By Steve Hunley
The Knox County Board of Education will today begin discussions about the future of the Leadership Academy, otherwise known as the Center for Educational Leadership.  This is the soft berth where Jim McIntyre landed after quitting as superintendent of Knox County Schools.  The Center for Educational Leadership is supposed to be “a collaborative venture between the Knox County Schools and the University of Tennessee.”  If so, it is a rather one-sided venture as Knox County taxpayers pay almost all the freight, including McIntyre’s $180,000 salary.  Just so you know, that salary is more than that paid to the governor of Tennessee, the state Commissioner of Education, or any member of Congress.  McIntyre makes about 90% of what current superintendent Bob Thomas earns annually.

Theoretically, McIntyre’s mission as the head of the Leadership Academy is to train our future principals and assistant principals.  McIntyre created the Leadership Academy and ran it in his spare time while still serving as superintendent.  The success of the program was guaranteed initially, as McIntyre was able to appoint every leadership position within the Knox County School system.  When he created the Leadership Academy, folks hoping to move up the ladder realized they had little choice but to try and enroll.

Virtually everybody in Knox County recalls McIntyre’s own personal style of leadership; it was authoritarian, dictatorial and characterized by habitual overspending and micromanaging.  When McIntyre resigned as superintendent, he cited the politically “toxic atmosphere” surrounding his incumbency.  It was certainly true the atmosphere was toxic, but it was also a result of McIntyre’s management style.  Keep in mind, Jim McIntyre was never superintendent of anything before he got here and was never a principal or assistant principal.  Whatever he knows about leadership, he learned here and it is beyond belief anybody would think he has much to impart in running a school, yet school officials seem content to allow him to train our future principals and assistant principals.

If McIntyre’s leadership skills were so wonderful, we should have kept him in office as superintendent.  If his leadership skills were lacking, why should he be training future generations of school leaders?

Admittedly, we already have numerous graduates of the Leadership Academy waiting for an appointment as either principal or assistant principal of a school.  In fact, we currently have more graduates than opportunities, nor is there any evidence McIntyre’s academy has made any real difference in the Knox County School system, other than further bloating an already bloated bureaucracy and driving up the cost to taxpayers.  We already have a leadership program to train principals, which I recall is run in conjunction with Vanderbilt University and named for the governor.  The difference is local taxpayers pick up the tab for McIntyre’s operation.

The Leadership Academy is supposed to be a program with statewide application, yet after seven years of existence, perhaps three folks outside Knox County have attended the Center for Educational Leadership.  Were the same true for the University of Tennessee, it would have closed its doors long ago.  There are ninety-five counties in Tennessee and even more school systems than there are counties.  It should be obvious to anyone there isn’t a line at the door waiting to get inside.

Local principals are inexplicably paid a $5,000 stipend for having a teacher from his or her school attend the Leadership Academy.  Just what additional hardship is supposed to be imposed on the principal, most of whom are very well paid, has never been adequately explained.  The fact is, the cost of the entire program is pretty hard to justify on any rational basis, aside from creating a golden parachute for Jim McIntyre.

Teachers, who loudly complained about McIntyre’s policies and style of leadership, seem not to give much thought to his training the principals and assistant principals they will eventually work under.  Many of the current members of the Board of Education were elected because of their opposition to McIntyre and his style of leadership.  McIntyre, seeing the handwriting on the wall, chose to quit rather than work under a Board whose majority was unfriendly to him.  Reputedly, Laurens Tullock, former head of the Cornerstone Foundation, is lobbying Board members to save McIntyre and the Leadership Academy.  Readers will recall Tullock was busy during the last election cycle sending out emails from his Cornerstone account to raise money for the opponents of Board members Jennifer Owen and Susan Horn, as well as Law Director Bud Armstrong.  The Cornerstone Foundation was supposed to be a non-profit organization and above politics.  Rumors continue to circulate that Tullock was goaded into trying to help McIntyre by former superintendent Buzz Thomas, who worked closely with McIntyre in his capacity as head of the Greater Schools Partnership.  It is certainly true Buzz Thomas did everything he could to keep Bob Thomas from succeeding him as superintendent.

Jim McIntyre was always the darling of the big business interests and Chamber-types and evidently they are working overtime to try and save him now.

The Board members, most of whom were elected as opponents of McIntyre, should not be hypocrites.  If Jim McIntyre was not good enough to remain as superintendent, he’s not good enough to train future generations of principals and assistant principals.

McIntyre’s golden parachute makes D. B. Cooper look like a piker and the Board should end it as quickly as possible.