Knox Co. superintendent's classroom experience in focus

For more than a month, Knox County educators have used a number of public forums to voice complaints about Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre.

A robocall sent out to hundreds of Knox County homes is the latest incident to highlight the concerns of some Knox County teachers. The calls asked, "Are you aware that Knox County Superintendent of Schools Dr. James McIntyre has only one year of classroom teaching experience?"

10News learned Friday it was a poll by the Knoxville Focus weekly newspaper, which will be published in their Monday edition and on their website.

That particular concern is one teachers have voiced during several school board meetings and public forums in the past several weeks.

McIntyre spent a year teaching at an alternative high school in 1992. Some teachers say that's not enough classroom experience, but many Board of Education members support his leadership because they say he's a good administrator who is getting results.

It's a challenging time to be a teacher in Tennessee, as new Common Core standards take effect statewide. Some Knox County teachers say they would have more confidence in McIntyre's leadership and decisions if he had spent more time teaching in a classroom.

Halls Elementary School Teacher Lauren Hopson was only trying to get the school board's attention during a forum in October, but after her speech went viral on YouTube, she's reached more than 90,000.

"I said my piece, and I really thought nothing would happen," she said. "I just didn't want them to be able to say they didn't know about it."

Since then, dozens of educators have joined her, speaking out about what they describe as a superintendent who is out of touch with what they're facing in the classroom.

That's what prompted Robert Taylor, a special education teacher at Amherst Elementary,to speak up at a board meeting last month. He spoke about how he felt McIntyre's decisions were adversely impacting his students, and pointed to the superintendents single year of teaching experience.

"Education looks different on a pie chart or a bar graph or a power point," he said.

Hopson agrees.

"It's really frustrating that it's just one year because you just don't know how things translate in the classroom unless you've worked there," said Hopson.

McIntyre says his year teaching English, physical education and anatomy in a St. Louis alternative school was one of the most important of his career.

"My time in a classroom was an extremely important and formative experience for me. I feel like it gave me an understanding and appreciation for the work of instruction," he said.

And he says while his skill set doesn't always mirror that of a classroom teacher-- his job is to lead the district.

"My entire career has been spent in education. I am an educator," he said.

MORE: View Dr. McIntyre's resume

School board member Karen Carson voted to hire McIntyre more than five years ago. She says teachers are overwhelmed by the rapid changes brought on by Common Core, and are looking to vent their frustrations.

"I think that what we see is just, the overflowing of there's no more in the bucket for them to give. And it's just, so now what?"

Whether it should play a part in teacher morale or not, McIntyre's resume is somewhat unique.

10News compared the resumes of the superintendents of the 15 largest school districts in Tennessee.

Dr. McIntyre's one year in the classroom ranks him 14th of that group. However, Tennessee's largest district is Shelby County, and its superintendent is number 15 with no actual teaching experience.

Hopson says whether the board sees that as an issue, many others are listening, and she wants to see the dialogue move the district forward.

"In the last month or so is the first time I personally have felt hopeful that some things are moving in the right direction," she said.

On Monday, the school board will decide whether to extend McIntyre's contract an additional year to run through the end of 2017 as part of his annual performance review.

Hopson and other teachers are asking the board to vote 'no'.


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