Lunch with Lyle: Meeting opens dialog between Kingsport superintendent, parents

Rick Wagner • Feb 21, 2014 at 10:28 PM

KINGSPORT — It’s 4 a.m. on a snowy school day or a potentially snowy one. Where is your superintendent of schools?

If he is Kingsport Superintendent Lyle Ailshie, he’s up talking with folks or on the road checking out conditions.

Ailshie shared that tidbit and got to know what was on the minds of some parents Friday, and the parents got direct answers and comments on their questions from him.

The inaugural Lunch with Lyle event drew almost 20 people, including 12 parents, a city school system bus driver and two school board members.

One parent thanked Ailshie for his calls on snow days, although another questioned why city students went to school on a day other systems were out entirely or had a two-hour delay before being called off.

Ailshie said the forecast he got for Tuesday, Jan. 28, was for a 30 percent chance of snow by 3 p.m., while the actual conditions turned out to have snow starting at 8 a.m.

City schools ended up dismissing at midday after city salt trucks and snow plows had a chance to clear roads in a respite between snowfalls.

Ailshie said he depends on school system spokesman Andy True — who said that WJHL Newschannel 11 meteorologist “Mark Reynolds and I talk frequently” — and on Director of Student Services Elaine Minton and other weather forecasters, but he gave a special thanks to Ronnie Hammonds of the city of Kingsport who oversees snow removal.

The parent critical of the decision to have school that day said the city system should have known going was not a good idea when other area systems did not go, but Ailshie said some more rural systems “get out for high winds.”

“We were actually out one day last week when the county was in,” Ailshie said.

“We do watch what other systems do,” Ailshie said, adding that as the city annexes more into Sullivan County, road issues become more complicated.

Parents pointed out city buses must travel some county roads to get to and from schools, and a driver on a route along Bailey Ranch Road in the John Adams Elementary School area said driving conditions there were not good.

Ailshie also recalled that once as a coach, he got a school bus stuck on a level parking lot in the snow.

The meeting, which was similar to the old Brown Bag Lunches discontinued about two years ago, went 20 minutes over its allotted hour and covered a range of questions on topics ranging from Common Core to school facilities needs.

Ailshie said he was pleased with the turnout for the inaugural event and plans to have one every quarter, adding that he enjoys talking and interacting with parents and other stakeholders in the system.

Answering other questions, he said the J. Fred Johnson Stadium expansion and renovations should not interfere with having the outdoor D-B graduation ceremonies there in May.

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