Carter County, Kentucky superintendent interviews for Johnson City Schools superintendent spot

Tony Casey • Updated Mar 7, 2017 at 10:57 PM

Dr. Ronnie Dotson, current superintendent of the Carter County, Kentucky, School System, came to his community forum and Johnson City Board of Education public interview prepared.

Dotson stood at the doorway of the district office’s board room Tuesday morning, introducing himself to everyone who passed, sure to shake every hand and offer a leaflet containing information about his accomplishments and recommendations.

That was before he answered questions in front of the board, as the second of five consecutive nights of candidate finalist interviews, with applicants seeking the position of superintendent.

Dr. Richard Bales, after 12 years as head of Johnson City Schools, will retire on July 1.

Dotson made his case as to why he’s prepared to replace Bales, citing the success he’s had as a teacher and then an administrator in Kentucky. Listed as an achievement is Dotson’s role in bringing his school system from the bottom five percent of districts in the state to a District of Distinction scoring in the 95th percentile.

When asked about his personal philosophy, Dotson emphasized the importance of education.

“Acquiring an education is the single greatest asset a person can obtain,” Dotson said. “I want to make sure students see the potential in themselves.”

Dotson said the teacher in him won’t let him get too far away from the classrooms. Unless he has a more pressing engagement, Dotson said by 8 a.m., every school day, you can expect to find him at one of his system’s schools, around the children, trying to support his staff.

“What can I do to help?” Dotson said he asks the teachers.  

And he doesn’t want teachers to feel pressure with him around. He avoids this by always leaving a positive note for the teachers he visits. Dotson knows how they feel, having taught in two elementary schools from 1988 to 1997 before moving into administration.

“I enjoy being with kids,” he told the audience during a community forum portion before the board interview. “I’m a teacher at heart. I know I can’t do that all the time because I have other responsibilities, but when I can, that’s what I want to do.” 

Dotson’s passion might be in education, but his guiding light is his faith, he said.

“My faith comes first to me,” he told the school board when asked if there’s anything not on his resume that he’d like to share.

To emphasize his care for non-classified employees in his system, he told an audience member that he hands out a prayer card to each of the school’s employees, and he can anecdotally say that about 85 to 90 percent of the school’s employees post them on their classroom bulletin boards.

Dotson did not have to be asked why, if he’s so happy with his current system in Kentucky, he’d be looking at leaving and taking a role in Johnson City. He opened up with his response to that inevitable question.

“Whereas, this has been a second home for us for years, we want it to be a permanent home,” Dotson said.

His wife is from Kingsport and the Dotsons had owned a condo there for more than 12 years, and his parents-in-law lived there, too.

Hands On! Regional Museum and Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium are very familiar to Dotson and his son, who grew up around here. Always having wanted to retire here, Dotson said this opportunity would fulfill one of his family’s objectives from long ago.

Board chairman Tim Belisle asked about Dotson’s success in his Kentucky system, and having brought it up from lower achievement levels.

Because Johnson City Schools doesn’t require the same level of increased academic achievement, Dotson said he could still help maintain Johnson City Schools’ level of success.

To hit on one national education topic, Dotson said he hopes efforts in Kentucky to allow for charter schools will be defeated, which is in line with Bales’ opposition to charter schools taking money away from public education.

Email Tony Casey at tcasey@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow Tony Casey on Twitter @TonyCaseyJCP. Like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tonycaseyjournalist.

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