Knox County should drop partnership with Leadership Academy

Sandra ClarkGossip and Lies

Powerful people are lobbying hard to retain Knox County Schools’ partnership with UT’s Leadership Academy, headed by former Superintendent Jim McIntyre. Why?

  • We need strong school principals, they say.
  • This is a boost for women and minorities, they say.
  • We’ve figured out a way to make it virtually free, they say.

Knox County Schools will spend over $900,000 this year to support the training of 10 potential principals at the Leadership Academy. KCS pays for classroom replacements for participating teachers, while mentoring principals get $5,000 each. The so-called fellows get free tuition and the forever pay boost that comes with a master’s or education specialist’s degree.


Graduates and their mentors give the program high marks. Of course, they do.

The school board voted 7-2 to discontinue participation with the Leadership Academy, but Superintendent Bob Thomas asked for a chance to rework the partnership. He then whacked all the cost but $5,000 for books and materials. A committee dominated by KCS administrators has tweaked the selection process for transparency.

So, we’ve fixed this and can move on. Right?

Wrong.

To keep Jim McIntyre in a position to train future principals throws his shadow over Knox County Schools for 10-20 more years. You remember his leadership: anxious kids burdened with excessive standardized tests – pre-tests, post-tests, practice tests; stressed-out teachers evaluated on an impossible rubric or worse, on the test results of some other teacher’s kids; administrators demoted or moved for no other explanation than “you’re not a good fit.”

Voters in the most recent school board elections said, “Enough. No more!”

Let’s honor those elections by rejecting this continued farce. For those who might be wavering, I offer these reasons to vote no:

Fairness: It’s just not fair to give a few aspiring principals a free ride while others pay tuition and attend grad school at night or on weekends to gain principal’s certification.

Teachers: Under Thomas’ “no-cost” model, participants in the Leadership Academy must already be working as administrators, excluding classroom teachers from participation.

Money/Indoctrination: UT apparently got grant funding for McIntyre’s salary and the fellows’ tuition. But UT won’t say how much or from whom. Read that line again. Until the school board and public know who is funding this Leadership Academy and whether their expectations align with those of Knox County Schools, the school board vote should be 9-0 to quit this program.

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