THE BOARD OF EDUCATION: Who are they and what do they do?

Tatum Metcalf, Staff Writer

They make important decisions for the school district. They decide who the superintendent will be. They make new policies and rules. They are the Kingsport City Schools Board of Education.

Carrie Upshaw is now on her second 4-year term with the Board of Education. Upshaw is a native to Kingsport. She and her husband, Mike, have two children.

“I am one of five members that act as a single unit,” Upshaw said. “I can’t make decisions or take actions for the BOE by myself. The Board of Education all work together to make important decisions.”

Eric Hyche is also a native of Kingsport. He enjoys technology, and he and his wife, Angie, have two daughters.

“I heard someone describe the role of the Board of Education as follows: ‘Boards of Education don’t run the schools, but they see that the schools are run well’,” Hyche said. “The Board of Education sets the goals and direction for Kingsport City Schools, and then the Superintendent plans and executes how to achieve those goals.”

This year, Hyche is the president of the board.

Todd Golden is another Board of Education member. Golden, originally from Albany, Georgia, has been living in Kingsport for twenty years with his wife, Melissa, and their five children.

Board members are elected officials, which means that, every four years, the KCS Board of Education members are up for re-election.

In order to get a position on the BOE, candidates must advertise themselves.

“I walked around several neighborhoods, knocking on doors and asking people to support me,” Upshaw said. “I put out lots and lots of signs all over Kingsport. I also recruited friends to pass out flyers and put out signs. I attended many events for the candidates so I could meet people and answer questions.”

Financing is one of the hardest parts of being on the BOE. The board must decide who and what in KCS gets funding.

“It’s so hard to prioritize what or who gets money and what or who doesn’t,” Upshaw said. “There are needs every year that we can’t meet and that’s really painful.”

Karen Reed-Wright, who is on her first four year term, agrees. Reed-Wright and her husband Jim enjoy visiting their daughter in Massachusetts. Reed-Wright is a native of Kingsport.

“There is never enough money to do all you want to do for students and teachers and administrators,” Reed-Wright said. “Kingsport City Schools employs the best of the best and we would like to be able to always make certain they have every single tool required.”

Hyche has a different take.

“The most challenging part of being on the Board of Education is keeping up with the changing state laws and regulations regarding education,” Hyche said.

One of the other responsibilities of the BOE is hiring the new superintendent. Previously, Lyle Ailshie was Kingsport City School’s superintendent, but Ailshie took a job at the Tennessee Department of Education. As of right now, Dwain Arnold is the interim superintendent, which means the board still has to hire a permanent replacement for Ailshie.

“This year, we are also searching for a new superintendent, so it falls to the president to coordinate that effort,” Susan Lodal said. “However, the final decision of which person is hired as superintendent is still made by all five school board members.”

Lodal, who is on her fourth 4-year term with the board, is originally from Indianapolis, Indiana. Lodal and her husband, Peter, have 3 grown children and eight grandchildren.

Lodal also pointed out that “the superintendent is our only employee; all others in our schools work for the superintendent.”

The board members know hiring a new superintendent is a big responsibility.

“Some BOE members might not ever have to hire a superintendent, but so far I will be involved in hiring two,” Upshaw said. “This is a very important duty since the superintendent basically runs the school system. You have to be careful to choose someone who will have the right values and goals for the system and who will work well with everyone inside the system and outside the system, like the mayor and city manager.”

Reed-Wright agrees.

“We are getting ready to hire a new superintendent,” she said. “I anticipate this to be the greatest challenge I will face.”

Not only does the BOE hire the superintendent and deal with funding, but the 5 members also set new policies.

“We are responsible for setting policies, for setting the budget, legislative advocacy and planning for the future of our school system,” Lodal said.

These policies have to address a lot of different needs.

“We have policies for dress code, school zones, bad weather and much more,” Upshaw said. “Some policies come to us from the state Department of Education and we are required to adopt and follow those, while others we write ourselves.”

Naturally, the board members have several long-term goals and hopes for the Kingsport City Schools system.

“(I want Kingsport City Schools) to continue to be all I know they are and can be,” Reed-Wright said.

Hyche hopes that KCS will continue to focus on STEM education.

“I would like to see Kingsport City Schools be a school district that is known for its outstanding education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics,” Hyche said.

Many of the board members encourage students to attend their meetings to learn more about how the board makes decisions for their schools.

“Students should try to come to one of our voting meetings at least once or twice,” Upshaw said. “It’s a good experience to see the Administrative Support Center where the superintendent and other important people in our system work and to get to meet them.”