Here’s Who Wants to Be the New Indya Kincannon

Friday was the deadline* for residents of the 2nd District to turn in their applications to replace Indya Kincannon on the Knox County Schools Board of Education—at least, for a couple of months. Kincannon, of course, is about to leave for Slovenia for a year, and she has resigned from the school board, effective Aug. 18. Since her term isn’t up until 2016, there will be a special election for her replacement in November. In the meantime, a Knox County Commission appointee will fill in.

It turns out a lot of people want to be that appointee—10, in fact, including several former KCS employees and several people who plan to run for Kincannon’s seat this fall. You can read all the resumes of the candidates if you want—and if you live in the district and have strong feelings about who represents you, you probably should. But here’s a quick rundown of the would-be appointees, in the order in which their resumes appear in the document:

Diana Ray. The Old North Knoxville resident is the former community development manager for the Girl Scouts and also served in the Peace Corps. She has a first-grader in the school system, and she says her Cuban heritage and fluency in Spanish would be asset. Interim only.

Elizabeth Lane. Another ONK resident, Lane says her business expertise would an advantage. She’s worked for Texaco and Shell (doing what, the resume doesn’t say), and she has also volunteered feeding the homeless and as literacy tutor. Hasn’t “given [running in November] any thought.”

Juanita Cannon. The North Hills resident is a former gym and biology teacher who worked her way up to KCS principal over Vine Middle and the alternative school program. She retired in 2002 after 40 years in the schools, then taught as an adjunct education professor at LMU until 2010. She has a lot of volunteer experience, too, and she currently hosts the Etiquette Talk Show on WJBE. (If she’s appointed, we hope she can teach the other board members a few things.) Interim only.

Emma Ellis-Cosigua. Ellis-Cosigua is an Oakwood resident and recent Knoxville transplant, having lived in Brooklyn before it was hip and more recently New Jersey. She currently works as an office manager for an insurance company and teaches Spanish and ESL classes. She has a grandson in the school system. Interim only.

Charlotte Dorsey. Dorsey is a longtime Fountain City resident who retired from KCS in 2003 after 24 years in the elementary schools, first teaching and then serving as the principal of Bearden Elementary for nine years. She also worked as a consultant to the state Department of Education until 2008. “Still weighing” whether to run in November.

John Fugate. Another Fountain City resident, Fugate is the vice-president of Commercial Bank. He worked as a principal and coach in Claiborne and Hancock Counties from 1969-1974 and currently has grandchildren in KCS schools. Running in November.

Laura Kildare. A resident of the Fairmont/Emoriland neighborhood, Kildare taught in KCS schools from 2004-2009 before returning to school herself—she’s expecting to get a doctorate with a focus on special education in December. Interim only.

Tracie Sanger. Sanger has been a KCS special education teacher since 1999; she’s also an adjunct professor at Tusculum College. She currently teaches at Corryton Elementary but will resign if appointed. Sanger lives in Fountain City and has children in the school system. Running in November.

Jennifer Searle. Searle is a North Hills parent of three children in KCS schools and PTA board member. She also has graphic design skills, judging by her resume—it’s fancy. (We wish we were that creative, for real.) Interim only.

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Rick Staples. Staples ran for Council last fall against Nick Della Volpe in the 4th District. He doesn’t include his address on his resume, but last year he said he lived near the Whittle Springs Golf Course. Staples runs the GED program at the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, although most of his resume highlights his campaign experience. We haven’t heard back from Staples about running in November.

Commission will interview all the candidates a week from today at the end of its Aug. 18 work session, tentatively at 4 p.m., unless the agenda goes long. The body will officially appoint Kincannon’s interim replacement the following week, Aug. 25 at 2 p.m., during its regular monthly meeting.

There’s no clear determination, at this point, whether Commission will appoint a caretaker for the seat—one of the people who have no plans to run this fall—or whether it will appoint someone purely on qualifications (or networks) alone. Commissioner Dr. Richard Briggs says he has no idea which way his colleagues are leaning and notes that they’ve “gone back and forth” about caretaker appointments in the past. (To wit: In 2011, Commission appointed Sue Atchley as a caretaker for the state Senate 6th District after Jamie Woodson resigned, but in 2008 it appointed Patricia Hall Long to General Sessions Court, and she has since run for, and won, election twice.)

Commissioner Tony Norman, a retired KCS teacher himself, also says he doesn’t know what the sentiment is among fellow commissioners.

“Personally, I don’t have a feeling one way or another, at this point, about whether we just appoint a caretaker for the seat. My choice will be the person who is best for kids and the school system,” Norman says. “I’m not going to be afraid to appoint someone aggressive.”

In regards to the latter point, Norman is referencing a column in yesterday’s News Sentinel, in which KNS editor Jack McElroy urges Commission not to do anything crazy with the interim appointment. McElroy writes:

Some commissioners, led by former teacher Norman, have made no secret of their dislike for McIntyre. In making the appointment they might be inclined to plant a time bomb that would blow up before voters have a chance to weigh in.

Could a coup to oust the superintendent during the three-month window be a possibility? Perhaps, though that seems a bit extreme — and expensive, given the cost of a buyout.

Another scenario could be the election of the lone “no” vote, Mike McMillan, to the chairmanship. He is an ex-commissioner and another former teacher, whom McIntyre once took steps to fire. So McMillan’s ascension would create a particularly dysfunctional leadership dynamic for Knox County Schools. …

Political machinations might prove tempting, but the commission should stick to an open process that respects the wishes of the citizens of Kincannon’s 2nd District. A backdoor power play might last just long enough to leave a bad taste in voters’ mouths, and the balance of power could swing again in November.

Norman pooh-poohs the idea of a “coup” but says he won’t be making his decision based on McElroy’s input either way. And Amy Broyles, who represents the 2nd District on Commission, says her focus is on her constituents.

“It’s very important to me that the person appointed is the person the 2nd District wants,” Broyles says. “I’m hoping that we [as a district] can come together over one to three candidates, and we can present those choices to Commission, and it will respect them.”

In an email Broyles sent Sunday afternoon, she asked residents to send her thoughts on whom Commission should or should not consider for the appointee, although she qualified the request thusly: “ONLY INPUT FROM VERIFIABLE RESIDENTS OF THE SECOND DISTRICT WILL BE CONSIDERED.” [The caps are hers.]

Other commissioners say they’re open to input from anyone in the county. And procedurally, Commission can appoint whomever it wants, even a candidate to which Broyles is opposed. So if you, personally, have strong feelings about how great or how terrible a would-be appointee might be, you should definitely email your commissioner. But if you don’t have any thoughts on any of the candidates, do set aside Thursday evening on your calendar—there’s going to be a forum.

Here’s the press release:

League of Women Voters and KCEA Announce Board of Education Interim Candidate Forum

KNOXVILLE, TN – The League of Women Voters of Knoxville/Knox County (LWVKKC) and the Knox County Education Association (KCEA) will hold a moderated forum to inform commissioners and voters about candidates seeking appointment by County Commission to fill the seat of District 2 School Board Member Indya Kincannon who recently resigned.  Kincannon and her family will live in Slovenia next year where her husband will be teaching law.

Candidates are seeking an interim appointment of three months ending in November 2014 when an election for the position will take place.  Several candidates will participate in the forum on Thursday, August 14, 2014, 6:00 – 7:15 p.m., in the auditorium of Gresham Middle School, 500 Gresham Road, Knoxville, TN 37918.  Beth Haynes, news anchor with WBIR TV, will moderate.

We have no idea what “several candidates will participate” means, exactly, and we aren’t sure that an hour and 15 minutes is enough time to hear from 10, or eight, or even six candidates anyway. Still, any kind of candidate forum is better than none at all. See you there?


*According to Broyles, Friday was only a suggested deadline. In an email to candidates Sunday, she writes:

At this point, ten candidates have submitted resumes to the Knox County Commission, who will be making the appointment. However, you should know that anyone may submit a resume at any time between now and the day of the appointment, and that nominations may also be taken from the floor on the day of the appointment. However, the Commission always asks for resumes by a certain date so that we may have sufficient time to study and reflect upon the qualifications of the applicants. I appreciate you submitting your resumes in a timely manner.

Thus, if you live in the 2nd District and think your qualifications can top any of the 10 people listed above, get your information to Commission ASAP.