By Steve Hunley

Jim McIntyre certainly was successful in at least one aspect during his time as superintendent of the Knox County School system. When McIntyre first arrived from Boston, he did have one vision, which he made a reality: recreating the school system in his own image. A proud graduate of the Broad Academy, Jim McIntyre managed not only to leave his imprint on the Knox County School system, but wove his philosophical DNA into the very fabric of the school culture. McIntyre reshaped the school system into a reflection of himself and his philosophy of education.

Jim McIntyre even created his own mini-Broad Academy when he worked his wonders to start the Leadership Academy in conjunction with the University of Tennessee. The Leadership Academy served as McIntyre’s very own indoctrination camp for future principals and assistant principals. As superintendent, McIntyre already possessed the sole power to appoint every principal and assistant principal in the school system; that alone wasn’t good enough. McIntyre created the Leadership Academy, which served as a vehicle for him to personally indoctrinate generations of principals and assistant principals in his style of leadership and philosophy.

McIntyre was never either a principal or assistant principal, nor has McIntyre ever run a school. Just what could Jim McIntyre teach an aspiring principal or assistant principal except for his own special brand of leadership and doctrine?

Once he was installed as superintendent, McIntyre began a systematic campaign to remove every old-time principal, including many who were doing an outstanding job and widely popular in the communities they served. McIntyre’s administration pressured veteran teachers with many years of experience to retire. That served two purposes; it was cheaper as new teachers did not earn as much as those highly skilled teachers whose place they took. The second was it would be much easier to mold the new teachers who could be expected to accept McIntyre’s philosophy more readily. McIntyre’s purge of long-serving employees even extended to coaches. Throughout his time as superintendent, Jim McIntyre relentlessly expanded the school bureaucracy. For instance, McIntyre hired “mentors” for teachers and employed 65 at one time, as well as a new supervisor. McIntyre used one-time money to pay for the hires, causing Board member Mike McMillan to wonder if the mentors realized they might not have a job the next year. McIntyre replied the mentors had been forewarned, but he had no intention of letting them go. McIntyre merely folded the expense into the regular budget, carrying the expense forward for all time. Presuming the average salary was $50,000 annually and figuring conservatively the benefits for each employee amounted to $15,000, the total cost comes to more than $4.2 million taxpayer dollars.

McIntyre was able to continually expand the school bureaucracy through his then rubber stamp Board of Education, except for Mike McMillan. The Board habitually rubber-stamped his expansion policies and overspending.

Few people realize just how successful Jim McIntyre was in recreating the school system in his own image. A great many of the top level supervisors in the Andrew Johnson Building owe their promotions to McIntyre. A majority of the principals and assistant principals working in the school system were appointed by Jim McIntyre while some 270 teachers are certified to become principals and assistant principals many of whom have been trained by McIntyre.

Some people were distracted by McIntyre’s penchant for the next big thing. McIntyre was constantly proposing some new program for the Knox County Schools, not one of which was original. One only had to Google any McIntyre proposal to discover it had already been tried in other school systems around the country. McIntyre was no innovator and was usually pretty shaky on the details and all too frequently had no idea just how the program he was proposing worked elsewhere. The end result, how much it might cost the taxpayers, or whether it even worked was of less importance and interest to Jim McIntyre than creating the impression he was doing something.

One can easily make the argument McIntyre’s Leadership Academy served less of a need for training future leaders than creating a demand to expand the bureaucracy. When Jim McIntyre was hired as superintendent, there were 108 assistant principals employed by the Knox County School system. When McIntyre left, there were 138 assistant principals on the payroll of the Knox County School system.

Many of the principals and assistant principals employed by the Knox County School system will move up the career ladder and become supervisors and part of the administration. With 270+ qualified folks waiting patiently already one could also make the argument that we have plenty potential principal candidates in the pipeline already. Short of having ten assistant principals at every school in the county, we really don’t have a need to continue churning out McIntyre Academy graduates.

Jim McIntyre was quite successful in recreating the Knox County School system into a blueprint outlined by the Broad Academy and the sooner that the Board of Education severs its ties with his Leadership Academy, the sooner we can begin to erase McIntyre’s imprint on our school system once and for all.