Friday, December 27, 2013

Smith set to run for school board

Miss me? Bet you did. I’m on vacation, but couldn’t help chiming in on this one. Heh.

In its never-ending effort to remind everyone that term-limited county Commissioner R. Larry Smith will run for school board, the Sentinel again today published another article. Reminding folks just that.

Anyhoo, it really comes as no surprise. Smith for more than a year has told people that he’s mulled running against Sherry Witt for the Register of Deeds post and against Congressman Jimmy Duncan Jr for his seat. When it finally got through to him that he had less than a snowball’s chance, he opted to take his chances on the school board.

(Incumbent Kim Severance has said that she will not seek re-election.)

So far, two other potential candidates have picked up nominating petitions. Both are male, so that could potentially bode well for R. Larry, who doesn’t seem to think that women’s issues are all that important. Heh. Ha ha.

What’s going to cause some potential problems, however,  is that – as the article points out (sorry, I'm not linking to pay walls) – Commissioner Flip Flop said he would vote against extending Superintendent Jim McIntyre’s contract. Well, BS.

Smith voted to approve it during a commission meeting earlier this month. Now, it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway, but – as I noted here – he could have symbolically opposed it, like Commissioner Mike Brown.

Instead, he voted to add it to the commission consent agenda, and then he approved the agenda.

So, technically R. Larry voted to extend the contract twice, rather than once, like the school board.

As someone pointed out on the KNS message board, maybe R. Larry should go back to school rather than serve on the school board.


To check out who picked up and turned in nominating petitions, click right smack here.

Friday, December 20, 2013

McIntyre says 'Happy Holidays' to county teachers in an odd video

In a seriously bizarre video, an uncomfortable looking Knox County Superintendent Jim McIntyre wishes teachers a happy holiday.

Really, it’s odd. I suppose he means well, but did he really have to remind everyone how his $222,800 a year contract was recently extended? Talk about rubbing salt into the wound. And next time you read a script, tack it up a little higher on the ol’ laptop so it looks like you’re actually talking to the teachers. 

Not, you know, reading one of Melissa Ogden’s scripts. Heh. 

You can find the video, right smack here.

UPDATE: Well, apparently, Lord McIntyre and his disciples on the school board "are showing appreciation to teachers and staff for their hard work at all our schools," according to an Ogden email.

She added that no public coin was used.

"The money is left over from a contribution to the Partners in Education program for the annual parent conference, so it is not being funded with taxpayer dollars or using money out of the general purpose budget," she wrote.

The flowers, which will be dead by this weekend, cost $936, and the cookies totaled $1,552.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

County audit report to show problems

Knox County is expected to receive a clean bill of health from its auditor, but some departments will have problems that will need to be quickly fixed, officials said Tuesday.

If not, they could jeopardize the county's bond rating.

"There will be some findings," said Knox County Finance Director Chris Caldwell, who declined to elaborate. "A government our size will have some findings, but at least everything from 2012 has been cleared."

As it stands, the county's external auditor, Pugh & Company, should finish the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, or CAFR, by the end of the week. Auditors will then issue local leaders a management letter that provides more insight into the report and list any deficiencies and weaknesses in the county's overall organization structure for fiscal year 2013, which ended June 30.

The rest of the story, right smack here.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Knox County sales tax revenues down

Knox County Finance Director Chris "Money Bags" Caldwell told commissioners today that county sales tax revenues are down big time.

He said at this point they're down by about $560K in folding paper for the general fund; another $400K for the public works and engineering department and about $4 million for schools.

That means, he told officials, don't start planning a spending spree. Heh.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Superintendent contract before commish for perfunctory vote

County Commission meets on Monday. They’ll consider a resolution to approve the contract between the Knox County Board of Education and Superintendent Jim McIntyre.

My guess is it’s a pretty quick rubber stamp. The commission, while it controls the county’s financial purse strings, can’t tell the BOE how to spend its money once allocated. And at some point, the county has to allocate money to pay the superintendent’s salary, whoever he or she is.

(It’s also not worth the headache to a number of commissioners to keep battling the BOE over management anyway.)

However, there could be a few holdouts as Commissioner Tony Norman or Mike Brown might now approve it. More curious, though, will be what Vice Chairman R. Larry Smith does. Rumors once again making the rounds are that he’s again thinking about running for a school board seat (good luck with that one), but the only way to separate himself from an incumbent would be to take an anti-McIntyre stance.

We’ll see. Expect officials to initially place it on the consent agenda, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s taken off for an outright vote.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Whether teachers can run for BOE

In the wake of Yellow Monday, some school teachers have started looking into whether they can run for a seat on the Board of Education.

Well, probably. Maybe. If that makes sense.

The charter states that “no member of the Commission or any other public official or employee of the Board of Education shall be eligible for appointment or election to the Board of Education.”

HOWEVER, state law might trump the ol’ charter, according to Mark Goins, state coordinator of elections, and Elizabeth Henry-Robertson, assistant coordinator of elections.

They issued an opinion back in late 2011 on a similar matter. You can read it right smack here.

If, not, well, I’ll try to explain. Essentially, if you’re a teacher you can run for a school board seat and the Knox County Elections Office will put your name on the ballot.

Having said that, it doesn’t mean an opponent won’t take issue and file a lawsuit, which would then get the courts involved. Now the courts will probably take the Goins’ letter into consideration, but it’s certainly not the be-all-end-all.

So, at this point, the letter tells local election folks what they should do, but the legal issue could certainly continue.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Knox Sheriff's Office travel records

OK, now that Yellow Monday is over and a couple of school board members officially committed political suicide yesterday, we can get onto more fun stuff.

Like travel records.

Now, the reality is these rarely yield what you want them to. Heck, just ask Commissioner R. Larry Smith (speaking of political suicide).

Anyhoo, Bobby Waggoner, a retired assistant chief over the detective division who is running for sheriff, asked the finance department for “copies of all travel expense reimbursement summaries,” and blah, blah blah for the following folks:

  • Eddie Biggs
  • Rodney Bivens
  • Butch Bryant
  • Clyde Cowan
  • Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones
  • Mike Ruble
  • Lee Tramel

I know this because I’m a smart guy. (And occasionally, I do record requests for copies of records request.)

You’ll note that Waggoner did not ask for his own records.

I’ve since received a copy of all these docs, including ones on Waggoner. They cover a three year period from Sept. 1, 2010, when Jones’ current term began, through Nov. 30, 2013.

Now, this is a ton of stuff, but not a whole lot to show.

So, let’s break it down from stingiest to costliest. Remember, this is for three years.

Chief Deputy Eddie Biggs: $1,859. Well, it looks like he took some trips to Nashville for various functions, and he also went to the U.S. Border Patrol Special Operations Expo in El Paso, Texas in 2011. It appears that he sought reimbursement for meals only once.

Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones: $2,096. Now, you hear all these stories about Jones set-setting and globe trottin’ but that doesn’t mean a whole lot when one of the trips was a personal vacation to Scotland and another – to Taiwan – was paid for by the Taiwanese government. (Someone fancy from Atlanta was invited to a Knox County luncheon and then invited the Sheriff’s Office to go over there.) Here’s some info about it right smack here. That said, it looks like the sheriff made three trips to Nashville, one to Sevierville and another one to El Paso for that Border Patrol thing. Jones did not seek any reimbursement for food or mileage other than the plan ticket to Texas.

Look, I don’t really feel like going through this whole entire thing. So, let’s throw out some numbers then skip ahead. Since I did the lowest two in some detail, I’ll also do the top two.

Lee Tramel: $3,662.41

Butch Bryant: $3,795.24

Mike Ruble: $5,032.34

Clyde Cowan: $6,192.03 (By the way, Cowan, who is over the detective division and SWAT, has some FBI academy stuff he has to go to, so that cost a few coins.)

OK, final two:

Bobby Waggoner: $7,250.01. Waggoner went on about 10 trips to Nashville (these are Tennessee Sheriff’s Association meetings); a couple to Sevierville, one to Tampa (Cold Case Investigations & Interviews) and another to Orlando (International Homicide Training Symposium). He also took trips to Washington, D.C. and to New Orleans to attend the International Homicide Investigators Association Annual conferences (That actually sounds kind of cool). Waggoner accepted per diem for meals for the out-of-state trips, but not in-state.

Rodney Bivens: $14,579. OK, now Bivens runs the jail, which is accredited, which means he’s got mandatory conferences that he needs to attend every year. And, no, they don’t hold these conferences locally and they’re not one or two-day events. Sooooo, that meant a mandatory jaunt over to Potomac, MD to attend the U.S. Dept. of Justice PREA training; the ACA’s 142nd Congress of Correction in Denver; Phoenix for another ACA Conference; another one in San Antonio; one in Kissimmee, Fl; and there was something in Sweetwater, TN. So, when it’s all said and done, that’s a little under $5K a year in trips for Bivens.

It’s a good thing Chief Bivens didn’t go to a women’sconference or he’d have R. Larry after him.


In the meantime, all these trips were budgeted and approved by top county officials, including the sheriff and the mayor.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Superintendent contract the talk of tonight. What's going to happen?

So, the school board tonight will talk about whether to extend Superintendent Jim McIntyre’s contract through the end of 2017.

It’s part of his annual performance review. He currently makes $222,800 and gets an $800 per month travel allowance and almost five weeks of paid vacation. His contract runs through late 2016.

A number of things could happen:

  • The board extends the contract and subsequently turns the matter into a major election issue.
  • The board opts to set aside the extension part of the discussion  for up to another year. (Members possibly suggest another review a little after the elections.)
  • McIntyre, after the performance discussion, suggests to the board to set aside talks about an extension, thus not making the matter a major election issue.
  • The board votes to not extend the contract, thus giving them a shot at re-election. (Smart money is not on this one.)

My guess is that the school board approves the extension. It will probably be 7-2 vote. Mike McMillan and Pam Trainor will probably cast the dissenting votes. I say this only because – and you can take this to the bank – if Pam supports it, she is done in the election.

The meeting is at the AJ Building, which means there are like three seats available because the County Commission is holding court around the same time in the Main Auditorium of the City County Building. So, get there early.

I’m saying this to anti-McIntyre people and pro-McIntyre people.

Obviously, one of the big things to come up tonight will be focused on McIntyre’s classroom, or lack thereof, experience.

I blogged about it here, and Eleanor had a story on Friday night about it here.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Lunch with mayor set for Friday 13th

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett is hosting his final Lunch with the Mayor event of the year next Friday, and he hopes the community will come out to support another great local business, according to the latest from Big Sexy Michael Grider.

The next Lunch with the Mayor will be Friday, Dec. 13, at the Fountain City Diner, 3029 Tazewell Pike, from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Fountain City Diner is owned by Dennis and Penny Wagner.  The diner will offer Lunch with the Mayor specials, including chicken pot pie and two sides for $7.99 (regularly $9.99) and all cakes, pies and cheesecakes will be $3 per slice (regular price $4.99) – and it’s all made from scratch.

The public is invited and other elected officials may be in attendance.  As always, this event is “Dutch treat.”

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Just the fact, ma'am: A look at McIntyre's classroom experience

Superintendent Jim McIntyre
I’ve been following this teacher thing closely.

I’m posting this blog entry because there’s some information out there that isn’t correct (and there’s a lot that is correct) about the time Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre spent in the classroom. I just wanted to throw out a few facts. 

It's not to give any side a voice. 


FACT: McIntyre is in charge of the county’s more than $400 million educational budget, its 89 schools and a 7,500-person workforce that includes 4,800 teachers.

FACT: Of the state’s 15 largest school districts, 13 superintendents spent between seven and 33 years as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal. 

FACT: Only two superintendents who oversee the state’s largest school districts have fewer than seven years’ experience. Jim spent one year in a school, and Dorsey Hopson, a long-time attorney, who took over one of the state’s most troublesome school districts – Memphis-Shelby County – has no classroom experience. 

FACT: About 20 years ago, Jim taught only one school-year at Vincent Gray Alternative High School, a private academy in East St Louis, Ill that touts class sizes of eight to 10 students “who live on the margins of poverty,” and graduates an average of 20 students per year, according to its website. You can find that information right smack here.

FACT: Jim taught English, anatomy and physical education. He said he took the job as part of an endeavor similar to “a domestic Peace Corps kind of thing.”

FACT: After the school year, Jim returned home to Boston. He built on his education, earning a master’s degree in urban affairs at Boston University, and a doctorate in public policy at the University of Massachusetts.

FACT: In 1997, Jim joined the Boston Public Schools’ finance office in 1997 where he worked as an intern, according to one of his letters of recommendation written by John McDonough, then-BPS chief financial officer and the systems’ current superintendent. Jim was quickly promoted to budget director and deputy chief financial officer where he helmed a school district of roughly 56,000 students, 9,000 employees and budget of more than $800 million,according to his resume, which you can find right smack here. (On a side note,there are typos in his resume. But I digress.)

FACT: In 2006, Jim took over as BPS chief operating officer.

FACT: Knox County hired in him the spring of 2008 in a 5-4 vote. Initially 40 people applied for the job. The final candidates were Jim, Brian Bingelli, an assistant superintendent in Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools, and Bob Thomas, a Knox County assistant superintendent. Bignelli had 22 years’ experience as a teacher and principal, including eight in the classroom, according to his resume. Thomas had 12 years as a teacher and principal, including nine in the classroom.

FACT: Jim earns an annual salary of $222,800 and an $800-a-month travel allowance. He started in early July 2008. The board has since then renewed his contract, which runs through 2016. The board will talk about extending his contract another year on Monday.

SEMI-FACT: The board does whatever Jim tells it to do.

FACT: Graduation rates have increased during Jim’s tenure, from 79.3 percent in 2008 to 87.8 percent in 2013 – though they declined slightly from the all-time high of 90.2 percent in 2012.

FACT: Test scores aren’t as rosy as some folks paint them to be.

FACT: This information is not new.

FACT: No one has actually reported it in detail. 

A look at classroom experience for top 10 districts:

Memphis-Shelby County Schools
Superintendent: Dorsey Hopson
District size: 153,000 students
Teacher/Principal experience: none

Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
Director of Schools: Jesse Register
District size: 83,000 students
Teacher/Principal experience: 13 years

Knox County Schools
Superintendent: Jim McIntyre
District size: 57,700
Teacher/Principal experience: 1 year

Hamilton County Schools
Superintendent: Rick Smith
District size: 42,000 students
Teacher/Principal experience: 13 years

Rutherford County Schools
 Director of Schools: Don Odom
District size: 41,000
Teacher/Principal experience: 31 years

Williamson County Schools
Superintendent: Mike Looney
District size: 34,000 students
Teacher/Principal experience: 9.5 years

Clarksville-Montgomery County School System
Director of Schools: B.J. Worthington
District size: 31,400 students
Teacher/Principal experience: 19 years

Sumner County Schools:
Director of Schools Del R. Phillips III
District size: 28,000
Teacher/Principal experience: 9 years

Wilson County Schools
 Director of Schools Timothy R. Setterlund
District size: 15,750
Teacher/principal experience: 33 years

Sevier County Schools
Superintendent Jack Parton
District size: 14,670
Teacher/Principal experience: 7 years

Jackson-Madison County School System:
 Superintendent Verna D. Ruffin
District size: 13,375
Teacher/Principal experience: 22

Funny Twitter handles to check out

In the past couple of years, some really, really funny local Twitter handles have popped up. Here are my favorites in no particular order:


Slogan: I’m just a bear. Official twitter account of the laziest bear in Knoxville. 

The bear is fun because he/she always responds. Sometimes the bear goes off the grid, but he/she will return. 

Last post: Nov. 4.


Slogan: Parody account of Ackermann PR and Moxley Carmichael. Putting a positive spin on everything.

Likes to crack jokes about the high costs of hiring PR and how fun it is to shill for certain companies.
Last post: Sept. 13.


Slogan: I was a judge in Knox County. Now, I’m a felon. (Also includes a link Hustler Magazine Vs. Falwell case.)

This is a parody account about Richard Baumgartner who loved to pop pills. Recently a local private investigator began following the account. It’s no secret that Baumgartner wanted to sue the person who runs this Twitter handle. I hope he does. If you think he’s a disgrace to the human race now, just wait until the lawsuit gets filed and the media crap-storm that ensues.

Last post: Dec. 3.


Slogan: Satire. Not the real Jim McIntyre, who is a public official in Knox County, Tennessee.

This one popped up last night after folks took Jim to task about his leadership style. At one point a student took the podium and talked about how years ago he received a yellow card for not paying attention. He then held up a yellow card and told Jim that it was for him. Personally, I would have called this account TattleTaleJim. Heh.

Last post: Today

And of course, you can always follow me on twitter @mikedonila

Monday, December 2, 2013

Today is last day to sponsor local 'Wreaths Across America' event

The other day I had a post about Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett's initiative to get wreaths placed on the graves of all local veterans.

The sponsorship cutoff date is TODAY. Here's the update, according to the latest news release form his office:

On Thanksgiving Day, many East Tennesseans showed appreciation for our fallen veterans by sponsoring wreaths that will be placed atop veterans’ graves in Knox County.  Yesterday, fundraising topped $5,000 since Mayor Burchett launched his local Wreaths Across America effort earlier this week.

Pilot Flying J made a generous contribution to Team Burchett for Wreaths Across America, matching the $5,000 raised so far with a $5,000 wreath sponsorship of their own.  In all, enough money has been raised to place just more than 1,000 wreaths.  However, there are 6,200 veterans buried at the two East Tennessee State Veteran Cemetery locations in Knox County, so even more sponsorships are needed.

A $15 sponsorship pays for a wreath made of live greenery to be placed on a veterans’ grave at either the Lyons View Pike or Governor John Sevier Highway East Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery locations.

Anyone wanting to sponsor a wreath can do so by visiting right smack here. The organization is also offering a “three-for-two” sponsorship special, which means they will donate a wreath for every two that are sponsored.

Visit for more information about the organization.