Without a formal vote, the committee tasked with reworking the agreement between Knox County Schools and UT’s Center for Educational Leadership signed off on a draft proposal following a meeting with UT officials today.
Superintendent Bob Thomas said attorneys for UT and KCS will review the proposal before it goes to the school board agenda. There the outcome is uncertain.
A majority of the 9-member board was taking notes at Thursday’s meeting. Jennifer Owen and Susan Horn are committee members. Board chair Patti Bounds and members Gloria Deathridge and Tony Norman were present.
The big orange elephant in the room was the continued employment of former Superintendent Jim McIntyre as director of the Center, which operates the Leadership Academy for principals.
Advocates for dropping the contract argue that KCS should not send its principals for training by a man who resigned as superintendent after two elections produced board members who did not support his leadership.
McIntyre did not attend Thursday’s meeting; instead, the University was represented by his boss, Dr. Norma Mertz, the no-nonsense department head for Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. She put the University’s reputation behind the program, pointing out that it trains leaders for several school systems. While agreeing that the KCS superintendent can select participants from KCS from a vetted list of applicants, she reaffirmed that UT will decide on the Leadership Academy’s students, curriculum and faculty.
The yang to Mertz’s yin was Betty Sue Sparks, McIntyre’s co-director and former principal and HR director for Knox County Schools. Sparks related the “rich history” of the Leadership Academy and Knox County Schools. “I am at UT today because Knox County Schools wanted me to be,” she said.
Urban focus: Kelly Drummond, HR director for KCS, pushed for inclusion of language regarding urban schools, calling it “our focus.” Mertz said UT has no involvement with placement of graduates of the Leadership Academy. And Rodney Russell, chairing the committee, said, “We are not making curriculum suggestions … state and national standards will drive the curriculum.”
“Along with 40 years of research and study,” Mertz interjected.
Leadership Academy selection: Committee member Cheryl Hickman, executive director for secondary education for KCS, presented a tweaked selection plan that includes feedback for applicants not selected and more transparency throughout the process. Ultimately, the superintendent of schools selects participants.