However, as Ailshie prepares to leave KCS after more than five years to become a Tennessee deputy commissioner of education, he also recalled “borrowing” a Diet Mountain Dew during an informal job interview with the head of the school board and his initial after-college inclination against becoming an educator at all.
When the future Kingsport superintendent first met then-Kingsport Board of Education President Randy Montgomery on a Saturday in 2012, he discovered that Montgomery also liked Diet Mountain Dew. Montgomery, a dentist, brought the beverage into their informal meeting. During the meeting, Ailshie began drinking it because he thought he had brought it.
“It wasn’t until we finished that he told me,” the former Greeneville superintendent said with a smile.
When Ailshie graduated from college in 1981, he said he had no intention of becoming a teacher, disregarding his mother’s advice to study education as a backup. After a year working for the company for which his father worked, he was talked into teaching in South Carolina starting in 1982 and soon found it was his passion before heading to Tennessee, beginning his education career and eventually getting master’s and doctoral degrees.
“I went through college with no inclination of becoming an educator,” Ailshie said.
Three and a half decades after that passion emerged, Ailshie is leaving his position as KCS superintendent — but not the city — to become a deputy commissioner. His last day as superintendent is Aug. 11. On Aug. 14, he will report to work in Nashville, where he will live in an apartment during the week but return to Kingsport on weekends.
“The school system has been very good to me,” Ailshie said. “I just could not feel good without doing everything possible to be sure I was here long enough to allow some time for a smooth transition.”
Dwain Arnold, chief academic officer for elementary education, for the second time has been tapped by the Board of Education to take on interim superintendent duties. The first time was in 2012 in the transition between the retiring Richard Kitzmiller and incoming Ailshie.
“It’s just really hard to leave,” Ailshie said recently from a sparse office. He said he, his wife, Vanessa, and daughter, D-B rising senior Karli, consider Kingsport home. He also has a daughter near Morristown and two granddaughters, as well as a daughter in Louisiana about to have his grandson, but he is staying put in the Model City.
“It (the state job) was an opportunity that wasn’t on my radar at all,” Ailshie said. “It took a lot of prayer and thought.”