The school board had one job at last week’s called meeting – to approve next year’s budget.
Members breezed through the blessing of a $453.5 million general purpose budget, but the fight over the $71.2 million capital improvement plan went the length of the bar and into the street, so to speak, although the outcome – a 5-4 vote to reroute $6.5 million that Superintendent James McIntyre and his staff had earmarked for other purposes to renovate Inskip Elementary School – was never truly in doubt.
In February, school board member Terry Hill’s colleagues tasked her with vetting candidates for interim schools superintendent and reporting back April 4 with a recommendation for her colleagues. There are several candidates, but almost nobody is talking about anyone but Great Schools Partnership president Oliver “Buzz” Thomas for the job.
Thomas gained frontrunner status because he is intimately familiar with the workings of Knox County Schools, well liked and, in many respects, highly qualified. Board chair Doug Harris kicked that perception up a notch when he undercut Hill by declaring Thomas the best choice before the vetting process had begun. Harris is not running for re-election and is the de facto leader of the five-member majority that will control the board until new members are seated in September. Hill, who is not a member of the majority coalition, declined to comment on the process.
That phrase was repeated like a mantra at the special called school board meeting to decide whether to give James McIntyre $227,000, plus perks including a lump sum payout for unused vacation days that could pay a new teacher’s salary with money left over, to go away.
The argument that Knox County should pay McIntyre for his voluntary resignation – something that is not in his contract – is based on the supposition that it will be good for the children of Knox County. Seven of nine board members agreed.
There are no exclamation points on the email that went out to several dozen A-list recipients the day after James McIntyre announced his resignation as superintendent of Knox County Schools. But its author, Cornerstone Foundation president Laurens Tulloch, conveyed a clear sense of urgency via the not-for-profit foundation’s email account.
James McIntyre’s $1 million severance package will be a ready-made campaign issue in the upcoming school board elections, right?
Not necessarily, given the fact that nobody who voted for it will be on the ballot in 2016. How we got to this point in history is another illustration of the difficulties of predicting the political future, and board member Tracie Sanger’s 11th hour decision not to run is one of the more surprising events in local politics since state Rep. Loy Smith pulled out of his re-election race, leaving his protégé Jimmy Kyle Davis as the only contender as his successor in 1984.
As expected, schools superintendent James McIntyre won his battle for job security by a 5-4 vote last week when the school board extended his employment contract for another two years. This agreement will be in place until the end of 2019 and gives him a 2 percent raise, bumping his salary up to $227,256.
The five pro-McIntyre board members (Harris, Carson, Deathridge, Sanger, Fugate) said it is well deserved, mostly based on Knox County Schools’ status as an Exemplary School District.
Last Monday, Knox County Commission verbally spanked schools superintendent James McIntyre before voting 9-1 not to help him out of a potential legal jam by retroactively approving a grant he’d accepted last fall without going through the proper legal and procedural channels.
On Tuesday morning, the news broke that the previously anonymous “unindicted co-conspirator” mentioned in the tax fraud indictment of state Rep. Joe Armstrong is McIntyre ally and former school board chair Sam Anderson.
It’s budget time again, and it’s been three years since James McIntyre introduced his bold plan to improve Knox County Schools, which he proposed to finance with 35 million new dollars that would require a 35-cent property tax increase.
His announcement was accompanied by considerable fanfare and happy talk from the usual sources (the Chamber of Commerce, numerous progressive-minded community leaders, most media outlets), which was amplified by a bunch of TV commercials in heavy rotation.
Knox Schools Superintendent James McIntyre got some unexpected love lately, and not from the usual suspects. Not for his recent presentation before the U.S. Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, nor for his State of the Schools address nor his appearance on WBIR TV’s “Inside Tennessee.”
The gusher of gratitude erupting from students who were thrilled about the school-free week occasioned by last week’s bad weather exploded on Twitter, where McIntyre’s face got Photoshopped onto Mt. Rushmore and an “American Sniper” poster. One kid put him in an NBA uniform sinking a Pistol Pete-level trey. Teachers were pretty happy, too.
Looks like the SAT-10 exam, defunct since Nov. 3, is going to stay defunct, despite the best efforts of Superintendent James McIntyre’s administration and its allies.
SAT-10 is the most disliked of the many assessments administered by Knox County Schools, primarily because of the tender age of the students to whom it is given – kindergarteners through second-graders.