By Christina Cooke
East Ridge resident Randy Gutshall said as a teacher and coach in the Hamilton County school system for 33 years, he has an insider’s view of the system’s needs.
He is running for a seat on the Hamilton County Board of Education to try to press some of his ideas through.
“Having been in the schools, I know what the problems are,” he said. “I want to try to help the school system out.”
Mr. Gut-shall, 59, faces Kenny Smith in the county’s Aug. 3 general election for the District 8 seat held by Debbie Colburn. The district includes East Ridge and parts of the Brainerd and East Brainerd areas.
Mr. Gutshall said he would like to see more money spent on teacher salaries, technology, facility maintenance and construction and school safety. He said if the County Commission doesn’t support a tax increase, the school board should be given that authority, which it currently does not have.
“If the school system doesn’t have money in the budget now, I think we should raise taxes,” he said.
Raising teacher salaries would be his first priority, he said. Hamilton County is 30th in the state, with salaries for new teachers starting at $31,270, he said.
The system should spend more money on classroom instruction, including books and supplies, athletic equipment, coaches, bands and cheerleaders, he said.
Mr. Gutshall said having a stroke while on a hike in 1999 reinforced for him the importance of a strong physical education program. He recommended a minimum of 30 minutes a day.
He said he’d also like to see ROTC and driver’s education reinstated in schools.
The candidate proposed drug testing all students, not just football players, to increase school safety.
The biggest problem with the current school board is its failure to communicate with the County Commission, he said.
“The superintendent should set the stage for cooperation between the school board and county commissioners,” he said.
Mr. Gutshall graduated from Tyner High in 1956 and received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chattanooga in 1961 and a master’s degree from Middle Tennessee State University in 1970.
He taught health and physical education; coached football, basketball, track and baseball; and was principal of the Alternative School, an after-school program for students with behavioral problems at Red Bank Middle, for one year.
“If elected,” he said, “I will listen to both sides and decide what is best for my district and what is best for the majority of the people.”
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