By Steve Hunley, Publisher
Recent revelations by the Knoxville News-Sentinel indicate some serious problems with the Knox County school system. Some brilliant reporting by Jamie Satterfield has brought to light the fact the Knox County school system evidently paid a security vendor for security systems at Powell Middle School and Hardin Valley Academy that were rife with “deficiencies,”according to Superintendent Jim McIntyre. Just as bad, there was apparently some sort of relationship between schools Security Chief Steve Griffin and the owner of the security company responsible for performing the work at Powell and Hardin Valley. An investigation is presently underway by the school system to determine the extent of the improprieties, if any.
An audit was published elaborating on the all too numerous deficiencies, which included old equipment being installed while taxpayers were being charged for new equipment. That was merely the tip of the iceberg and Knox County is currently suing the security company.
Of course none of this would have been known had it not been for Ms. Satterfield’s series of stories appearing in the Sentinel.
Both the Superintendent and the majority of the Knox County Board of Education have tried to get in front of Ms. Satterfield’s stories in an effort to do damage control. The recent workshop session of the Knox County Board of Education was a sight to behold. Board members, who were rightfully thoroughly embarrassed by not having a clue as to what was going on, wriggled like eels in a vat of melted butter as they collectively tried to divert attention away from Dr. McIntyre and lay the blame elsewhere. Indya Kincannon rarely closed her mouth during the meeting, rambling in a stream-of-consciousness of incoherence apparently designed to try and absolve McIntyre of any guilt.
Gloria Deathridge persistently seemed determined not to understand Public Building Authority CEO Dale Smith as she tried to infer the projects were those of the PBA, a fact Smith politely and firmly dismissed, pointing out the PBA was acting on the orders of the school system. Smith had warned Dr. McIntyre in 2009 about the fact Security Chief Steve Griffin’s son-in-law was employed by the security vendor and that Griffin had tried to insist the PSCD firm be used in preference to any other firm.
Doug Harris stoutly bellowed that taxpayers should get what they paid for, yet went on to cravenly “commend” McIntyre.
The Board members fell all over themselves, admitting they knew nothing about the extent of the security failures at Powell Middle and Hardin Valley Academy. Still, they were very careful to avoid the subject of exactly why they didn’t know a thing about it. Dr. McIntyre admitted to the News-Sentinel he didn’t send the full audit report to Board members containing the details of the failures at both schools. McIntyre also pointed to a “report” he issued on the subject, which amount to little more than a sentence in three paragraphs, the other two notifying Board members the ROTC program at West High School was being closed and a teacher had been charged or arrested for something. Never once did McIntyre indicate the serious nature of the failure of PSCD to perform the work it was paid to do. McIntyre did say he would have gladly provided more information had any Board member so desired, a disingenuous and self-serving reply if there ever was one. Why would any Board member ask more questions when he or she had not the first idea the situation was serious?
It wasn’t the fault of the Public Building Authority, the Mayor, the County Commission, the Law Director or the Man In the Moon that the Board members were kept in the dark. That distinction rests solely on the shoulders of the Board’s handpicked Superintendent, Dr. James McIntyre. It is obvious to just about everybody, except perhaps the Board of Education, that McIntyre deliberately chose not to inform them. Nobody had a responsibility to inform the Board besides Dr. McIntyre. McIntyre himself admitted to the Sentinel he alone decides what he tells the Board and when. The Superintendent has grudgingly confessed if he had it to do over again, he would provide the Board with more information.
Mike McMillan, East Knox County’s member of the Board of Education, pointed out in his evaluation of McIntyre’s performance that the Superintendent seemed to filter information and when requested by a Board member, information was very slow to come. Some thought McMillan’s observations harsh at the time, but events have certainly vindicated McMillan.
The Superintendent has also admitted he recalls being warned by PBA CEO Dale Smith about Chief Griffin, yet can’t seem to remember any other detail about the meeting. McIntyre issued enough “I don’t recalls” to fill a Watergate hearing or that of a shifty witness being queried by Perry Mason. Evidently, the only folks who buy into this selective memory are those gullible folks on the Board of Education, save for Mike McMillan.
More than half a billion dollars are expended yearly by the school system in Knox County. Taxpayers need to be able to trust the person in charge of running the schools and the Board of Education needs to come clean rather than sanction a cover-up. The Superintendent shouldn’t have the right to withhold vital information from his employers, the Board of Education and nobody should forget none of this would have come to light had it not been for Jamie Satterfield’s reporting.
McIntyre’s clarion call for an armed officer during his ego-driven State of the Schools spectacle is far less impressive considering he never bothered to tell the Board about the serious nature of the security failures at Powell Middle and Hardin Valley. The Board members themselves can wriggle, wallow and point fingers elsewhere in an attempt to divert attention, but the bottom line remains the same: the ONLY reason they knew nothing about the security failures art the two schools was because Jim McIntyre never bothered to tell them.