Change is hard

Betty Bean
Government/Politics columnist

In the recent past, when teachers or parents asked for relief from Knox County Schools’ test-happy corporate reform regime, Superintendent James McIntyre and the 8-to-1 school board majority that had his back would tell them to suck it up and get with the program.

“Change is hard,” they’d say to tearful mothers telling of their children’s mounting test anxiety.

“Change is hard,” they’d tell teachers saddled with evaluations based on subjects they never taught.

We haven’t heard much of that since that since August elections and Indya Kincannon’s departure whittled McIntyre’s majority down to a 4-5 minority, and depending on the outcome of the Nov. 4 race to replace Kincannon, the former majority would probably be well advised to start practicing a new mantra.

New board member Amber Rountree has one:

“Go big or go home.”

Rountree has requested a called meeting to vote on abolishing SAT-10, an exam for kindergarten through second graders that many educators feel is inappropriate. SAT-10 is not state-mandated, and board chair Mike McMillan is expected to honor her request. Rountree wants a vote before the tests are ordered.

Board member Karen Carson is expected to oppose Rountree’s efforts. Carson said at last week’s mind- and butt-numbing 5-hour workshop that it’s the school board’s job to hire a superintendent and set goals. It’s the superintendent’s job to decide what tests will be administered.

But Rountree disagrees. She quit her job as a school librarian to serve on the board. Her South Knox constituents elected her, and she’s not been shy about saying how she feels about McIntyre’s heavy-handed administration.

Rountree, Patti Bounds and Terry Hill have served notice that they intend to own future school board meetings. It’s unlikely that McIntyre’s lengthy, orchestrated presentations will recur.

County Commissioner Charles Busler said last week that commissioners would never allow Mayor Tim Burchett, or any mayor, to sit at their table and control their meetings. In fact, Burchett often stays in his office, monitoring commission meetings and making himself available if needed.

Change is hard. And we should expect change for the Knox County Board of Education, starting this week with Amber Rountree’s effort to discontinue high-stakes testing for kids who have not yet learned to read. Are we really that data-driven? And to what goal?

Will Rountree win the vote? Maybe yes, maybe no. But the message is clear: Go big or go home.

Yes, change is hard.

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