Ailshie tapped as interim Tennessee education commissioner

Rick Wagner • Jan 6, 2019 at 3:00 PM

NASHVILLE — Lyle Ailshie, former Kingsport superintendent of schools, is the interim commissioner of education for Tennessee.

Ailshie joined the department 18 months ago as a deputy commissioner, and outgoing Republican Gov. Bill Haslam swore him in Wednesday as interim commissioner to replace the departing Candice McQueen. McQueen announced in December that Alishe would be the interim, and her last day was Jan. 1.

Republican Gov.-elect Bill Lee as of Friday has not revealed his choice for commissioner, although Thursday he announced that Jeff McCord of Kingsport, who works for Northeast State Community College, would be the new commissioner of labor and workforce development.

“I want you to know how excited and humbled I am to be stepping into the role of interim commissioner and that my commitment to you is to maintain our momentum and continue to build on the great work taking place throughout the state,” Ailshie wrote in a blog published Thursday by Department of Education spokesman Sara Gast.

“I lost my dad in August. I wish he could have been present today, but I was able to take my oath using a Bible he and Mom gave me,” he wrote on Twitter Wednesday.

Gast said she had no more information to release, and Ailshie could not be reached for comment Friday. However, Kingsport school board member Susan Lodal and Sullivan County Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski said it was good to have a familiar face heading the department in Nashville.

“We are working to have the governor-elect’s Cabinet in place by Jan.19,” Laine Arnold, press secretary for Lee, said Friday. That is the date Lee will be sworn in. 

“When Dr. McQueen asked me to join the department a year and a half ago, I agreed because I believe the vision we have outlined with Tennessee Succeeds is the right work, and the priorities we have established are absolutely where we need to be committed. While we recently celebrated the successes of the past eight years, I am sincerely excited about what is yet to come,” Ailshie said. 

“If you didn’t know, I have been part of this work for a long time — more than 35 years. I started as a high school teacher and have held just about every job there is in education, including serving as an assistant principal and principal in Hamblen and Hawkins County. I have been blessed to have served in both rural and city districts, each having its own benefits and challenges. I spent 17 years as a director of schools for both Greeneville City and Kingsport City, where I was proud to lead work that has been recognized by both national and state organizations for their innovation in helping students become ready for college and careers in the 21st century. I have had the opportunity to work with a sampling of the thousands of dedicated educators that are serving students, and I never cease to be amazed at what I see.”

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