By Steve Hunley, Publisher
The Knox County Board of Education, as expected, deadlocked while attempting to elect a new Chair. Incumbent Chairwoman Lynne Fugate announced she would not be a candidate for reelection as she had recently come to the conclusion she had become a divisive figure. The allies of superintendent Jim McIntyre rallied behind Doug “High Tax” Harris, while the independents backed Mike McMillan.
The contrast between the two candidates is as wide a gulf as can be.
Harris has loudly advocated more and higher taxes to support the schools. In fact, Harris has repeatedly gone on record as saying the school system should have a virtually unlimited budget. Harris has regularly supported just about anything and everything advocated by McIntyre.
McMillan, on the other hand, has spent most of his three years on the board of education as the lone voice of dissent. McMillan, a former county commissioner, been the champion of teachers on the board and has been critical of McIntyre’s frequently dictatorial approach to running the school system.
Both candidates were asked by board member Karen Carson to elaborate on their respective philosophies. Harris promptly bragged that he enjoyed a warm relationship with McIntyre and could resolve differences “behind closed doors.” The pro-McIntyre crowd seems to agree they can get a lot done behind closed doors. At least three of the four McIntyre acolytes — Lynne Fugate, Gloria Deathridge, and High Tax Harris — have all talked about just how much they can get done outside the public view.
McMillan supports real change.
The “side” agreement between the superintendent and the board that has been roundly condemned by just about everybody was quietly allowed to slip into the background precisely because Mike McMillan refused to go along. Unlike Harris, McMillan believes board members need to be careful stewards of the taxpayer’s money. McMillan will have far more credibility with Mayor Tim Burchett and the county commission; should High Tax Harris become chairman of the board of education, his constant pleas for more and more money will certainly fall on deaf ears for the next four years.
McMillan has said everyone, friend or foe of the superintendent, should be treated alike. McMillan has said he is opposed to making any person, should he or she be parent, student, teacher or citizen, have to navigate a bureaucratic maze before being allowed to speak before the Board.
It is imperative to McIntyre that the chairman of the board be a rubber stamper. It won’t be long before McIntyre is in a serious quandary as much of the money the board has been spending freely at his behest has come from the federal government and is running out. It is only a matter of time before the superintendent and Harris and the rest of that crowd start their warnings about an impending crisis unless the schools receive a lot more of your money. I think Mayor Burchett has the guts to tell McIntyre that the schools, like everybody else, have to live within their means.
High Tax Harris represents more of the same. Mike McMillan will usher in much needed change. The choice should be simple.