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Publisher’s Position: McIntyre and the Politics of Schools

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By Steve Hunley
The Knox County Board of Education last week dealt Superintendent Jim McIntyre his first solid rebuff when it refused to approve his firing of a Knox County high school teacher. An impartial mediator in the case did not find the allegations worthy of the teacher being fired. The mediator recommended the teacher be suspended for ninety days and reinstated with back pay.

McIntyre has repeatedly demonstrated his affinity for attempting to micromanage just about every aspect of the school system and naturally he did not appreciate having his authority questioned. McIntyre appealed the mediator’s findings to the full Board of Education.

After considerable debate, the Board apparently (by voice vote) unanimously sided with the teacher, leaving McIntyre visibly stunned.

Merely watching this silly spectacle allowed one to see just how the internal politics of the Board works. Departing Board member Indya Kincannon actually moved to revoke the teacher’s tenure and turned around later and voted with the rest of the board to reinstate him. Her attempt to do McIntyre’s bidding was obvious to anyone paying attention. Her motion to revoke tenure died for lack of a second. Later on in the meeting she did a 180 to vote with the rest of the board to reinstate the teacher. Just how she could possibly explain her going from an attempt to revoke a teacher’s tenure to voting to reinstate him is incredible. However, the explanation is really rather simple. Kincannon was doing her best to back McIntyre, but the prevailing point of view, with the absence of two Board members, made it impossible for her to deliver. Kincannon very well might explain her actions as merely thinking out loud. Her performances at Board meetings are almost unbearable, with a steady stream of babbling that is barely coherent.

Kincannon is hardly above playing politics and recently did her best to persecute fellow Board member Mike McMillan with a bogus ethics complaint for releasing an email that was clearly public record. She did so even when no official complaint had been filed and McMillan, in releasing the email, was only following state law.

Karen Carson, another McIntyre rubber stamp, also is trying to do her best to carry the superintendent’s water, but it wasn’t enough. Carson has recently been pushing along a policy which apparently none of the Board members knew existed or had been following. Just as the Board Ethics Committee seems only to exist to attempt to malign Mike McMillan, the Board floats along and seems to follow no fixed rules, order or policies, unless they are convenient to hush up opponents of McIntyre, who have become increasingly vocal. Carson’s newly discovered policy would have the chilling effect of preventing teachers from appearing before the Board with a concern until or unless they have gone through the so-called chain of command. Carson says that way the Board will be able to figure out if the chain of communication is working or broken. Call it what it is: an attempt to shut up or punish those teachers critical of the McIntyre administration.

McIntyre likely needs to get used to the idea of greater scrutiny and opposition to his dictatorial ways on the Board. There are a minimum of four new Board members that will take office soon, including Kincannon’s replacement.

McIntyre’s rubber stamps on the board seem to be hurrying along the superintendent’s business this summer before the new Board members take office September 1. In fact, McIntyre admitted at the most recent Board meeting he is trying to have his new “Strategic Plan” adopted by the current Board as they have worked on it for over a year. Yet at least four of the nine Board members won’t be on the Board any longer and, in effect, it will be the plan of the new Board. It’s like a president demanding an unpopular measure to be passed by a lame duck Congress before the new Congress takes the oath of office.

McIntyre’s assertion that it is critical to pass the new Strategic Plan is clearly self-serving. By his own admission, the administration has been working on it for over a year and it wouldn’t hurt a thing in the world to let the new Board have their say before approving the plan for the next three months.

In fact, the Strategic Plan is yet another example of McIntyre’s liberal use of glittering generalities. The plan is remarkably free of any real substance and there is no real direction, much less any real solutions. One hallmark of McIntyre’s administration is the lack of clear, understandable language and actual solutions needed by the school system.

Subtract the use of superlative adjectives and McIntyre is a blank wall. Look closely at his own statements and documents and it is perfectly evident.

McIntyre has been here six years and despite his pointing to graduation rates, the news about the preparation rates – - – meaning those youngsters ready to further their educations or get a job – - – are positively dismal. McIntyre never stops asking for more and more money, obviously oblivious or indifferent to hard times faced by many families, as well as the fact the county is over a billion dollars in debt.

I have said in the past that McIntyre is “all hat and no cattle” but evidently he is also a “more money, more money, more money one trick pony.”

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