BOE members' evaluation tell two tales of superintendent

 

(WBIR-KNOXVILLE) The leader of Knox County Schools is seeking a two-year contract extension. Whether he gets it is largely dependent on what the school board members think about him, and their evaluations tell almost two completely different tales: Dr. Jim McIntyre is either a leader or he's not.

He's steadily improved communications among staff and personnel or he hasn't. Increased graduation rates and test scores are good, or they don't mean anything.

The 9-member school board turned in their evaluations on Monday. McIntyre completed his own last week. The board will talk publicly with the superintendent about them during a called meeting on Nov. 30.

"I take the performance evaluation process very seriously," McIntyre said in a statement. "I appreciate the School Board members' feedback, and always seek ways to improve and enhance my leadership so that the Knox County Schools can continue to provide an exemplary education to the children of our community."

Here's a snapshot of each evaluation, which are linked to the BOE member's name. (Note, board members are listed in order of chair, vice chair and then numerically by district):

DOUG HARRIS: The school board chairman said the school system is "extremely fortunate" to have McIntyre as its leader.

Harris said McIntyre has "an incredible work ethic that is commensurate for a job of this magnitude," and notes his responsibilities, like overseeing a $450 million budget, managing almost 8,000 employees and maintaining more than 90 buildings, for example.

He said the superintendent "has led important conversations around budget and academic issues," like the balanced calendar and block scheduling, and noted that more than 80 percent of local teachers agreed that "their school was a good place to work and learn"

"I often say that ‘people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care,'" Harris wrote in his 4-page evaluation. "On a weekly basis I see how much Dr. McIntyre cares about every team member that works with KCS."

He called McIntyre a "good communicator" and said the systems continues to "make progress under (McIntyre's) steady leadership."

TRACIE SANGER:The school board's vice chair said most people "I speak with generally have been in favor of" McIntyre's work throughout the school system and the community. She pointed to increased graduation rates and a slight bump in ACT scores.

Further, Sanger defended McIntyre against a number of his critics who say he's working to privatize KCS, adding: "If that was his goal, he would be the least successful superintendent in history."

She also said he continues to improve "his communication from the top down with relaying information to teachers." She added that McIntyre is "approachable in large and small groups, which is important as a leaders."

But, Sanger noted that she doesn't feel that McIntyre needs to have a personal relationship with each person, suggesting that with a school system of almost 8,000 employees it would be "virtually impossible."

"I personally do not feel the need to have a superintendent who is congenial and funny while giving speeches to large groups," she wrote in her 4-page report. "I also think it is okay if the academic leader of our county uses big words."

GLORIDA DEATHRIDGE: Mostly reiterated what McIntyre said in his own self-evaluation. In a two-page review, she called the last year "very engaging" and said the superintendent "continues to work hard at meeting the needs of the teachers, students, parents, and the community through addressing our needs and concerns.

LYNNE FUGATE: Said she was "pleased" with McIntyre's leadership and management of the system's resources.

"Dr. McIntyre leads his staff in finding ways to deliver more to our students than our budget would allow otherwise by creating partnerships with others in the community," Fugate wrote in her 4-page evaluation. "The most significant of these partnerships this past school year was with Pellissippi State and resulted in the opening of the Career Magnet Academy."

She also noted that McIntyre "is very visible" in the community, attending numerous school events, meetings, activities and forums "almost every night."

KAREN CARSON: Called the superintendent's leadership for the five-year strategic plan "thorough and extensive," but said that the system's districtwide focus "needs to remain on improving (the) number of third graders reading at or above proficient level."

She said McIntyre has exhibited "significant effort and growth" in building relationships with staff, personnel and board members. But, in her 3-page report, she also said that "efforts to open dialogue with employees needs to continue."

TERRY HILL: Said the superintendent's leadership "was demonstrated in compromise this year" working with the Knox County Commission and county mayor. She said it set the stage for "more stringent oversight in use of resources."

In her 3-page evaluation, Hill said McIntyre is moving in the right direction to improve his "reputation with teachers, (but) there is still work to be done." Hill said she has "observed a lack of trust" between McIntyre and his leadership team and teachers. She noted that McIntyre has been "courteous and respectful toward me" even when the two "are not always on the same page."

She also said that she has "no doubt about his dedication and desire to make Knox County Schools great."

PATTI BOUNDS: In an often scathing 14-page review – the longest of any board member – Bounds said McIntyre is "methodical" and "calculated" when putting together a five-year strategic plan, but other times exhibits "petty, childish behavior."

She said the superintendent should have "more one-on-one constructive dialogue with parents and teachers to (ensure) he better understands the Knox County community vision for the public education system."

She also said he needs to turn over information that is more transparent and "easily accessible" for residents and officials.

She noted that the school system has a high turnover rate, and that although the graduation rate has increased "graduation does not guarantee success at the next level when ‘shortcut' measures are used to obtain that rate."

She noted that during the past year, KCS was hit with a number of "scandalous misuse of funds," citing employees who resigned and finances that didn't add up, for example.

She also sarcastically noted that McIntyre's staff "does an excellent job of protecting his time," saying the public's ability to meet with him "can be difficult."

MIKE MCMILLAN: Took issue with McIntyre's recent proposed budgets, which typically request more money than the system is expected to receive.

"It is neither visionary nor real leadership to continually spend more than we have been allocated by our funding body," McMillan wrote in his 6-page report. "It certainly isn't responsible to spend more than we have."

McMillan, who served as chairman the past year, also delivered a backhanded compliment about McIntyre's attempt to build relationships.

"When I came to the board, I don't believe Dr. McIntyre felt the same need to work on those relationships and over time I watched as the superintendent's relationship with teachers diminished and suffered," he wrote. "While giving Dr. McIntyre due credit for struggling to improve his relationships with the school system stakeholders, I would also contend he hasn't really had much choice but to do otherwise."

McMillan also suggested that although the graduation rate has improved, he said that he doesn't believe "graduation rates mean much of anything in light of preparation rates."

McMillan, for all his criticism, did say the superintendent deserved credit for a "second to none" work ethic. He said he was "well-informed on the mechanics of the education industry" and believed he has a "genuine concern" for KCS.

AMBER ROUNTREE: Suggested that data is more important to McIntyre than the students. She cited a Carter Middle School celebration to honor the system's "exemplary" status.

She said McIntyre, surrounding himself with state and local leaders, sent "a loud and clear message to our teachers: Data, albeit flawed, is what matters at the end of the day."

Rountree said the superintendent has a choice: "He can choose to celebrate a score or become a champion for our children."

Further, she said, he needs to build more positive relationships, not only with the Knox County Commission and the county administration, but with school personnel as well.

Rountree said during the past year, she often received emails and letters from staff members who request anonymity as they share concerns with her.

"Regardless of the superintendent's assertion that open dialog with difficult questions is accepted, the staff throughout the district and even with the (Central Office headquarters) operate with a sense of unease," she wrote in her 6-page report. "Perhaps this is a result of the superintendent's top-down leadership style which is divisive rather than inclusive. Additionally, I would attribute this to the tension between doing what is best for kids versus doing what produces the best numbers."


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