By Sally Absher

Dr. McIntyre’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week

(With apologies to Judith Viorst).  In case you missed it, it has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week for the Dr. McIntyre and the KCS Administration.

It actually started several weeks ago, when after attending one of McIntyre’s back-to-school tours at Dogwood Elementary, BOE member-elect Amber Rountree was notified by McIntyre that he didn’t think she should join him as he visits schools in her district.

In an email dated August 13, he wrote, “I’m starting to become a bit concerned that some people may perceive it as inappropriate for you to be accompanying me on school visits while you are a paid school librarian out on medical leave. Sorry to broach a potentially sensitive subject, but I just wanted to make sure you know that such questions are being asked.”

Next, McIntyre tried to discourage Rountree from attending the new Board Orientation on. In an email dated August 18, Dr. McIntyre wrote, “Sorry for the oversight, but given the fact that you are out on maternity due to physical disability, we will need to re-schedule your School Board Orientation until after September 2nd.”

Not easily intimidated, Rountree, who prior to her employment as a KCS librarian was a legal assistant at a prestigious Knoxville law firm, took matters into her own hands and contacted David Buuck at the County Law Department.

After hearing back from Buuck, Rountree notified McIntyre that Mr. Buuck stated there would be no legal issue if she attended the orientation.

McIntyre replied (Aug. 19) that “Dr. Sims (HR) as informed me that our practice for employees out on maternity sick leave…is to typically not have them be engaged in any KCS work-related activities.” He added, “I’m not willing to accept the potential risk, nor any potential appearance of imprioriety.”

Buuck then emailed McIntyre directly (Aug. 20), saying, “I can find no reason that she should be denied the right to attend the orientation meeting on account of her pregnancy and have so advised her.”

McIntyre replied to Buuck saying “Unfortunately, I believe you have significantly mischaracterized my correspondence with Ms. Rountree.” (McIntyre’s recent evaluation found that he needed to work on his communication skills.)

BOE member-elect Rountree did in fact attend the Board Member orientation on August 21, along with Terry Hill and Patti Bounds. And that’s where McIntyre’s week got worse.

As reported by several bloggers (and even in the chamber-controlled local daily newspaper), during orientation, the new board members were given a copy of a document entitled “Agreements between the BOE and Superintendent.”

The document was prepared by Dr. McIntyre and recommended to the BOE at the Nov. 3, 2008 Work Session. The document was later amended and submitted by McIntyre at the BOE’s Oct. 6, 2010 meeting, at which it was approved by the BOE.

Again, thanks to “legal eagle” Rountree, something didn’t pass the smell test, and she forwarded the document over to Bud Armstrong in the County Law Department with the question “is a 2010 document entitled “Agreements between the Board of Education and Superintendent” a legal and enforceable contract?”

To which Bud answered, “No.”

He states that the document “fails as a legal binding agreement. It does not cite any consideration. It is not signed by any member to the BOE or by the Director of Schools. It stands only a document which cites propositions to which a previous Board and the Superintendent aspired. It clearly cannot, and does not, bind the September, 2014 Board Members. The law is clear that one deliberative body cannot bind a future legislative body’s actions.”

“Additionally, Tenn. Code Ann. Title 49 does not grant authority to the BOE and the Superintendent to enter into any such agreement governing the conduct of members of the BOE.”

New BOE members were assured in their orientation meeting that “many school boards across the state have such agreements.” Armstrong disputes this as well, having queried Mr. Randall Bennett, legal counsel at the Tennessee School Boards Association. Armstrong wrote, “Mr. Bennett stated that he knew of no school districts that had such an agreement in place.”

Armstrong said that “Even if the document met the technical legal requirements of a contract, it would be unenforceable. The contract attempts to delimit the duties and powers of the BOE as set out in statute. It is elementary law that no agreement can constrain the statutory duties and obligation of a BOE member.”

This agreement does, however, help explain why the BOE has shown signs of Stockholm syndrome, voting in lockstep with the superintendent.

Among some of the more egregious components of the “agreement” are the following:

G.3. Board Members will refrain from any questions or statements intended solely to embarrass or stump staff or the Superintendent.

G.7 All members will support the majority vote of the Board, even if they did not vote in the majority. No member will ever take action to block or undermine the implementation of a measure approved by the majority of the Board.

G.8 …Members in the minority of a vote, if asked for a comment by media, may a) decline to comment, b) note that they will support the vote of the Board, c) note that they will support the vote of the Board and articulate the rationale for the approved vote, or d) refer media to the Board Chair for comment.

G.9 The Board Chair will be empowered to enforce these norms and agreements.

Armstrong says that “At its base, these items limit Board Members’ freedom of speech, as well as their responsibility to speak openly and freely on all school issues.”

No kidding. As if we needed even more reasons why it is so important to count to five.

Something that is not lost on the folks over at the AJ Building, who are in full-fledged panic mode after the appointment of John Fugate II to fill the interim District 2 BOE seat.

The Chamber “puppet masters” were awfully upset that Rick Staples wasn’t appointed, for some reason, and it probably has nothing to do with the “wishes of the Second District.”