By Mike Steely
Several critical things are happening between the Knox County Board of Education (BOE) and the Knox County Commission. Both bodies have been through a year of conflict and now face a critical moment.
For those readers not familiar with what’s happening here’s an update…
The interim BOE appointment
On August 25th the county commission is expected to name a temporary replacement for BOE member Indya Kincannon, who is moving overseas to be with her husband who is on a year’s grant to study there. A constant supporter of Superintendent James McIntyre she announced her resignation effective August 18th, after the recent school board election.
The election seats three new BOE members and two re-elected members. The other BOE members were not up for election. That presumably would pit four opponents to McIntyre’s policies, including BOE member Mike McMillan, against four supporters. The temporary appointment by the commission of a BOE member will sway the board in one direction or the other.
A selection of a person favored by rebelling teachers could bring matters before the BOE like a revisit of the recently passed 5 year plan, which McMillan opposed but voted YES so he can bring it back up in a motion. The new board members take their seats in September but the current board members are attempting to pass McIntyre’s evaluation and possibly even extend his contract again, but McMillan wants the new board to take up those matters.
The appointment would be preceded by a called public forum last Thursday at Gresham Middle School to hear from those people who have applied, a luncheon between Commissioner Amy Broyles and Jeff Ownby at a restaurant, and today’s County Commission Workshop, where the applicants are invited to address the meeting at 3 p.m. following the commission’s meeting.
Despite 8 people meeting the deadline to submit resumes and 2 more being added after the deadline of noon, Friday, August 8th, it is possible that someone who has not applied could be named by a commissioner and selected for the interim seat. As of Friday it looks as though only six remain with their names in for selection.
According to the Code of Knox County: “ No person shall be eligible to serve as a member of the Board of Education unless that person shall have attained the age of eighteen (18) and is a resident of, and a registered voter in, the district from which such person seeks election on the date he/she filed his/her nominating petition and has been a resident of both the County and the district for one (1) year prior to such person’s election; provided, however, that the district residency requirement shall not apply in the first year after redistricting for the general election at which a seat on the Board of Education appears on the ballot. A member of the Board shall remain a resident of the Board district which such member represents during his/her term of office. No member of the Commission or any other public official or employee of the Board of Education shall be eligible for appointment or election to the Board of Education.”
“Any vacancy in the offices listed in Article IV due to death, resignation, removal, or disability, the vacancy shall be filled by the Commission with a person meeting the qualifications for said position until his/her successor is elected in the next general election and sworn; provided, however, if such vacancy occurs within sixty (60) days prior to the next general election, the person so selected by the Commission to fill the vacancy shall serve the remainder of the term of that officer. Said selection shall not occur until such time as the Commission conducts a duly noticed public hearing during which time interested, qualified candidates will be interviewed by the Commission.”
The person appointed October 25th would take their seat with the newly elected and re-elected members of the BOE September 1st. In the September meeting the BOE will elect a chair, vice chair, and hear appointments to various positions.
The Five Year Plan
The approval of the BOE’s 5 Year Plan has also come under question as to whether the motion received a “second,” and, if not, than it didn’t pass. There’s also some question about a brief and private meeting between BOE chairman Lynn Fugate and Superintendent McIntyre during the last BOE meeting and of that off-the-floor discussion violated the state’s Sunshine Law.
There are several things in the 5 Year Plan that some parents and teachers object to including a longer school year and only a 6 week summer break.
Despite more than a year of meetings between the school board and commission appointed members to the “Joint Committee” it is obvious that many disagreements between the two bodies have not been resolve.
The November Election
Because of the wording in the code the election for the final two years of Kincannon’s term would come during the General Election on November 4th. Early voting starts October 15th.
Cliff Rogers, County Administrator of Elections, told the Focus Tuesday that the County Commission must officially accept Kincannon’s resignation in their August 25th meeting. He said that since her resignation is effective today, August 18th, the commission cannot accept it until that date has passed. Rogers said that Kincannon, for whatever reason, could change her mind and retain her seat if she does before August 18th.
If the commission accepts her resignation in their August 25th meeting Rogers said he would make petitions available that afternoon or the following day and the filing deadline for the seat would become Sept. 10th. He confirmed that 25 signatures of registered 2nd District voters would be all that is needed to qualify for election.
The PPU Audit
“We were told in June that the report would be done in three weeks,” Knox County Commissioner Jeff Ownby told the Focus last week. He was referring a report to be given to the county’s Audit Committee about the school system’s use of funds designated for physical plant repairs and upkeep.
Ownby and other commissioners had requested the special audit by the new Internal Auditor, Andrea Williams. She didn’t attend the Audit meeting last week and sent notice to the committee members that the report is complete and was sent to the school system which was given 3 weeks to reply to the findings. The final report, when released, would come after the interim appointment has been made and after the qualifying deadline for candidates for Kincannon’s remaining term.
Presumably no one but Williams and the school administration has publically seen the findings of the audit and the Audit Committee has set a special meeting for Sept 24th to hear the report. Normally that committee meets every two months and but has moved its October meeting to September.
“I’m a little upset, but not surprised, that it takes this long and the school board was given 3 weeks to respond. Apparently there is something in that audit,” Ownby said. No public finding has been announced but Ownby said that even a couple small infractions are violations.
Physical Plant upkeep funds from the county commission to the school system are designated only for maintenance and upkeep of school property. The use of those funds for things like playground equipment, supplies, or anything not related to maintaining the buildings might violate the allotment.
The Audit Committee is made up with the Chairman, Joseph Carcello, and three commissioners: Ed Shouse, Amy Broyles, and David Wright. Shouse leaves the commission to become County Trustee and a new commission will apparently make committee appointments in September.
The selection of a temporary BOE member and the inclusion of two applicants that were accepted beyond the noon Friday, August 8th deadline were addressed by Ownby.
“It has been a matter of courtesy of ours, we’ve always accepted them,” he said of people missing a deadline. He said he heard that another commissioner had told some people the deadline was 5 p.m. instead of noon.
Ownby stressed to the Focus how critical it is to appoint the right person to the BOE’s temporary position and how that appointment would affect the outcome of upcoming votes by the school board.