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Six finalists named for vacant AISD school board seats

Six finalists have been named to interview for the two vacant seats on the Amarillo ISD Board of Trustees. The finalists are former school board member John Betancourt, former Amarillo Mayor Debra McCartt, Kayla Mendez, Claudia Stewart, Bradley Phillips, and David Nance.

“We’ve identified the candidates so our next step will be identifying days and times to interview those candidates We will proceed with the interviews and we will make a decision and we’ll announce that decision at a board meeting," AISD school board president Robin Malone said.

The seats were vacated with the recent resignations of John Ben Blanchard and Renee McCown. McCown's resignation came under a cloud of controversy concerning the resignation of Amarillo High volleyball coach Kori Clements.

“As I leave AISD, I look forward to having more time to spend with my family and focus on new volunteer interests for the betterment of our community.

"I hope the timing of my resignation helps the board to combine the process for the appointment of both my and Trustee Blanchard’s replacements," McCown said in her resignation letter.

AISD Board Trustee Dick Ford commented about McCown's resignation on The Parent For Transparency Coalition Facebook page.

“I had stated that I would look into the “Coach quitting issue” to determine if I thought an independent investigation should take place after I was elected and sworn in as a board member.

"I now have had conversations with the administration. I have gotten to know Mrs. McCown. I have reviewed the file and I have had conversations with Mrs. McCowan. I am now convinced that there is no need for an independent investigation.

"I now know that the administration and Mrs. McCowan did nothing wrong involving the coach. I also feel that Mrs. McCowan has been unfairly chastised.

"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,” Ford wrote on Facebook.

Tom Tortoreo, the administrator for the Parents for Transparency Coalition Facebook page, responded to Ford's remarks.

“Dick Ford is quoted as saying that ‘Renee McCown could not defend herself because she would have broken state laws.’ It is a very simple question; what state laws would she have broken?

"We hear constantly that there is another side of the story but we never hear that side of the story.

"So, from a coalition standpoint, we don’t believe her stepping down, Ms. McCown stepping down, is the solution," Tortoreo wrote.

Dr. Marc Henson, an Amarillo High School alumni, filed a formal complaint with the Texas Education Agency against the Amarillo ISD school board. Henson specifically claims that McCown, used her position in an attempt to influence coaching decisions and playing time for her own daughters on the AHS volleyball team.

Henson stated in his complaint that McCown used "her position of power to benefit her two high school daughters" and "when that was no longer tolerated, she used her influence for retaliation."

"I'd like to see them review what's happened, find out more, and then give us some kind of feedback about the nature of this. Right now it doesn't look very good. It looks like we have a, like I said, a district that can not police itself.

“I want a district where my children are not going to have to be competing against other kids whose parents have some sort of power or privilege. I want my kids to go through school in a normal fashion. I want their accomplishments to be their own, and I don’t want people to be mingling with what they’re doing or giving some outside influence. I want a district where there’s some civility," Henson said.

Kori Clements resigned from the AHS head volleyball coach after only one season.

“For a variety of reasons, I have recently resigned from my position as AHS volleyball coach, effective at the end of my contract. I want to be clear, I have not violated any district or UIL standards, and have upheld the teacher code of ethics at all times.

“As a coach, playing time decisions are always difficult. Unfortunately, upon making these decisions in the best interest of team success, I was not supported by athletic, campus, or district administration.

"I was told by campus administration that I needed to recognize the political aspect of my job, and also of theirs. I cannot and will not compromise the integrity of my decisions based on a parent’s political pressure or position.

"I believe strongly in the value of athletics, that being a part of a team is a privilege, and playing time is earned," Clements said at the time of her resignation.

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