By Steve Hunley

What most people in Knox County don’t seem to realize is that Jim McIntyre’s Leadership Academy is still very much alive.  When current Superintendent Bob Thomas presented the board of education with a proposal removing $900,000 of funding, Thomas concurrently recommended to the board that the school system continue to participate in the Leadership Academy.  Only two members of the Knox County Board of Education, Mike McMillan and Tony Norman, voted to table the LA agenda item which, in effect, was a vote against continuing any future relationship with McIntyre’s Leadership Academy.

Board Chair Patti Bounds proceeded to provide cover for herself and some of her colleagues by proposing a committee to negotiate some sort of arrangement with the University of Tennessee to continue a relationship with McIntyre.  Bounds, Jennifer Owen, Susan Horn, Amber Rountree, Terry Hill, Gloria Deathridge, and Lynne Fugate all voted to form a committee.  Deathridge and Fugate had been strong supporters of Jim McIntyre while he was superintendent and their argument the Knox County School system could not afford to cut ties with UT was to be expected. More surprising was the stand taken by Bounds, Owen, Rountree, Horn and Hill, all of whom had been elected as opponents of McIntyre; yet all voted to form a committee to look at whether or not to negotiate a relationship with UT in regards to the Leadership Academy.

One cannot separate the Leadership Academy and Jim McIntyre. The Leadership Academy was McIntyre’s creation from its very beginning.  Designed as an institute to train future principals and assistant principals while he was superintendent, McIntyre’s influence was supreme.  He had the sole authority to pick and choose from among the applicants and only the superintendent could appoint or promote school principals and assistant principals.  It quickly became quite clear that if anyone wanted an appointment or a promotion in the Knox County School system, he or she found the best route to go was by entering McIntyre’s Leadership Academy.  For those fortunate few who gained admittance, they received free tuition and emerged with a degree.  Certainly that had significant monetary value as those less fortunate had to go to school on their own time and dime.  It was more than a perk; it was a significant reward and for eight years Jim McIntyre has supervised and taught future principals and assistant principals while Knox County has kicked in $900,000 annually.

Yet none of the board members, especially those elected as McIntyre opponents seem to be able to explain their willingness to continue a relationship with the Leadership Academy.

Jim McIntyre IS the Leadership Academy.  If McIntyre did not have the management style or ability to be superintendent, why would any rational person want him training the future principals and assistant principals at every school in Knox County?  

The committee, created by the board and selected by Superintendent Bob Thomas, is made up of two school board members and three administrators and has just completed its work after five meetings. I presume the committee will present its findings and make a recommendation to the full board at tonight’s meeting. I will say that during all of the committee meetings, at this point, Jennifer Owen has been the most adamant about ending any future relationship with former Superintendent McIntyre.

A possible alternative that was discussed by the committee was the possibility of bringing all leadership training activities back within the Knox County School System. Of course, if this were to happen they could create an entirely new bureaucracy within the school system. Now, as we all know, bureaucracies never get smaller; like Topsy, they tend to grow ever larger.  Now we are to have a new director, likely to be paid six figures, to supervise Knox County’s various own leadership efforts, as well as work with the Leadership Academy.  The $900,000 in purported “savings” is no longer $900,000 in savings and will likely continue to shrink over time.  Any new “in-house” program will of course have to have staff support, etc., all of which will cost money.

Another point I would like to make is that the creation of this committee was also conveniently timed so that any vote by the school board would be after the filing deadline for candidates to run for school board in this year’s elections.  Perhaps that was a mighty convenient coincidence, or maybe board members didn’t want to have to vote on continuing a relationship with former Superintendent McIntyre before the filing deadline for candidates to run for school board this year.

There is no real need for Knox County to continue to participate in the Leadership Academy from a personnel standpoint. Knox County currently has well over 200 people certified to serve as assistant principals or principals.  Theoretically, every principal and assistant principal in the entire system could be replaced instantly.

The loudest crowd in the county in decrying Jim McIntyre and his management style were the teachers, yet some former teachers who are now board members seem to be the slowest folk in understanding the board of education did not in fact kill off the Leadership Academy; they created a way for it to continue.

Those members of the board of education who opposed Jim McIntyre claimed they disliked his philosophy and the way he ran the schools, yet some seem to have no objection to his training future principals and assistant principals and I simply cannot reconcile that in my mind.  Frankly, it makes no sense.

Tonight the Knox County Board of Education will begin its discussions on the recommendations made by the committee created and formed by Patti Bounds and Superintendent Bob Thomas.

If the voters and teachers feel betrayed, it is very obvious who is to blame.