SODDY-DAISY, TN (WRCB)- Danny Gilbert was ready to go to work the moment he got the principal's job at Soddy-Daisy High.
After a 32-year career as a math teacher and wrestling coach in Georgia and Tennessee, he jumped at the chance to take over one of Hamilton County's top high schools. He said the school is blessed to have one of the most experienced teaching staffs in the area.
"I think that's one way to tell a school is in the right direction," he said. "The teachers want to stay put; they're glad to be where they are."
Soddy-Daisy's current building is 30 years old, and Gilbert said his first job was enlisting his fellow administrators for a massive clean up project. He wants to bring the 1980's-era facility into the 21st century.
As he and assistant principal Steve Henry surveyed the building, he said, "It's ready for a facelift. We're all working hard trying to make everybody proud of it for the upcoming school year."
County Commissioner Fred Skillern has pitched in with $5,000 from his discretionary fund to purchase paint. A community work day for parents is slated for later in the summer.
From outdated furniture and technology to peeling paint, Gilbert is determined to bring new life to a proud old school. A self-described "punk" in his early teen years, Gilbert wants his staff to be an example for today's teens as his own teachers and coaches were to him.
"Ed Woodham was my wrestling coach, and later my principal at East Ridge High, and he got me going in the right direction. I'm hoping our faculty makes relationships like that. That's why we're in this profession: to build relationships with students."
The first day of school is still six weeks away, and Gilbert can't wait. He's anxious to meet the students, and he says they won't have to go far to find him. He'll be in the hallway and in the classrooms.
"I don't plan to be camped out in my office," he said. "If I'm answering phone calls or emails, it ought to be before or after school. There's plenty to do during the school day, and I'm all about these kids."
Gilbert, who had most recently been assistant principal at Signal Mountain Middle-High, succeeds John Maynard, who is now an assistant at Center for Creative Arts. Gilbert is only the seventh principal in the school's 75 year history.