Now, many of you will probably get bored right off the bat when you perceive this column is about the Knox County Board of Education. I will be honest and admit it doesn’t set me on fire either; if I had my druthers, I would choose to watch a meeting of the County Commission instead of a School Board meeting. Yet I feel a public responsibility to pay attention to the Board of Education because, let’s face it people, 2/3 of every tax dollar collected in Knox County goes to support the schools. The annual budget for the Knox County School system is over half a billion dollars.
Jennifer Owen is one of the new members and like most of her colleagues, she is a retired teacher. Yes, I have heard some of the grumbling about the Board having done little save for concentrate on issues important to teachers, which I will admit is a valid criticism. Still, Owen has been doing what I think is a valuable public service by attempting to review all the policies adopted during the tenure of former Superintendent Jim McIntyre. It is fair to say a great many of those policies centralized all powers in the hands of the superintendent. Some responsibilities that had belonged to the Board of Education were cheerfully given over to the superintendent, giving McIntyre enormous power.
Owen is new and is feeling her way through a long and arduous process, but it is a very important process and she deserves to be commended for taking it on. The Board won no plaudits when it served as nothing more than a group of cheerleaders for the superintendent; it probably won’t achieve much more popularity with the public for cheerleading for the teachers. Only one of the Board members, Mike McMillan, has been anything resembling a cheerleader for the taxpayers.
Slogging through pages and pages of policies isn’t what I would want to do with my spare time, but Jennifer Owen has worked hard on comparing the policies prior to McIntyre’s arrival to those in place after his departure. That is a real public service.