The case for (and against) Kincannon

Sandra ClarkGossip and Lies

Indya Kincannon could be the next Knoxville mayor. Knowledgeable observers expect her to make the runoff, finishing first or second in a six-person field. Nobody expects a candidate to win the race outright on Aug. 27 – there are too many credible contenders for anyone to get 50 percent plus one.


Kincannon is the only woman running to replace Knoxville’s first female mayor, Madeline Rogero. She’s the only non-native. She’s the best educated, holding a master’s in public administration from Princeton University. She and husband Ben have put two daughters through public schools – Beaumont Magnet and the IB program at Bearden Middle and West High.

And she’s been endorsed by two people I like a lot – state Rep. Gloria Johnson and the pioneering Bob Kronick, who launched community schools in Knoxville. Johnson says Kincannon will “fight for what’s right.” Kronick says she had the vision and empathy to understand his program for inner city schools and support it.

Kincannon served 10 years on the school board – three terms as chair. As much as any board member, she’s identified with former Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre. She (and former board member Lynne Fugate, who is running for city council) supported McIntyre as he arrogantly wrecked the lives of dedicated educators and valued test scores above all else.

Indya Kincannon is sworn in for her second term on the Knox County Board of Education in this 2008 file photo. Note daughter Georgia is being sworn in as well.

I endorsed Kincannon when, at age 32 and having lived here about 10 minutes, she declared for the open seat held by Paul Kelley, who retired. She squeaked into the runoff, finishing second to Patsy Vittetoe, and then out-hustled Vittetoe to win the general election.

When parents and teachers started complaining about McIntyre’s heavy-handed methods, I tried talking to Kincannon. “Being a change agent is hard,” she said, when I mentioned a stellar educator who had quit to join her family’s cardboard box business. I went to bat for the staff at Shannondale when a teacher and custodian – the heartbeat of the school – were reassigned. “There are things you don’t know,” she said.

After seeing how Kincannon and Fugate let McIntyre disrupt Knox County Schools, is it a good idea to put them in charge of city government? No. Say it louder. NO.

So, I posed two questions to Kincannon. Here are her responses:

Q: Do you have any regrets about your school board service?

A: Yes. I’ve gained perspective. I regret not listening to teachers more and respecting them as professionals. I regret not trying to fight back when state and federal mandates hurt kids. I regret the teacher evaluations that tried to quantify things numerically that can’t be quantified. I get that. There is way too much standardized testing. As mayor, I’ll talk to the front-line people who are doing the work.

But while not flawless, I stand by my overall record. We got resources into high-needs schools by restructuring the funding formula; we started Project GRAD and community schools. We started magnets for STEM and the arts.

Q: Is it a plus or minus that you’re “not from around here?”

A: Hey, I’m from Virginia, not Timbuktu or California. We are here by choice. Knoxville is our adopted home. When Ben came as a professor at UT, we fell in love with this place. Knoxville has city amenities in a place where people have values beyond who you know or where you live.

Learn more about Kincannon’s plans for Knoxville here.

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