By Sally Absher

Last Monday the Knox County School Board held a special call meeting to discuss Dr. McIntyre’s evaluation.

(Yes, we know he was just evaluated 8 months ago, but administration wanted the evaluation done before the new BOE members take office, since they might be a little tougher on him).

No one expected any real surprises, since the current rubber-stamp BOE can be counted on to give their single employee a glowing review, and both Dr. McIntyre’s self- evaluation and the BOE summative narrative were posted on the webpage well in advance of the meeting.

The BOE examined Dr. McIntyre’s performance in five areas: Student Achievement, Strategic Planning and Execution, Effective Use of Resources; Relationships with Staff, Personnel, and Board Members, and Family and Community Engagement.

The BOE pointed out that “at the time of this evaluation, the results of a number of performance measures that the State Department of Education provides the district are not available.”

This was probably beneficial to Dr. McIntyre as more of those performance measures have come in over the past week. We’re waiting to see how Central Office will explain the increase in Priority and Focus listed schools in Knox County from three years ago.

The BOE praised the effort of Dr. McIntyre to prepare the 2020 Five Year Strategic Plan. They said, “The process used to create this plan had the most robust outreach effort of anything the school system has done, and Dr. McIntyre is to be commended for using such an inclusive process. … Creating this plan involved gathering information from teachers, parents, students, elected officials, and community members.”

All that is true. And then they gave the teachers, parents, students, elected officials, and community members exactly six days to read, parse, evaluate, and give feedback on the final plan, before insisting they had to declare an emergency and vote to adopt it. One wonders why such urgency?

The Board also said they were “generally pleased” with Dr. McIntyre’s management of the school system’s resources. They note that “Changes to the Board of Education and the County Commission will necessitate early discussion of the Knox County Schools budget.”

No doubt Doug Harris will ask again for his $30M funding increase. For technology. Because giving a kid an iPad will automatically guarantee his academic success.

In probably the most honest statement of the Board Narrative of Dr. McIntyre’s evaluation, they say, “…his relationship with school leaders, teachers, and other staff requires significant improvement.” More than one resigning teacher has noted a high level of harassment, intimidation, coercion, retaliation, and threats of dismissal” which, as one former teacher wrote, “have no place in attracting, building, or retaining strong educators.”

Businessman Phil Claxton spoke during public forum, praising Dr. McIntyre as the “CEO of a $430M business with 8000 employees.” He said he would “urge Mr. McMillan and the new members of the BOE to give him a chance.”

The Board notes that “Dr. McIntyre has begun working on his relationship with teachers with the creation of the Teacher Working Group in December. This group shared concerns and offered recommendations. They note that in February, Dr. McIntyre took eleven specific actions related to this group’s suggestions.”

However, conversations with members of the TWG indicate that isn’t exactly the whole story. The actions taken by Dr. McIntyre were not necessarily recommendations of the TWG, and many of the recommendations made by teachers in the meetings ended there.

Dr. McIntyre reduced the number of district-mandated standardized assessments for this year, but teachers wonder if that was the result of parent pressure rather than acting on the recommendations of the TWG.

Dr. McIntyre will establish a Teacher Advisory Committee to work with him for the 2014-15 school year. Teachers can fill out an application, including biographical information and a brief statement explaining why they wish to serve. Dr. McIntyre will make the final selections.

Teachers had hoped for a more democratic selection process where peers would select the people they feel will represent their concerns and ideas well.

What better way to look like a successful leader than to surround yourself with people who agree with you and will tell you how wonderful you are? In fact one such person, a self-described “class act” vice-principal who had just completed the Leadership Academy, spoke in Dr. McIntyre’s favor at the meeting. (Video available at  SaveOurSchoolSystem YouTube channel).

BOE members think Dr. McIntyre is very hard working. He frequently attends school event, meetings, activities, and forums, and makes frequent visits to schools. And he attended every high school’s graduation ceremony last spring. (Isn’t that what a school superintendent is supposed to do?)

BOE members concluded that, “This past year has been a very challenging year, and Dr. McIntyre has heard a great deal about things that can be improved on… The changes in public education are challenging, but they are essential to improving the opportunities for every child in Knox County.”

Change is hard. Let’s hope the new incoming BOE members are willing to make some hard changes.