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By Steve Hunley
For those who doubted anything published in The Focus about the Knox County Board of Education and Superintendent Jim McIntyre, the meeting last week should have addressed those concerns.  The Board, in its most naked display of power politics since McIntyre forced a vote on the extension of his employment contract, violated a practice that had been in place for decades when Chair Lynne Fugate overruled Board member Mike McMillan, who attempted to delay passage of the “Strategic Plan” proposed by the superintendent.

The Strategic Plan has been floating around for about a year and McIntyre was rushing to have the current board approve it.  The rush was due to one simple fact: McIntyre did not want to have the incoming Board of Education vote on it.  The plan has no force of law and serves only as a “guide” for the school system, yet McIntyre brayed that it was absolutely necessary for the board to approve it right away.

Like a herd of trained circus poodles, McIntyre’s rubber stamp Board members fell all over themselves in a truly disgusting display to stop McMillan from delaying the Strategic Plan so the incoming Board members could have a say in the formation of the plan.  Keep in mind, there are four incoming Board members out of the nine member body.  Indya Kincannon has resigned her seat on the Board, effective August 18, which is certainly the single greatest service she has rendered the people of her district and Knox County.  Thomas Deakins retired and is to be succeeded by Terri Hill;  Patti Lou Bounds is taking the place of retiring Kim Sepesi Severance; and Pam Trainor was soundly defeated by newcomer Amber Rountree.

McMillan attempted to invoke “personal privilege,” a practice rarely ever used by Board members, but one that has been honored for more than two decades.  As soon as McMillan invoked personal privilege to delay the vote for 30 days, Chair Lynne Fugate recessed the meeting and disappeared behind closed doors with McIntyre.  While this was not a violation of the letter of the Sunshine Law, it sure was a violation of the spirit of the Sunshine Law. The two emerged moments later and Fugate told McMillan that it likely wouldn’t surprise him that she was denying his motion.  It surprised neither McMillan nor anyone else.

McMillan asked for an opinion from the Law Director who said the Chair had the right to deny personal privilege if a matter was deemed to be an “emergency.” McMillan demanded if Fugate was declaring the immediate passage of the McIntyre’s Strategic Plan an emergency.  Fugate snarled back, “Yes, sir!”

The other rubber stamp members all waited their turn in the pecking order to decry McMillan’s apostasy.  Thomas Deakins, who is getting ready to make his own greatest contribution to local government by leaving it, said McMillan’s effort was “an insult” to the sitting Board.  No, Mr. Deakins, rushing through and rubber stamping McIntyre’s plan to be ratified by a lame duck body was an insult to the intelligence of the public, who pay generously to support the school system.

Karen Carson began trumpeting like an elephant with the colic and Indya Kincannon babbled incoherently, as she always does.

It was yet another abuse of power on the part of Fugate and McIntyre.  The incoming members of the Knox County Board of Education ought to remember Fugate’s behavior. At that same meeting, Fugate had no problem allowing pet principals to consume more time praising McIntyre while at a past meeting she rudely refused to grant a single minute in additional time to a high school student who was critical of McIntyre.  As chair of the board, Lynn Fugate has shown that she is nothing more than McIntyre’s chief rubber stamp.

McIntyre’s plan is no innovative document, nor is it really much of a guide.  Being the pluperfect bureaucrat, McIntyre has crafted one of his usual documents that is highly verbose, yet says much of nothing, with but a few exceptions.  As always, McIntyre’s plan is generously larded with the usual glittering generalities and educational jargon he loves.  It is one of the few things he is good at.  Perhaps what he is best at is enlarging the school bureaucracy and he proposes to do more of that.

McIntyre keeps hiring more and more folks and eventually look for him to announce some sort of fiscal crisis that will require higher taxes lest we lose teachers, buses stop running or worse.

Jim McIntyre is, I am told, supposedly a smart man.  If so, he is the stupidest smart man I’ve ever seen.  Perhaps it is his arrogance, his absolute certainty he is right about everything.  Remember, McIntyre once showed up in Mayor Tim Burchett’s office to demand to know why Burchett had not consulted with him before giving county employees a pay raise.  Burchett basically invited McIntyre to get out of his office and mind his own business.  McIntyre whines like a spoiled three-year-old when asked questions by commissioners about school affairs and sniffs that the questions are “inappropriate.”  Well, Jim, considering the Commissioners have to find the money to pay the tab for your wasteful administration, they have more business asking you questions than you do the Mayor.

McIntyre seems to think he can charm the incoming members of the Board of Education to his way of thinking.  Yet McIntyre is devoid of charm, charisma, and is about as dynamic as cold mashed potatoes.  McIntyre wanted the current rubber stamp Board of Education to approve his strategic plan precisely so he can remind the incoming Board the plan has already been passed by the previous board. That daft logic may not sit well with new board members, most of whom seem to realize they were elected to do a job and that McIntyre works for them. They don’t work for McIntyre.

McMillan has promised to bring up the Strategic Plan again next month and very likely the new Board members will have some mighty interesting things to say about it.

Superintendent McIntyre, your days of absolute rule are almost over and, in my opinion, your days in Knox County are numbered.