After less than six months, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs’ education liaison resigns.
by jesse fox mayshark • february 21, 2019
Roger Kane resigned Wednesday as Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs’ education liaison, less than six months after Jacobs created the position and hired Kane to fill it.
Roger Kane told professional contacts that the county mayor had asked for his resignation.
Kane, a former state representative, had just provided a report to County Commission Tuesday night on his accomplishments to date in the mayor’s office. Wednesday morning, Kane informed some of his professional contacts around town that Jacobs had asked for his resignation after the meeting, but in a phone call he declined to discuss the matter.
“I’m not going to go there, I’m sorry,” he said when asked for comment. “I’ve got to protect myself at this point.”
Jacobs’ communications director, Rob Link, issued a statement from the mayor thanking Kane for his service, but declined to confirm or deny that Jacobs had asked for his resignation.
"The top priority of my administration is to make Knox County the best community possible and the quality of our schools plays a major role in achieving that goal,” Jacobs said in the statement. “Open lines of communication and collaboration between Knox County Government and Knox County Schools are essential and remains a top priority for my office.
“I look forward to continuing our partnership with the Superintendent’s office as well as the Knox County School Board to continue providing top notch education to our children. I’d like to thank Roger Kane for both his service in the Tennessee General Assembly and his work in my office."
Jacobs announced the creation of the education liaison position during his inaugural address on Aug. 31, 2018. At the time, he said the position would “work with the schools -- the private schools, the home schoolers, technical colleges, adult education, everyone” to help the county better serve students build a stronger workforce.
The exact parameters and expectations of the job were not spelled out publicly, which seemed to leave Kane somewhat to his own devices.
Kane’s appointment was announced in a Sept. 7 press release. His salary was set at around $70,000. (The September press release was still visible on the county website Wednesday morning but appeared to have been deleted by the afternoon.)
Kane served three terms in the state Legislature from 2012-2018, representing House District 89 in Northwest Knox County. He had been a member of the House Education Committee, experience that Jacobs cited in naming him as education liaison. He had also operated a Farmers Insurance agency on Oak Ridge Highway and ran unsuccessfully last year for Knox County clerk.
“The mayor and his staff will reevaluate the position in the coming weeks and determine if it’s necessary to fill.” – Knox County Communications Director Rob Link, on the now-vacant education liaison post.
Kane’s appointment by Jacobs raised eyebrows early on among some public school advocates because he had sponsored school-choice legislation, including school vouchers. But that was no conflict with Jacobs, who has also said he supports vouchers.
The education liaison was one of two new positions Jacobs created on taking office, with the other being a diversity development director, for which the mayor hired Darris Upton. Both Upton and Kane appeared during public forum at Commission’s work session on Tuesday to give updates on their work.
In Kane’s report, he said he had visited 18 high schools and 37 elementary schools since starting the job, meeting with school board members and administrators to talk about reading scores and areas for improvement.
“As you look at these numbers,” he told commissioners, “you’re going to be kind of surprised by where we are and where we still need to go.”
After Kane finished his presentation Tuesday and left the Main Assembly Room, Jacobs was seen following him out. Link confirmed in an email that the two “did speak briefly following his presentation.”
It was unclear what if anything about Kane’s presentation might have displeased Jacobs. Asked if Jacobs had requested Kane’s resignation, Link did not answer directly but replied, “Roger offered his resignation [Tuesday] night and Mayor Jacobs accepted it [Wednesday] morning.”
In the brief phone call Wednesday, Kane said “as a county employee” he had to defer to Link for any comments. But asked if he still was a county employee, he said, “No.”
School board Chair Terry Hill said Wednesday that Kane is a personal friend of hers, and she wished him well. She gave both Jacobs and Kane credit for fostering positive dialogue with the school system.
“I am feeling very good right now with the relationship that we have with our county mayor and County Commission,” Hill said. She said Kane had helped build a base of knowledge about the school system for the mayor’s office, and that Jacobs has always been open and accessible to her.
Link said Jacobs has not decided whether to fill the education liaison position. “The mayor and his staff will reevaluate the position in the coming weeks and determine if it’s necessary to fill,” he wrote.
County Commissioner Larsen Jay, who co-chairs the county’s Joint Education Committee, recommended a similar course. “Let’s assess if it’s needed,” he said, “and if it is, sit down with constituents and stakeholders and figure out who would be the best candidate for what could be a really valuable position.”
Hill said that if it is filled, it could benefit from some clearer definition. “I am sure that the mayor’s office will sit back and perhaps better define what they would like that role to be,” she said.