By Jennifer Ginn
Although Louisville’s Rich Gimmel may never have taught as a full-time profession, that doesn’t mean he’s unaware of what is going on in the lives of children.
Gimmel, chairman of Atlas Machine and Supply, is a staunch advocate for students. He and his company train students through project-based learning in the company’s apprenticeship program to become journeyman machinists and welders. His efforts to improve education and economic development also are apparent through his work with the Greater Louisville Chapter of KY FAME, fostering innovative workforce training through apprenticeship-style work-study, and his mentorship of inner-city youth.
That experience will serve him well, as he is one of five people sworn in earlier this summer as new members of the Kentucky Board of Education.
He is a graduate of Waggener High School (Jefferson County). He holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Georgetown College and a master’s degree in business administration from Bellarmine University.
Kentucky Teacher staff had a chance recently to ask Gimmel about his priorities while serving on the Kentucky Board of Education. Here’s what he had to say.
Why were you interested in serving on the Kentucky Board of Education?
“While working as a mentor to inner-city young people over the years, I developed an appreciation for the lifelong difference education can make.”
What impact do you hope to have on the board?
“I’m not a professional educator, but I see the end product of our education system in the people we hire in my business. Consequently, I see a need for an increased respect for skilled trades education (career and technical education). Also, in my work with inner-city youth, I have seen in a real way the consequences of the achievement gap and I have a keen interest in doing what I can to close it.”
What personal trait will serve you best as a board member?
“In two decades in broadcast news I came to appreciate the value of good communication practices – and the consequences of bad ones.”
Other than more money, what do Kentucky schools need most?
“An effective measure of post-graduate outcomes that will enable us to determine what works best in preparing students for success in life — not just getting them graduated.”
What are the biggest challenges facing Kentucky’s schools?
“I constantly hear from teachers that the decline in parental involvement in a child’s education is the biggest obstacle to academic success. Thus, it appears that schools are mainly left to merely treat the symptoms of a problem they can’t cure.”
What small change would have the greatest impact on Kentucky’s schools?
“A public realization, and appreciation, of the true value of a great teacher.”
What major change would you make to improve Kentucky schools?
“Develop a valid way to identify great teachers and reward them.”
Who was your favorite teacher and why?
“Mrs. Cabel, my 1st-grade teacher at Melbourne Heights Elementary School in Louisville. She planted the seeds for my determination to learn and excel in school.”
Other than parents and teachers, what do you believe has had the biggest impact on Kentucky students’ education in the past few years?
“Changes in family structure and subsequent parental support of the student.”
One of the Kentucky Department of Education’s priorities is to address the achievement gap. How do you think we can do that?
“As a manufacturer, our industry has survived an onslaught of foreign competition by adopting a process of continuous improvement – being honest about things that don’t work and learning from best practices. As for education, let’s find out who is making real progress in this area and learn from them.”
What have you been reading lately?
“Bob Russell’s ‘After 50 Years of Ministry: 7 Things I’d Do Differently & 7 Things I’d Do The Same,’ because I love to learn from people who’ve been down the road of life ahead of me.”
What else would you like Kentucky’s educators to know about you?
“In spending two decades in the news business, I developed an appreciation for an open mind. There are two sides to just about everything and both need to be heard.”