD’s chief financial officer and Sharrika Allison was the district’s comptroller. I don’t know either of them, as they came on board long after my wife and I left Beaumont in January 1995.

District Judge Milton Shuffield ordered the two of them to pay $4 million each, plus another $93,000 in interest.

Here’s what makes me scratch my head.

I worked for nearly 37 years in daily journalism. I made a decent salary during a good bit of my working life. My combined salary over the course of my entire career never even came close to a fraction of the amount of money assessed by the judge in this embezzlement case.

How does the judge expect these individuals to pay back the money?

Did they pocket the money somewhere in a secret place? Will they be able to just hand it over once they uncover it?

I guess I should note that both of them received prison sentences, which took them out of the work force for several years.

I don’t know what these individuals earned while working for BISD, which has fallen on extremely hard times in recent years. The state education agency swooped in and took over day-to-day management of the district. Its former superintendent, Carroll Thomas, “retired” after helping steer the district into the tumult that resulted in the state takeover.

Now a district judge has ordered these two former administrators to repay the district millions of dollars.

I’m a layman watching this story from afar. How does that work?