(Editor’s Note: The above clip is a view of top headlines from the morning of May 2, 2023.)

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — In the May 2023 election, three seats are open for the Amarillo College Board of Regents, the body that makes decisions surrounding the college.

For those voting in this particular election, this race is under the cumulative voting system, where each voter gets three votes – one for each open seat. A person is able to vote up to three times but can use their votes however they see fit, either giving multiple candidates votes or one candidate all three votes.

MyHighPlains.com spoke with each of the candidates who are actively running for the Amarillo College Board of Regents. Each of the candidates received a questionnaire that was completed over email and their responses have been edited solely for grammatical errors and clarity.

The list of the candidates in this article is based on how the candidates will be listed on the May 2023 election ballot.

Jay Barrett

Why are you running for Re-Election on the Amarillo College Board of Regents? 

I have more than 10,000 reasons why I have chosen to run for re-election. Those reasons all have faces and names and hopes and dreams. Their hopes and dreams are my hopes and dreams for the future that our students and our community so richly deserve! I know this sounds selfish, but giving my time, my effort, my talents, my experience, and anything else I have to ensure that all our students find success gives me such great joy, and I don’t want to lose the feeling. All our students and the success they are seeking is my main reason for running for reelection.

I am also running for reelection because, even though we have accomplished much at Amarillo College over the past eight years, there is still so much to do. As a cohesive board, we have worked so hard to ensure that all students have access to a high-quality college education, with absolutely no excuses and no barriers, which is why we have won so many national awards for our approach to overcoming poverty. Other awards have been for the academic success of our students, and for our working relationship as a board and CEO, winning the American Association of Community Colleges’ top prize for the best Board/CEO relationship in the entire country.  

What have you learned so far in this position that you would be able to apply in another term on the board? 

I have really learned a lot these past eight years about governance and about what it takes to make Amarillo College a 2021 Top Five Rising Star College in the nation out of over 1200 community colleges in America…and we are not through yet as we are currently a 2023 Top 10 Finalist for the same prize, though we feel we will be THE TOP College in America when announced on April 20th.

(Editor’s Note: Amarillo College was one of two winners of the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence in late April, sharing the prize with Imperial Valley College in California)

Most importantly, I’ve learned how extremely critical Amarillo College is to our students whose future literally is on the line. More than 70% of our students are struggling with poverty and trying to make ends meet from paycheck to paycheck. Without the support of our nationally recognized efforts to battle poverty through our Culture of Caring through the Advocacy and Resource Center (ARC), many of our students would be forced to drop out. At Amarillo College, we “love our students to success,” and it shows in everything we do at the college.

I’ve gained a world of experience navigating the state and national legislature to the benefit of our community. As the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Community College Association of Texas Trustees (CCATT), I’ve used that knowledge to help guide a year-long effort in what is now known as HB 8, a multifaceted bill that has been called a “once in a lifetime opportunity to fundamentally change the way community colleges are funded.” As of this writing, HB 8 passed the House unanimously, and there is much optimism that this bill will come out of committee with its rider that will add $650 million to the 50 community colleges to make learning more accessible across our great state.

I’ve also learned what it means to be a good regent, to provide sound governance with a listening ear to students, faculty, and staff, not as an individual but as a board member. I’ve learned how important the work is for our community and region, and that if AC doesn’t thrive our community and region won’t thrive. It is said that as Amarillo College goes, so goes our community. This is absolutely true.

What is your platform? What are some of the things you are focusing on for your campaign? 

Students, Students, Students!  

Really, students are my primary focus. Having said that,  what I want to continue to do is help move the college to 80% completion, which means that 80% of our students will either gain a degree, transfer to a university or gain a workforce credential. When I came on the board in 2015, we were around 19% and we now are at 54% and on our way to 80%.

Second, I want to continue to push for access to educational opportunities for all by keeping our tuition rate at the same low rate it’s been for a number of years. In that same area, I want to continue the Thrive Scholarship program into the future and I want free dual credit for all students in our service area, which covers much of the Panhandle region.

Further, I want to continue to help bring even more sports to our college. So far, with Women’s Volleyball, Men’s and Women’s Cross Country, and Men’s Baseball, our decision to bring back athletics has paid big dividends in not only keeping our local sports talent in the Panhandle but also in enhancing the student body experience as well as providing great sports entertainment for our community. 

Finally, workforce development is a big part of my platform.

What makes you stand out among the other candidates? 

Experience, Service, and Leadership.

I also have the most experience on the board in the educational sector. I am absolutely NOT a politician. I’m an educator with 38 years of experience at all levels, from Pre-Kindergarten through higher education. I live in the world of Amarillo College every single day as Principal of AmTech Career Academy where we are preparing our young professionals to become young professionals at Amarillo College. And I am not just the Principal at AmTech, but I lived and breathed the vision of the creation of AmTech Career Academy as truly a God-given mission. There is no one else running who can come close to my experience as an expert in educational leadership, which is the next thing that makes me stand out from the other candidates.

I am also nothing if not a proven servant leader. I have given my time to so many organizations over the years because I love this city and the people in it. I am currently Vice-Chair on the AC Board and Chairman of the Legislative Committee. I was elected to serve more than 400 regents and trustees across the state as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Community College Association of Texas Trustees, and honor that doesn’t come without a lot of work that I love to do. I am also the Vice-President of the Maverick Boys and Girls Club and serve on the Panhandle Workforce Development Board’s executive team. I have served on the AC Foundation Board and the Board of Panhandle PBS. I have also served as President and Vice-President of the Harrington Regional Medical Center Board. Service is one of the gifts God has given me, so whenever and wherever I’m needed, I’m there.

For the past 28 years, I’ve led several multi-million dollar organizations as a principal in Amarillo ISD, including AmTech Career Academy, the premier career academy in the nation. My heart as a 38-year veteran educator who has worked with thousands of students from tough economic backgrounds makes me love AC for our approach to giving a hand up and not a hand out when we are talking about the wrap-around systems of support. I love that we’ve brought sports back to AC! 

As a veteran principal who works with some of the best talent around, I love our award-winning faculty who never cease in their efforts to do whatever it takes to lead our students to success. I love how our college has transformed itself into a leading higher education institution in the state and nation! 

What can you do, as part of the Amarillo College Board of Regents, to help students make the transition from school into the workforce? 

This is a big question with a big response, and my being a developer and Principal of AmTech Career Academy helps me answer this question in a big way.

Of all the candidates, I am the only one who has truly been directly involved with workforce development not only with the college but also in my work at AmTech Career Academy. Getting students connected to the workforce is what I do on a daily basis. We have created multiple seamless career pathways that start with college work at AmTech and finish at Amarillo College with certificates of value, degrees, and/or transfer to universities. I work with more than 150 business and industry partners (and counting) who are helping us shape the future of the workforce, and if we don’t leverage the power of the connection between AmTech and Amarillo College, we will be missing what could be a golden time for workforce development for decades to come. 

Why should people participate in this election?

As with any election, it is critical for voters to make their voices heard so they can choose the individuals who will make up the Board of Regents who will govern the shape of the future of Amarillo College. As I mentioned earlier, as Amarillo College goes, so goes our community. I am the voice of an educator on the Board of Regents, and I have had a hand in the direction of the future of Amarillo College. I would truly enjoy continuing the work we are doing at Amarillo College and would be grateful if voters placed all three votes for me. It would be my honor to continue to serve.  

Brady Clark

Why are you running for a position on the Amarillo College Board of Regents?

My professional career, and life’s work, has been to empower and create opportunities for struggling individuals, families, and communities here in Texas, nationally, and across the world. Amarillo College has served as the vehicle for countless individuals to build a future for themselves and their families, myself included. I want to bring the knowledge and experience I have gained through my work and life experience to help Amarillo College continue to build our local and regional economies by providing relevant, accessible, and affordable educational opportunities to everyone, regardless of their background or socio-economic status.

What are some of your qualifications as to why people should consider you for the position?

I have more than 25 years of experience working as a director of faith-based and secular nonprofit organizations and have an expansive knowledge of helping organizations develop and expand their community impact and outreach. This work has allowed me to work both in rural and urban communities of varying socio-economic backgrounds in various areas of focus, such as education, health, housing, and economic development.

I have extensive board experience and have served on both small community boards and national and international organizations. I understand the need to work with differing viewpoints and perspectives to bring about the best outcomes for the organizations involved. I have been involved on the state level in working to get legislation passed that would benefit our local and regional economies. Currently, I work with all areas of our community, from international refugees to rural farmers, and have the opportunity to see their struggles and triumphs firsthand. Being able to bring my professional experience and my community insight to the Board of Regents will help ensure a strong connection between the leadership of the college and the community it serves.

What is your platform? What are some of the things you are focusing on for your campaign?

My three main priorities focus on the 2025 Strategic Plan. Specifically:

  • Create economic diversification in the Texas Panhandle
  • Build systems for financial viability and fundraising
  • Ensure equitable access to college and its resources

What makes you stand out among the other candidates?

My personal and professional experience working in the community as well as with various boards is unique to this race. In addition, I was a non-traditional student who was able to begin my educational journey through the programs, support, and resources Amarillo College provided.

What can you do, as part of the Amarillo College Board of Regents, to help students make the transition from school into the workforce?

The college has developed some very innovative ways of providing very focused and targeted educational programs that allow its students to transition directly into specific career opportunities. As a Regent, I will help the school continue to strengthen these programs and support the ongoing development of additional professional education tracks. My connections and work in our region will help bring on-the-ground insight into what will be needed to support the college staff in ensuring success.

Why should people participate in this election?

We have a wonderful community and an incredible college. If we want to ensure that we continue to grow a strong local and regional economy, we must all make sure we use our voices in building our future. The most effective and vital part of the democratic process is in our local elections. It is our privilege and responsibility as citizens to make our voices heard through the local election process. 

Mike Yazbek

Why are you running for a position on the Amarillo College Board of Regents?

I decided that the Board of Regents has replaced a great president who recently retired with someone who is of the “woke” ilk. He’s not interested in making AC the BEST school of its type, but rather using political buzzwords that indicate the college is moving towards indoctrination rather than education. The AC Board has become a “country club” organization that is spending money on the physical plant without regard to maintaining the integrity of the students and their skills. The college is “open enrollment,” which means anyone can enroll, regardless of their ability to succeed in their chosen majors/courses due to a lack of needed prerequisite skill sets that should have been taught between the ages of 8 and 12 years old. The longest-serving board member is up for reelection and has come after my stance of raising the entrance requirements as closing down the enrollment to lesser-advanced people, not realizing that raising those standards will increase the success rate of the students at AC. She is playing with everyone’s emotions, rather than using logic and common sense. This is the common thread among the current Board Of Regents members, and this needs to stop. The Board of Regents is like the City Council or the Board Of Directors for any corporation. The function is the same, but the institution is the difference.

What are some of your qualifications as to why people should consider you for the position?

I have been the stewardship chairman for St. John Prodromos Orthodox Church in past years, as well as on the Parish Council, a representative delegate to numerous clergy-laity conferences in the Denver Metropolis of the Orthodox Church. The job is the same, regardless of the larger budget. It’s a job to take stewardship of the college in hand and ensure the next century of AC is one of excellence through dedicated diligence and planning for the future. It’s time to put emotion on a back burner and make the college into an institution that actually teaches the course materials, rather than becomes a bastion of students who will not have the proper skills to do their work when they graduate.

Open enrollment will still be there. But the students will need to be able to do the work needed when they arrive. This will save them 25% on tuition costs in a 4-year plan by not having to take the first year as remedial education for the courses they should have successfully passed in the free public schools. As a local citizen and small business owner, former photojournalist for the US Army and Texas National Guard, and former truck driver, I have been across the US and around the world. I have seen what other countries are teaching. We are so far behind academically because we’re worried about hurting kids’ feelings by not accepting poor-quality work. There is no incentive to excel if there is a prize for failure in education. Second place should hurt like a stab wound. Awards should not be given just because children took the field in sports. That award should be their jerseys and the memories made. But our society has decided to molly-coddle everyone for the past 30 years, so students are “offended” and nobody can do the work. It’s been said that Amarillo College is one of the toughest institutions to learn in. If the skills are present before coming to the college the courses aren’t tough. It’s only tough for the unprepared.

What is your platform? What are some of the things you are focusing on for your campaign?

My platform is to raise the entrance standards to the college. Students today have no math skills, language skills, or even the ability to focus on their work in order to become successful candidates in the workforce because public schools all across the nation are pushing “emotion over logic” education. They’re not making the students succeed by awarding correctly completed studies. They’re rewarding mediocrity instead of bringing out the genius in the kids in school, and also fostering an attitude of laziness in the workplace because the kids aren’t being challenged to succeed. They are being awarded for being present. There is no incentive to excel. By raising the entrance standards, we can force schools to actually teach the needed skills to convert a 10 mm socket into a 13/32 (SAE) socket, make a budget and keep it without having to refer to a calculator or other electronic device that could fail, taking all the work with it, or even communicating effectively using proper grammar. These are the things we need to require so that the college will become more prestigious than it has been in recent years. My focus is to bring AC back to the number ONE college academically, rather than an also-ran-for-the-spot institution. The only way to do this is to return to the standards that this administration has abandoned over the past 20 years.

What makes you stand out among the other candidates?

I don’t think I stand out, other than I can see where the college once was and where it’s headed right now. By correcting the direction now, we can actually increase enrollment by recruiting the best students and making sure the people of Amarillo know about the continuing education and other non-credit courses taught at the college to make life more enjoyable.

What can you do, as part of the Amarillo College Board of Regents, to help students make the transition from school into the workforce?

The best way to help these young adults transition into the workforce from college is to challenge them to excellence. These students are being taught in many instances by people who come in from the workforce in their various fields, which gives them the inside track to learn “how to succeed in the real world.” The trade schools taught through the college are second to none in quality. The average starting wage for some of the trades taught at Amarillo College is as high as 90K/year. That doesn’t include the computer or other “tech” jobs that come through the academic courses.

Why should people participate in this election?

Everyone should realize that by choosing the proper leaders many things can happen that aren’t currently going on. Too many of the local officials in recent years have closed their ears to the general public. They have maintained their seats because of voter apathy. These are the races in which your voice does, indeed, count, if you exercise your responsibility to the community at the ballot box. The people who are causing the problems count on voters not coming out so their friends and cronies can keep them in office. If the people don’t vote in this election then those in power aren’t truly accountable and will continue to make decisions that will keep a millstone around the average citizen’s neck financially through increased taxation with no true accountability. Please get out and vote for non-incumbent challengers because it’s time to bring in new blood with new enthusiasm, and who isn’t part of the “country club” mentality. The only way most of these people stay in power is through nobody showing up to vote. That’s true for the entire nation, not just here. Your vote DOES, indeed, count.

Jason Foglesong

Why are you running for a position on the Amarillo College Board of Regents? 

I believe that the voice of the average working-class citizen is not being represented or heard in local government. I want to change that, and I want to help enrich the future of our city – with an educated and skilled population ready to take advantage of new economic opportunities.

What are some of your qualifications as to why people should consider you for the position? 

I am a high school teacher, and I have a desire to serve as an advocate for our community.  I will strive to reflect the values of everyday Amarilloans.

What is your platform? What are some of the things you are focusing on for your campaign?

1)  No more tax hikes – I see students that work multiple jobs and care for siblings while juggling schoolwork.  I hear about their struggles to make ends meet and know that some feel college is out of reach – or are so focused on keeping food on the table that school is an afterthought.  I cannot, in good conscience, raise taxes and take more from our community at this time.  It’s not about whether or not it’s worth it, or that it’s valuable – of course it is.  But taxes and bonds add up, and our people just cannot afford it.

2)  Transparency and accountability – voters often do not know what the Board of Regents does, or how.  Many seem to think they control classroom content or materials.  I want to educate and inform the people of Amarillo as to what’s going on, how, and why.  An informed and educated population is very important when it comes to civic engagement. 

What makes you stand out among the other candidates? 

I am a regular person, of regular means, who wants to make a difference.  My experiences are closer to that of the everyday voter, and I feel that I can confidently advocate for their interests.  

What can you do, as part of the Amarillo College Board of Regents, to help students make the transition from school into the workforce? 

Support and grow the programs AC offers to this end – there are a variety of degrees and certificates that lead to success.  A community college is the first step into a larger world, and I will work to promote the quality, availability, and affordability of all that AC has to offer.

Why should people participate in this election?   

The citizens choose elected officials to be their voice in government and enact their preferred policies.  If people choose not to participate in this or any other election, they give up their voice and give up their power as a citizen.  Look at our history.  Americans have fought, endured abuse, and died for the right to vote.  It’s the only tool so many of us have to effect change in our community, and it’s far too easily forgotten.  

Irene Hughes

Why are you running for a position on the AC Board of Regents?

I am running for Regent of Amarillo College to restore Biblical principles to this college and to inform the voters of the danger of the Marxist principles (diversity, equity, and inclusion) that are being taught there at this time. This is a very serious problem that will affect not only the college but our city, state, and country. We must wake up and fight for truth and integrity to return to Amarillo College!

What are some of your qualifications as to why people should consider you for the position?

  • Advisor at Amarillo College MCC 12 years/retired
  • ACMCC Classified Merit Award winner 2011/2014
  • University transfer liaison with WT/TTU/ENMU/OPSU
  • Financial literacy trainer for Student Support Services
  • Youth Specialist for Texas Workforce 8 years
  • Director of workforce placements for youth in Panhandle
  • Small business owner/operator over 30 years
  • Honors graduate from Texas Tech University
  • Poverty trained by Cal Farley’s/Ruby Payne/Donna Beagle
  • Short-term missionary to number of poor countries
  • Volunteer Deputy Registrar for Randall/Potter Counties
  • Advocate for Biblical worldview/integrity/truth
  • Member Messiah’s House Church/Altar Minister/Group Hostess/Leader

What is your platform? What are some of the things you are focusing on for your campaign?


  • What are the students being taught?
  • What are they being prepared for?


  • Where are the finances coming from and going to?
  • Where can the budget be cut instead of raising taxes?


  • Why did AC adopt the WOKE agenda?
  • Why is AC headed in that direction?

The education and finances of Amarillo College are being affected by values that do not reflect the majority of voters who live in Amarillo.

What makes you stand out among the other candidates?

I worked as an advisor for Amarillo College for 12 years, so I know Amarillo College from the inside out. To become a good representative of the Amarillo voters, I have spent many hours asking questions to residents, current/former employees, and students to find out what they think about Amarillo College. The reputation of Amarillo College has drastically declined in the last few years, according to many surveyed.

What can you do as part of the AC Board to help students make the transition from school into the workforce?

The students need to be ensured of a good education, not the diversity, equity, and inclusion indoctrination as described in the 2025 Strategic Plan. Education has been watered down to increase the statistics that are necessary to win awards. More emphasis needs to be made on actually working to make a living. Offering financial workshops would help students realize the cost of living, how important it is to work for a living, and know how to take care of money. Taking care of all their needs while at AC has not empowered them to become independent or responsible for themselves.

Why should people participate in this election?

According to a number of true national patriots, the soon-coming elections are going to determine whether our country remains free or whether we fully become a Socialist/Marxist nation. If Godly conservatives do not vote for people with Biblical values that can change the direction of this nation and this college, we are all going to be sorry when we no longer have any rights but the right to give everything to the government.

Michele Fortunato

Why are you running for a position on the Amarillo College Board of Regents?

I have been serving on the AC board since 2004, and it is one of the best boards in the city. This leadership has made it possible for AC to be a Top 5 community college in the country. My mission is to help as many of our students as possible break the cycle of poverty with a degree or certificate, or transfer to a 4-year university.

What have you learned so far in this position which you will be able to apply to another term on the board?

Sometimes we spend so much time talking about our at-risk students that we don’t often enough mention the large group of recent high school graduates who excelled in high school and who enroll at AC. We have many students who will continue their education at the university level. The Thrive program has been an excellent tool to recruit those students to AC so they can save tuition on their first two years of college and then transfer to a four-year university without incurring massive student debt. We engage with those students through AC’s presidential honors programs to give them the tools to succeed at the universities. Although we don’t necessarily think of them as at-risk, all students are susceptible to challenges that the Culture of Caring is designed to address, and we need to be mindful of the needs of all students, especially their mental health needs.

I also learned that we have talented, creative, dedicated faculty and staff we can rely on when circumstances send us into unchartered waters, such as in Covid times. We trust our employees to represent the values of the community and remain flexible and take care of business and students.

What is your platform? What are some of the things you are focusing on in your campaign?

  • Keep AC’s tax rate flat and tuition low, making Amarillo College a great investment for taxpayers and students. In the last five years, the net increase to AC’s tax rate is 1 cent per $100 of valuation. The regents have increased tuition one time in the last 10 years, and that was in 2016.
  • Make AC the first choice for enrollment for Thrive-eligible students to save money. Under the proposed “outcomes-based” funding being considered in the current Texas legislative session, AC could benefit from an increase in state funding due to its excellent completion rate. Funding is designed to reward colleges whose students obtain a degree, a certificate, or a transfer.
  • Increase the number of students transferring to four-year universities.
  • Decrease the “brain drain” from Amarillo by retaining graduates for the 2,000-4,000 new high-tech jobs being brought to this region through strong economic development.

What makes you stand out among the other candidates?

I am a first-generation college student myself, and I know the challenges facing AC students. I paid my way through Texas Tech with part-time jobs and student loans. Ten years after college, I started law school at age 33 to make a better life for my family. It was a struggle financially, but it helps me relate to the sacrifices AC students make to improve the lives of their families. I obtained a law degree with honors, co-founded a law firm in Amarillo, and practiced business law for 30 years. I am the only lawyer on the board, and my legal experience and training are helpful to board deliberations.

What can you do, as a member of the board of regents, to help students make the transition from school to the workforce?

Many of our students are already in the workforce, working full-time or part-time, and attending college. AC’s advisors steer students into majors where there is market demand. The board and college leadership have a vision for the Innovation Outpost to teach new skills to people who are already in the workforce, but who want to advance in their current jobs or find a better job. The regents approve programming and curriculum to help students make that transition. AC provides contacts in the business world and encourages internships to help with the transition. The most important factor is to provide an excellent education to prepare students for the future.

Why should people participate in this election?

Every election is important, but this election is more important than ever. Local elections frequently do not gain as much attention, but this election will help determine the future of Amarillo College. Voters should carefully consider the platforms of the candidates, and vote for the candidates who have a positive vision for Amarillo College and want to continue the success we are experiencing. 

For more information about what is on the ballot for the May 2023 election, check out the sample ballots for a number of counties right here. For a look at early voting locations in Potter and Randall counties, click here.

For the latest Amarillo news and regional updates, check with MyHighPlains.com and tune in to KAMR Local 4 News at 5:00, 6:00, and 10:00 p.m. and Fox 14 News at 9:00 p.m. CST.