The Knoxville Focus for January 25, 2016

The Knoxville Focus for January 25, 2016

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McIntyre Contract Settlement Agreement Approved

By Sally Absher

sallyabsher@knoxfocus.com

The KCS Board of Education approved a contract settlement at a special called meeting last Tuesday, January 19. Dr. McIntyre will be “voluntarily” resigning on July 8, 2016, and will be receiving a lump sum payment of one year salary ($227,256) on or before February 15. With approval of the agreement, McIntyre’s resignation is contingent upon receipt of the settlement payment.

Additionally, he will be paid for any unused vacation leave (currently valued at $39,212.80).

Board member Karen Carson stated during the discussion, “If this Board doesn’t wish to accept this settlement agreement, I’m happy to vote no on it too, and keep him here.” The initial roll call vote yielded six “yeses” with Carson, Bounds, and Rountree voting “pass.” Seeing there weren’t enough “no” votes to deny the contract settlement, Carson changed her vote to “yes.”  Bounds changed her vote to “no,” and the final vote was 7 yes, 1 no, 1 pass.

Lauren Hopson spoke for many in Knox County when she said, “I am extremely conflicted—many of our local leaders feel as I am inclined to, that if making a change in our leadership will help to heal the wounds in our school district so we can focus on the positive aspects of our school system, of which there many, and help move Knox County Schools forward, then we need to go ahead with this plan.”

“However, since we have spent years professing that we need to make every decision based on what is ultimately best for kids, I find it ironic that we suddenly think that what is best for kids is to take a quarter of a million dollars out of our school budget to give to someone who will no longer work for the school system, when an agreement like this was never part of the initial contract.”

Since he made his announcement on January 4, Dr. McIntyre has maintained that “this was my idea” to step down. He has also repeatedly blamed politics, stating, “The current political environment has become increasingly dysfunctional, at times overtly antagonistic, and seemingly untenable. At recent months the focus of the conversation has all too often become about me, or the school board or other elected officials, rather than around the effective education of our children.”

But many question if the resignation was in fact McIntyre’s idea. Initial news reports stated, “Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre has agreed to step down in July in exchange for a one-year severance.”

And during Tuesday’s special called meeting, Chairman Doug Harris said, “In the state of Tennessee, it’s not uncommon for superintendents to have multi-year contracts. But those multi-year contracts come at a cost when you want to terminate that contract.”

Was McIntyre asked to resign? If so, it makes the one year salary pay-out a bit easier to swallow. A quarter of a million dollars is a lot of money to a school system that has difficulty buying copy paper and textbooks. But it’s a whole lot less than a million dollars, which Knox County might have been forced to pay under the newly renewed/extended contract ending in December 2019.

There have been many references during the past few weeks to “the new Board wanting to replace Dr. McIntyre as soon as possible.” Harris made that statement during the special call meeting.  It is interesting how these folks use their crystal ball to attempt to discredit the new Board before elections are even held.

The four board members who are often portrayed as “anti-McIntyre” are much more accurately “pro student,” and together with unopposed 3rd District candidate Tony Norman, will make up a new majority.

To be sure, the new Board majority will take their oath of office seriously, providing oversight and supervision of their single employee, demanding accountability, and adhering to both the letter and spirit of applicable laws (Knox County Charter and TCA statute), duties which the current Board majority has been derelict in  performing. And to be sure, that would have made life difficult for Dr. McIntyre.

But it is highly unlikely that the new Board would have unilaterally voted to fire the superintendent at will, or even for cause. Firing him at will could cost the taxpayers (under the newly extended/renewed contract) over $1M, and firing him for cause (mismanagement of grants, withholding information from the funding body, etc., not to mention the December 2014 bus wreck that killed two students and a teachers’ aide) could cost the county millions in legal fees and court costs.

The current BOE majority can blame the minority all they want, but they created this problem by prematurely and possibly illegally ramming through a contract extension/renewal in November. In a desperate power grab, they got greedy.  If they had left the contract expiring in December 2017 in place, and allowed the new Board to let it run out without renewal, it would not have cost the taxpayers a dime.

Coulda, shoulda, woulda aside, here we are today. What Knox County needs most right now is healing for our School System. It is the best large metropolitan system in the state, and one of the best districts overall. We have great teachers and incredible students. That will not change, despite the fearmongering of some such as Philander Claxton III (grandson of Philander Claxton, for whom UT’s Claxton Education Building is named).

Claxton spoke with disdain to those who are not McIntyre fans (youtu.be/lHc3mL_OhR0), asserting that “Dr. McIntyre is not a good fit for this community.” Quoting former UT President Charles Dabney (1887-1904), he said, “The intellectual state of the south is one of almost insurmountable prejudice, narrowness… and profound stupidity,” adding, “These descriptors, to which I would add selfishness, may rightfully be applied today to a ‘vocal minority’ in Knox County.”

He then paraphrased MLK Memorial Service keynote speaker Reverend Joes Miles, saying, “I fear that those in Knox County, who have sought to ouster Dr. McIntyre, are infected by a leprosy that continues to eat away at the good flesh of this community.”

Perhaps Claxton should cure his own leprosy before he judges this poor little backwoods community of ours. A simple google search identifies Philander Claxton III as a convicted felon with numerous instances of federal criminal activity including forgery and fraud, bankruptcy, and owing over $25K in back taxes to the State of Wisconsin.

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