A same day, round-trip airline ticket, for the exclusive reason of transporting the Superintendent of Knox County Schools to a Knox County Commission meeting in June of 2012, cost Knox County taxpayers $1,673.58. The documentation can be found here. The document states: “The Superintendent used this round-trip ticket to attend a Knox County Commission meeting while participating in an out-of-state Professional Development Conference.”
I contacted Dr. McIntyre’s director of public affairs, Melissa Ogden, for an explanation. I also asked why couldn’t modern technology such as teleconferencing or videoconferencing have been used? Furthermore, I asked why an assistant superintendent was not deployed to the county commission meeting in order to save the taxpayers from paying for an expensive flight. Melissa Ogden’s assistance in answering the questions I raised was professional, transparent, quick, and courteous. Her response was the following…
The Superintendent is part of the Aspen Institute’s prestigious Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education Fellowship program (now the Aspen-Pahara Fellowship), which consists of intensive professional development and peer-learning for a select group of education leaders from across the country. Once accepted into the fellowship program, attendance in these sessions is mandatory and sessions are scheduled about two years in advance.
In 2010, it was made clear to Dr. McIntyre that his personal attendance was expected at any County Commission meeting where Knox County Schools business was on the agenda. Dr. McIntyre has tried to honor that commitment since that time.
On June 25, 2012 the County Commission agenda included several educational items, and on relatively short notice several important education items were also added to the agenda of the Chairman’s luncheon. Therefore, Dr. McIntyre felt it would be important for him to be in attendance. He was permitted a brief reprieve from the Aspen Institute seminar scheduled that week to attend the Commission meeting, and then was required to go back to the Washington D.C. area to resume the seminar. The Aspen Institute pays all expenses for the seminars, including travel, but would not have been responsible for providing airfare for him to attend to his professional responsibilities back in Knoxville.”
She further provided documentation which can be found Chairman Tony Norman’s letter to Dr. McIntyre.
While the letter clearly states that an assistant can represent Knox County Schools, it appears the superintendent has been extremely cautious in his attempt to live up to the standards of this document. If the county commission and the school board can implement a defined strategy that allows assistant superintendents or modern technologies such as videoconferencing, it could save taxpayers thousands of dollars in the future and eliminate needless airline trips on the taxpayer dime.
Dan Andrews reporting..