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By SHAINA STOCKTON, Staff
The Galax City School Board will welcome newcomer Larry Spangler to their table this summer.
Spangler, who has an impressive history of teaching in the classroom and coaching sports, is looking forward to bringing those perspectives to the board in the hopes of serving the schools that have nurtured his career for several decades.
In February, members of the Galax City Council interviewed three potential candidates for a spot on the board: Spangler, Jason Jordan and Dr. Eugenia Larrowe. Spangler received four votes out of seven, gaining him a seat on the board.
The vacancy arose after Donna Garland chose not to seek reappointment to the school board. Her term ends June 30, and Spangler begins July 1.
Spangler noted during an interview with The Gazette that, as he moves into his new position, he will retire from his coaching position at Galax High School. “It was a bittersweet decision for me, because I enjoy the day-to-day interaction with the kids. I will miss that,” he said. “But instead of impacting a few, I will get a chance to have an impact on all of them.”
Spangler is a veteran educator of 45 years, and has coached a number of sports teams. He taught biology and coached football, baseball and basketball.
He has a bachelor’s degree from Milligan College in Tennessee, and a master’s degree from the University of Tennessee in Johnson City.
He began teaching in Bristol, then came to Galax in 1974 after hearing about the area from some friends. Over the years, he enjoyed his mixed schedule, which allowed him some time both indoors with his teaching position and outdoors with his coaching position, he said.
His coaching history includes 39 years of football, 38 years of baseball and around 15 years of basketball. “While I liked baseball, football was always a great passion of mine, as well,” he said, when asked which sport was his favorite.
He continued teaching and coaching in Galax until 2000, then moved to Surry County, N.C., and taught for 10 more years.
When he retired from Surry, Galax football coach Mark Dixon asked him to join the Maroon Tide coaching staff to help with football again, “and I jumped at the idea to get to coach with some of my friends again,” Spangler said.
When he came back, he found that he knew the majority of the students, because he had taught their parents years before. “I loved working with the kids, and seeing a lot of my former players.”
Today, he says there’s hardly anyone in the community he doesn’t know.
He hopes that the relationship he’s developed with the community will help him as he takes the new responsibility as part of the school board. “I’d like to bring a different perspective to the board. I think I’m the first educator on the board in a long time,” he said.
To prepare himself for his new responsibilities, he has already spent countless hours poring over the school system’s policy manual, having discussions with the board members and attending the meetings. “So far, this has given me a little added insight into school operations. I have a lot to learn on the laws and [policies].”
“One member told me that I’m coming into some challenging times,” he added. “They told me, ‘your phone will not stop ringing.’”
The school system has taken on some large projects in recent months, including a new balanced calendar with remediation and enrichment programs; and planning for a new elementary school.
In the future, Spangler expects a lot of discussions and some important decisions within the board.
He feels that the dynamic that exists within the board will serve the schools well as they continue to move forward. “It’s good because we have some different viewpoints… and even though the faces of the group change, the overall support of education has been tremendous,” he said.
He noted that he doesn’t have a specific focus going into the board, but he has a strong overall goal of enhancing the educational opportunities for his students. “I’ve been there, and I know where the parents and the students are coming from,” he said.