Renewal or Extension, It’s Still A Million Dollars

By Sally Absher

The Board of Education Special Call meeting last week to discuss Dr. McIntyre’s contract extension/renewal (the Law Department still isn’t quite sure which term is correct) got off to a rough start almost immediately.

Amber Rountree made a motion to delay discussion and action on the contract for a minimum of 30 days, citing the multiple versions of the contract, some of which the Board did not receive until the afternoon of the meeting. Karen Carson stated that the agenda of a special call meeting cannot be changed, so the motion was out of order. The law department concurred.

Rountree and Mike McMillan expressed concern that the Narrative summary was heavily slanted to the positive. Chairman Doug Harris explained, “I felt that overall the majority of the Board that had a positive evaluation.” McMillan pointed out that while there may be a majority, more than one member brought up significant concerns, and those points should have been included. A 5/4 majority is different from an 8/1 majority.

Harris said “Some of the negative comments were harder, they were like isolated incidences…a one time event, and I didn’t see it as a pattern, so it was harder to include those in the narrative.” How many times does a superintendent have to violate Board Policy and Tennessee Code with little remorse before it is worthy of mention? As we remember Sunnyview students Zykia and Seraya and teacher’s aide Kimberly Riddle, killed last December in a tragic bus wreck, how many incidents are needed to become a pattern, worthy of mention in an evaluation?

Tracie Sanger came out swinging, stating she was “put on notice” that “someone” feels that BOE member Mike McMillan did not write his evaluation this year. She said. “If you compare his evaluation narrative from August 2011 to this years evaluation, it’s night and day.” She then went so far as to say McMillan’s narrative this year reads like a “six page Publisher’s Opinion.”  She then turned to McMillan and said, “But I’ve enjoyed working with you…”

McMillan calmly defended himself, saying that yes, his evaluation narrative has changed in style and format over the past five years. Sanger’s probably will too. Hopefully someone on the Board will publicly call her out on it.

But Sanger wasn’t finished publicly belittling those present. She turned her criticism on Bud Armstrong and the Law Department. She said she has “three attorneys in my family” so she apparently thinks she can do law better than Armstrong and David Buuck. Gratefully, Lynn Fugate interrupted, “I call the question to vote on approving the narrative. We are off subject.”

Harris made a motion to approve the revised superintendent’s employment contract dated 11/30/2015 “with a revision to the compensation in bullet number 4 to read $227,256.” This is nearly a $5,000 increase over his current salary. It puts his salary well above the median income for a Superintendent, which is about $148,000 (http://www1.salary.com/School-Superintendent-salary.html)

But that is only the base salary. In addition, Dr. McIntyre receives benefits including family health care coverage, life and accidental death/dismemberment insurance, disability insurance, and $1,200 monthly to be used at his discretion. He also receives an automobile allowance of $800 per month, and 24 annual leave days (nearly five weeks) each year.

During extensive debate about contract extension versus renewal, the frustration started to show. The contract extension/renewal runs through December 31, 2019. McIntyre’s current contract runs through December 31, 2017, leading many in the community and some Board members to question why now? What is the rush?

Amber Rountree spoke for many when she said, “I just have to go on the record and say I think this is absolutely absurd. There is no necessity to vote for this tonight, it’s a very detailed contract, we have two different versions in front of us, and it’s a financial responsibility that we could be indebting ourselves to for well over a million dollars.”

Patti Bounds added, “There is really no need, no mandate, no reason to do this premature extension… Wow. Wow is all I can say.” Terry Hill also expressed concern that the revisions were not given to the Board until the afternoon of the meeting.

The most significant change to the contract is found under Termination of Agreement and Severance Terms. The revised text reads, “The KCBOE may unilaterally terminate the Contract at any time and for any reason through the vote of a simple majority of the members of the KCBOE at an appropriately publicly-noticed School Board meeting that comports with Tennessee Law.” Previously the termination of the contract required a vote of two thirds of the KCBOE, which was not in alignment with TCA statute.

For those still wondering why the rush, the second half of that paragraph provides the answer. “In the event of such termination, KCBOE shall pay to the Superintendent his full salary consistent with the terms of this Contract from the actual date of termination established by the KCBOE through the expiration date of the Contract. All other KCBOE paid benefits shall continue until the expiration date of the Contract, or one year, whichever is less, unless otherwise mutually agreed upon by the parties hereto.”

It’s no secret that the next election cycle could very well flip the majority on the BOE, and that many in Knox County have lost confidence in McIntyre. He has already served nearly twice as long as the typical Broad Academy-trained superintendent. Hill, Bounds, and Rountree tried numerous times to amend the contract, including limiting the amount of payout in the event of contract termination. Even Sanger was “OK with a two year payout.” Fiduciary responsibility and all.

Of course, if the superintendent is terminated for cause, there is no contract payout. As the various scandals continue to add up, the possibility of termination for cause also increases.

It was interesting to note the difference in the attendance of the meeting from two years ago. In 2013, the Board Room and atrium were packed with supporters. Many from the community spoke on McIntyre’s behalf, including Great School’s Buzz Thomas, the Police Chief, the Sheriff, Chamber business leader, and PTA moms.

This year, the following spoke in favor of extending Dr. McIntyre’s contract: three principals and one assistant principal, the police chief, the chief deputy, and a retired police chief.

The following spoke against the extension: five parents, three former teachers, one former guidance counselor, one community member, three current teachers, and one KCEA President with a list of an additional 931 names of current teachers who are opposed to the extension.

In the end, five members of the Board of Education ignored the will of taxpayers, parents, and teachers, voting to extend/renew the contract (with raise) through December 31, 2019. There is no valid reason for this contract to have been extended at this time, other than to guarantee the Superintendent a bloated severance package should his contract be terminated. In light of the many millions of dollars has  squandered, wasted, and paid out to testing companies, out of state consultants, etc., maybe paying $1M to end the McIntyre reign would be worth it.

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