Wednesday marks the end of the filing period for hopefuls who would like to be considered to fill a vacant seat on the Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees. Filling a seat on a government board always seems like a daunting task, but this one is of even more significance, as trustees are looking to replace James Allen, the longtime trustee on the board who recently resigned from his post.
Replacing Allen will be no easy feat. Allen leaves behind an impressive resume on the board, as the only consistent fighter for all communities in Amarillo. Often times, Allen was the only trustee who was willing to venture to neighborhoods like North and East Amarillo to hear constituents with concerns. While trustee John Betancourt has since take on the same task, Allen was the pioneer of communication in the Amarillo Independent School District. And, while other trustees have pretended to listen to every community, Allen made that duty a reality.
This will not be an ordinary appointment by any means. While I have no plans to put my name in contention, as a citizen, taxpayer and voter in Amarillo, I would like to offer the Amarillo Independent School District board a few suggestions of the qualities I would like the next trustee to have.
First, I want the next trustee to have a commitment to fiscal responsibility in Amarillo. During the last board meeting I sat in for this board, I could not believe the lack of economic literacy that some trustees possess. When challenged on certain issues, I saw frantic excuses and just outright disappointing reasoning given for particular votes.
The next trustee should be someone who understands the meaning of a dollar. Amarillo deserves a trustee who understands how to operate an organization that lives within its means, while taking care of the things that need to be taken care of first.
Secondly, I want a trustee to be committed to all of Amarillo. It's a real problem when the majority of the board resides in southwest Amarillo and is never willing to venture farther north than downtown. The Amarillo Independent School District features schools in multiple areas, each with different challenges. It's time for the trustees on the board to venture beyond their comfort zones to truly understand the issues facing teachers, parents, faculty, students and taxpayers in every single neighborhood.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we need a trustee who is willing to work within the district. What I mean by this statement is that Amarillo needs a trustee with a commitment to bipartisanship. The next trustee should have commitment to working with every single person who comes to the board with an issue. Whether teachers, parents, students or taxpayers, every person should be heard and respected in government meetings.
During the last meeting I attended for this board, I witnessed the majority of trustees blow off comments made by several members of the community, including elected officials from North Amarillo. This just shouldn't be the conduct of our trustees. The school board should be a place where accountability is encouraged, not where actions are made without regard for the community as a whole.
It's time for our trustees to start listening to the entire community, instead of only listening to special interest groups and donors.
Once again, I will praise the conduct of trustees John Betancourt and John Ben Blanchard as actually listening to members of the community. But, the above mentioned points are issues that should be focused on by not only the new trustee, but by all of the trustees. While I have witnessed Betancourt exhibiting these characteristics, it is my belief that Amarillo's other trustees could benefit from a lesson in leadership.
These are just a few of my thoughts on the board. I look forward to watching the process play out and hope that you will check back with the Amarillo Pioneer for information on this important appointment process.
-Thomas Warren III, Editor-in-Chief