Happy new year! I hope each of you are feeling excited about what’s in store for 2019. The holiday season gives us an opportunity to step back, recharge, and remind ourselves what our work is all about, and I have been thankful for the work you are doing every day on behalf of all Tennessee students.
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. 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.
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.
I also had an opportunity to work with the state numerous times while I was a director of schools, including serving on a working group that developed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan and serving as the chair of the standards recommendation committee that was appointed to finalize Tennessee’s ELA and math standards. I have always been proud to be part of teams that are working to make sure every child in Tennessee can have a world class education from their neighborhood public school. Here at the department, that is what we focus on every day, and I give you my commitment that the department will continue to do whatever it can to support teachers and leaders across Tennessee.
I have been so impressed with what I’ve seen. Over the past 18 months as deputy commissioner, I have been able to visit classrooms and teachers across Tennessee to get a peek into what you do every day, and at the department, I have been able to collaborate with teams throughout the building and learn about our work ranging from early childhood to data and research to assessment. I have been able to more intentionally support what we are doing in career and technical education (CTE), ensuring postsecondary readiness, and how we are expanding early postsecondary opportunities and supporting students through school counseling. I have been fortunate to work alongside teams who are developing and supporting educator evaluation systems that support great teaching and learning, expanding principal preparation pipelines, and strengthening human capital systems. I am looking forward now to engaging even more, and I pledge to provide the support and guidance needed to ensure you know how much I appreciate and value what you do.
If you need anything or have any questions, please reach out to me through firstname.lastname@example.org. I am excited to see what we can do together as we start 2019.
Dr. Lyle Ailshie, Interim Commissioner of Education