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By Steve Hunley

This week has been one of enlightenment in terms of the tactics used by the Broad Academy trainees to obtain what they want and the means they are willing to use to get it. Knox County Schools Superintendent and Broad Academy graduate Dr. Jim McIntyre, in response to a request by Board of Education Chair Mike McMillan, implied to the Board that he would include the Traditional Calendar with a one week fall break as one of the choices on the Balanced Calendar (Year Round School) Survey. Yet when the survey was made public this past Monday, April 20th, on the school system’s website, some school board members were shocked to see that option was not included in the survey.

Other school board members were not shocked at all. Board members Patti Bounds and Amber Rountree contacted Dr. McIntyre over their concerns over the survey’s content and its many defects. Dr. McIntyre and his staff also decided to use the unsecure website Survey Monkey to conduct the survey. Both Rountree and Bounds asked Dr. McIntyre to immediately take the survey down until the school board could discuss what had occurred. McIntyre refused. Dr. McIntyre went on to tell school board member Amber Rountree that most of the other board members wanted to continue the survey. Maybe he used Survey Monkey to reach that conclusion as well?

WBIR reporter Mike Donila criticized the survey and described it as “rigged” on his blog “Screams From the Porch” suggesting to the public, “Folks, if you want your voice heard regarding the balanced school calendar, contact your school board member and don’t participate in a rigged survey. Yeah, it’s rigged. You can vote more than once. And plenty of people have.”

WBIR aired a story on Tuesday featuring school board member Patti Bounds explaining that the school system has the resources in house to do an honest scientific survey where people can take the survey only once. She also criticized that the survey was missing what Dr. McIntyre had promised, the Traditional Calendar with a one week fall break as an option. Assistant Superintendent Elizabeth Alves said, “From my perspective that was never intended to be included in this survey as we are really trying to gauge interest in a balanced calendar (year round school) model versus the traditional calendar.” Are these more tactics from the Broad Superintendents Academy handbook? Or is this just poor communication in the Andrew Johnson building?

Wednesday more information came out on this survey on the radio program “The Rude Awakening” where host Mike Howard interviewed school board member Amber Rountree. Ms. Rountree said she was upset that the survey used techniques to exclude certain stakeholders. The most important stakeholders excluded were taxpayers. On page 11 of the survey, you must select how you identify your relationship to Knox County Schools: Student, Parent/Guardian, School Employee, Community Employer, BOTH Parent/Guardian and School Employee, or BOTH Parent/Guardian and Community Employer. Confusing? Again, there was no choice for taxpayer. This is not the first time taxpayers have felt the excluded by Dr. McIntyre and some board members.

The Focus has received numerous calls and emails from teachers and parents who said they would not participate in the survey because of fear of retaliation for their answers. Wow. Assistant Superintendent Elizabeth Alves told WBIR Survey Monkey lets the schools track people submitting responses. This has been a concern in past school system surveys. It is one of the main reasons that past surveys have had low participation.

Things got even more interesting as WBIR reporters Mike Donila and Becca Habegger also sat in with Mike Howard for the final hour of the “The Rude Awakening” on Wednesday. Their conclusion was that few people would see the survey as a legitimate survey. The danger to the public is that only supporters of Balanced Calendar, or Year Round School,  will participate. The survey was not the only topic of discussion. The Balanced Calendar community meetings which have been held over the past few months received scathing critiques. These meetings were described as using the Delphi technique or Hegelian dialectic. Some people call the technique “dialog to consensus” where the consensus is predetermined by the school system meeting leader. Simply another page out of the Broad Superintendents Academy handbook? The illusion is that the public was heard and had input into the process when in reality it was just an elaborate stage play with a predetermined outcome. Basically a dog and pony show.

This entire KCS Balanced Calendar, or Year Round School, production has been rigged from the beginning. Taxpayers have been excluded. Teachers have been given more weight in the discussion than any other group. More so than even parents. Is this because the school system will know how teachers vote on the surveys? This was made painfully clear by board  member Karen Carson on the George Korda radio program on March 8th. When Carson was asked by guest host Jay Quaintance of WATE how she would make her decision on Balanced Calendar or Year Round School, she said that she would listen more to teachers than any group because they were the ones that had to implement the Balanced Calendar or Year Round School. But we know that Carson does not support teachers unless it is to further her own or the superintendent’s agenda.

In summary, in Knox County we have some board members who will rubberstamp anything their Superintendent tells them to. And the group that they could care less about is the taxpayers. The people who employ them. Is this the best we can do?

If you have an opinion on Year Round School, aka the Balanced Calendar, call your school board members directly and let them hear from you. And that folks, is the opinion they should be listening to.

Gloria Deathridge, First District

(865) 329-9949

Tracie Sanger, Second District

(865) 405-4449

Doug Harris,

Third District, Vice Chair

(865) 498-3166

Lynne Fugate, Fourth District

(865) 566-7414

Karen Carson, Fifth District

(865) 675-0236

Terry Hill, Sixth District

(865) 254-5884

Patti Bounds, Seventh District

(865) 406-8623

Mike McMillan,

Eighth District, Chair

(865) 933-0300

Amber Rountree, Ninth District

(865) 712-6005