By Steve Hunley
There were those who hailed the recent local school board elections as being a rejection of Jim McIntyre and many of his goals. Some pointed to the possibility of a new seven-member majority as a foundation for real change in Knox County schools and many expected this group to move with monolithic resolve. Those hopes were shattered when the board divided evenly 4-4 (one member was absent due to a family commitment) between Mike McMillan and Terry Hill to serve as Chairman of the Knox County Board of Education. The board deadlock was reminiscent of a previous deadlock between Mike McMillan and McIntyre supporter Doug Harris.
McMillan had been McIntyre’s first and most persistent critic on the board and oftentimes the lone advocate for teachers at their lowest point. Hill has been perhaps the most persistently ambitious member of the board, losing one race for vice chairman of the board, as well as being passed over a second time. With McMillan’s withdrawal from the chairman race to recover from a recent surgery, it is anybody’s guess what will happen now. It is believed that Hill has other political ambitions and has toyed with challenging State Representative Roger Kane.
The foundation of unity has already shown increasing signs of strain if not outright cracks. The board has numerous challenges facing it in the coming months, yet there seems to be little time being spent on anything aside from politics and attempting to toe the line of the teachers’ union.
The absence of Jim McIntyre does allow board members to pursue their own personal agendas and one narrative being pushed currently is the elections were not a rejection of Jim McIntyre, but a genuine ideological movement uniting parents with teachers. This reasoning is delusional. Only a few voters are teachers, some are parents, some are grandparents, but virtually all voters are taxpayers.
Terry Hill has never won any awards for her leadership skills and her most significant accomplishment to date was serving as a one-woman clearinghouse to review applications for the interim superintendent. The end result of that brief process was the selection of Buzz Thomas, which came as no surprise to anyone. Still, Buzz Thomas has had a warm welcome from the public as he has done a good job in a difficult position under trying circumstances. Hill’s forte has been to make lengthy speeches, broadly outlining both sides of an issue before sighing what a difficult time she had in reaching a decision. The Board Chair sets a tone more than wielding any real power and whether Terry Hill could keep a coalition together is anybody’s guess. Some of those board members aligned with the teachers’ union are already grumbling about getting rid of Buzz Thomas.
Personal ambitions don’t necessarily translate into great vision or the right direction. Now that Jim McIntyre is no longer the problem, the people of Knox County will be expecting results from the new board for students, parents and taxpayers, not just the teachers’ union.