Knox County school board approves funding for magnet schools

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The Knox County Board of Education voted Wednesday night at a special called meeting to extend the contract of Superintendent Bob Thomas by one year, instead of the originally proposed two.

“I’m certainly looking forward to doing the work and continuing the work that we’ve started and I’m just very pleased that the board is expressing enough confidence in me to give me another year,” said Thomas.

The board voted 7-2 on the measure, with Jennifer Owen and Patti Bounds dissenting. The vote came after discussion of Thomas’s recent evaluation, which said he was meeting expectations with a score of 3.3 out of 5.

“That was kind of surprising to me,” said Bounds. “As a former teacher, the state was very adamant that a teacher was rock solid if they were a three and superintendent Thomas met all expectations.”

Bounds says she thinks some of the hesitation comes from former superintendent Jim Mcyntire’s buyout. 

“He left with a very large sum of money only to be positioned at UT with a private donor also doing his salary,” said Bounds.

The indicators the board looked at included leadership and district culture, policy and governance, communication and community relation, organizational management and curriculum planning and development.

Board member Gloria Deathridge spoke out against some of the things in the evaluation, including comparing Thomas to McIntyre. She and Lynn Fugate noted that superintendent Thomas was part of that administration and they need to let what happened during that administration go.

Fugate then suggested a one-year extension instead of two, saying she would only support a two-year extension if he exceeded expectations and not met them as he did in this evaluation.

Mike McMillan proposed the motion for the one-year extension instead of two, which passed 7-2. The board then carried on with its regular scheduled meeting.

Thomas says he will take away pointers from his evaluation for the next year.

“We’ve talked about community meetings, possibly getting out into the community and hearing from the community earlier,” said Thomas. “Also, starting budget discussions with the board earlier.”

This came after the backlash over the superintendent’s budget proposal that would have cut funding for Gifted and Talented, Project GRAD and magnet schools. Wednesday the board voted to restore the teaching positions at Greene and Sarah Moore Greene schools, increase magnet allocation and restore the TAG positions.

“We’re very appreciative of the additional BEP funding from the state,” said Bounds. “It would have been nice to have had those numbers back in April, it might not have created some of the concern but I think it’s a good way forward.”

A spokesperson from Mayor Burchett’s office says the mayor plans to ask Commission for $365,000 to fund Project GRAD with that money coming from an anticipated county budget surplus.

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