Amarillo ISD Trustees have named the finalists for two vacant seats on the school board. From a field of roughly fourteen candidates, six finalists have been selected to advance on as the school board looks to replace John Ben Blanchard and Renee McCown.
First, I want to thank the eight other candidates who applied but were not selected. You all deserve praise for putting your names in the hat and I hope you will consider running for the board in 2021, or even consider running for a seat on the City Council or Amarillo College Board of Regents in that cycle. Whatever you decide to do, please stay engaged, informed, and committed to the community.
Now, to the finalists.
Trustees named Claudia Stuart, Bradley Phillips, David Nance, and Kayla Mendez as finalists, along with former AISD Trustee John Betancourt and former Amarillo Mayor Debra McCartt. This batch of candidates presents an interesting opportunity for AISD Trustees. In some ways, the group represents both a look into the future and a look into the past. Obviously, Betancourt and McCartt are past elected officials, Stuart is a past applicant, and Phillips, Nance, and Mendez are newcomers. Does this mean any one of these candidates has an advantage over the other? Nope…or, at least, let’s hope not.
One finalist who concerns me is Mayor McCartt. I have met the Mayor in passing and can’t speak to her personality or character. However, I can speak as to her record, which troubles me. During Mayor McCartt’s time in office, I can recall constant battles at City Hall over everything from design standards to zoning. Disagreements happen all the time, but at some point, it should be the responsibility of the elected official or officials to step in and build a consensus and unify the community. In the eyes of this writer, that is something that 2009-2011 City Commission failed to do. Voters also seemed to feel this way when they voted in the Potter County Judge’s race in 2014, leaving McCartt to place third in a five-candidate field, while still running an expensive and high-profile campaign.
What does that mean for AISD? Maybe nothing. However, it should be noted that the climate around the school board right now is certainly not a united one. The new school board seems to be marching to the sound of the same drum, but many residents still seem to be unhappy with the movement of the school board. Whoever will sit in one of the two vacant seats come appointment time must be able and willing to build consensus and unity. If not, then the mood around AISD will continue to remain a hornets’ nest.
Coming to the advantages, as mentioned above, we now have two former elected officials vying for appointment. I will not speak negatively about any of the other finalists, but I will say that I certainly hope Trustees will consider all factors when making an appointment. Making an appointment of one or more individuals as a political move or favor will serve nobody well. Trustees must take a good long look at the candidates before making any decisions.
Now is not the time for AISD to make a political appointment. Now is the time to look into the future with a vision for tomorrow, while building unity and consensus around the common goal of serving the taxpayers, students, and faculty of the Amarillo Independent School District. Let’s leave the titles, resumes, and political connections at the door and make an appointment that will serve all of Amarillo well, not just a select few political elites.
-Thomas Warren III, Editor-in-Chief