Saturday, December 12, 2015

Elections: Balance of power to shift on school board next September

Jim McIntyre
Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre had a pretty good year.

The school system earned some fancy awards, test scores jumped slightly and the graduation rate increased, albeit a tad.

He even convinced his 5-member voting bloc to extend his contract, which already had two years remaining on it, for another two years.

Like I said, it was a pretty good year for him.

That’s expected to change in 2016, at least the final quarter of it.

When candidates seeking the four open seats on the Board of Education turned in their qualifying papers by the noon deadline on Thursday, the balance of power on the board shifted. Or it will when the members are sworn into office in early September.

For those who don’t know, McIntyre has enjoyed a 5-member voting bloc of Doug Harris, Karen Carson, Tracie Sanger, Gloria Deathridge and Lynne Fugate.

The other members? Mike McMillan, Terri Hill, Patti Bounds and Amber Rountree? Yeah, not so much.

Anyhoo, McMillan’s seat was up for re-election and no one challenged him. He’s in.

Doug Harris opted not to run again, and in comes Tony Norman, a former biology teacher, a former Knox County Commissioner, and someone who is NOT a fan of McIntyre.

To say these two have a frosty relationship would be an understatement. I’ll leave it at that.

Tony Norman
But no one challenged Tony. He’s in.

The balance of power in September will still be at least 5-4, but it won't favor the superintendent.

It’s a good thing he got that contract extension. The September 2016 board would more than likely would not have signed off on it.

Now, we’re not done here.

Tracie Sanger, who raised about $50,000 to run for a two-year spot on the board (she’s was filling in for Indya Kincannon who stepped down), also opted not to run. I’m told that it’s for health reasons and because she wants to spend time with her family. Fair enough.

Jennifer Owen, a former teacher, and not a McIntyre fan is seeking the seat. So, too, is Grant Standefer, executive director of the Compassion Coalition. From what I’m told, he is a fan.

Expect big bucks to pour in for Standefer. Owen, in order to win, is gonna have to knock on a ton of doors. She’s definitely going to be outspent.

Now, Karen Carson also opted not to run.

So, in comes Lori Ann Boudreaux, Susan Horn and Reuben “Buddy” Pelot. Now, I’m told Horn isn’t in McIntyre’s corner and Pelot is. I’m not sure about Boudreaux. I’ve heard both about her.

Now, why is this important?

Well, because by September the voting bloc against the superintendent might very well be 6-3.

In addition, Terry Hill is expected to become the chair of the board. To add insult to injury, to rub a little salt in the wound, I wouldn’t flinch if Amber Rountree became vice chair.

Like I said, there’s a good chance it won’t be great year for the superintendent.

Now, all that said, the board can’t lose sight of what it’s supposed to do: Make the school system better for the students.

I have long said that I truly believe McIntyre does want to do right for the students.I do believe that.

But it’s going to take both him and the board working together to make that happen. And this time the board – not the McIntyre administration – is going to be driving the train.

Is that right? 

I don’t know.

But come September, we’re more than likely gonna find out.

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