By Focus Staff

Mike McMillan, East Knox County’s member of the Board of Education, says the agreement between the school system and the University of Tennessee may not be valid. The Board will be discussing the Leadership Academy or Center for Educational Leadership at tonight’s meeting. Dr. James McIntyre, former superintendent of the Knox County School system, heads the Leadership Academy. After his resignation following a controversial tenure as superintendent, McIntyre chose to head the Leadership Academy. Before leaving the superintendent’s office, McIntyre ran the academy on a part-time basis.

McMillan was McIntyre’s most persistent critic during much of McIntyre’s time in office. McMillan contacted Richard “Bud” Armstrong, Knox County Law Director, in preparation of the discussion of the Leadership Academy, posing several questions. After asking one of the top administrators for a copy of the agreement between the Leadership Academy and the Knox County School system, McMillan said he was surprised to learn “apparently nobody could find a copy of the supposed agreement.” McMillan then asked Law Director Bud Armstrong about the agreement. Armstrong wrote back, “I cannot find a record of an executed agreement with School Board approval or Commission approval regarding the Leadership Academy.” Armstrong said “the only record” he is aware of is a “single page document with a concept paper attached” which was signed by Dr. Jim McIntyre and Robert Rider, Dean of the University of Tennessee College of Education, Health and Human Services. According to Armstrong, the space for the signature of UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek remains blank. Armstrong who was not Law Director at the time of the agreement, says he can find no evidence the document was ever reviewed by the Law Director’s office.

McMillan, a former member of the Knox County Commission, pointed out the expenditures for the Leadership Academy amount to almost $1 million annually and that would require approval by both the Board of Education and County Commission. “The Commission is required to give a pro forma approval,” McMillan said. “While it may be pro forma, it still must be done and considering the amount of the expenditure, it would have to be done yearly.”

McMillan says he does not believe the Leadership Academy is cost effective. “It was created by Dr. McIntyre while he was still superintendent of the schools. Dr. McIntyre personally picked every person to attend the academy while he also had the singular authority to appoint every principal and assistant principal at every school in this county.”

The Leadership Academy was founded with the idea of McIntyre training future principals and assistant principals, whom he personally trained. “Of course,” McMillan added, “nobody has ever explained how the Leadership Academy functioned without a full-time director until Jim resigned as superintendent.” McIntyre is paid $180,000 annually as director of the Center for Educational Leadership, which is funded by the Knox County School system.

Mike McMillan referred to a white paper authored by Clint Sattler, Supervisor of Research and Evaluation, whose findings were presented to the members of the Board. “The findings as presented by Mr. Sattler were less than overwhelming,” McMillan said. McMillan observed when Sattler cited data, it was usually for the first two years of the program, but that Sattler seemed to conclude after two years there was insufficient data to draw a conclusion. McMillan pointed out that during the first two years of the Leadership Academy’s existence, McIntyre was still superintendent of Knox County Schools.

“Jim pretty well had complete control of everything at that point,” McMillan said. “He not only decided who got to attend the academy, but picked all the principals and assistant principals. It was pretty clear if someone wanted to get into a leadership role in the school system, they had to go to Jim’s academy.”

In his findings, Clint Sattler noted “41.3% of new principal placements have been Leadership Academy alumni and the percentages of Leadership Academy alumni who were appointed principal within 2 years of their fellowship generally decreased each year of the program.” Sattler suggested, “This may signal a need to examine candidate selection” as well as “Leadership Academy cohort size” or even “district placement practices.” Still, Sattler says in his report there was “some evidence of consumer confidence in the quality of the program”, although McMillan questioned that assertion. “I presume Mr. Sattler is referring to those attending the Leadership Academy when he refers to the consumers,” McMillan stated. “I’m not sure just how Mr. Sattler arrived at that conclusion other than after having attended the Leadership Academy those folks fully expected to be appointed as an assistant principal or principal. I didn’t see it measured or quantified in any way.”

With the school administration seemingly unable to find any documentation of the actual agreement and the questions raised about following the process as outlined in the law, McMillan says he believes there may be an effort to craft an entirely new agreement. McMillan thinks McIntyre may rely on a defense that the Board of Education ceded him certain authority and powers, which the East Knox Countian dismisses.

“I’ve always maintained the opinion the Board cannot cede its lawful powers to a superintendent or director of schools,” McMillan said. “When we’re spending taxpayer dollars there’s a process we have to follow and the Board certainly never intended to circumvent that particular process. There’s also the requirement in the law that certain things, especially those involving money, must go before the County Commission. It will be an interesting discussion involving an agreement that may have never properly existed.”

McMillan said he could easily foresee an opinion being asked of the state Attorney General’s office or perhaps involving the state Comptroller’s office. “There were some on the Board who seemed to think Board policy could contravene state law,” McMillan said. “I’ve never believed that and have always taken the position that we must follow the law as it is written. Obviously, policy as a means of getting away with whatever was wanted isn’t the best form of policy.”