New principal continues family’s tradition in education

By Bill Tamburrino

In his inaugural address, the late President John F. Kennedy said, “The torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.”

That torch has been passed to a new generation of elementary students in Ramona.

CHRIS GUNNETT Sentinel photo/Bill Tamburrino

When sisters Judy Gunnett and Lori Tipane retired from their teaching jobs in Ramona, well over 70 years of teaching experience left with them and 40 years of having a member of the Nelson Family left the Ramona Unified School District.

The late Ed and Fran Nelson started a legacy. Ed Nelson Sr. was a general contractor and a builder of houses in Ramona. Fran was the matriarch.

Their son Ed went into secondary education and is now superintendent of the Escondido High School District. Their daughters Judy, Jeri and Lori went into elementary school teaching. Lori’s husband Joe Tipane was a middle school math teacher.

The Nelsons’ grandsons, Chris and Darin Gunnett, entered the teaching profession at the elementary level. To date, the family has nearly 200 years of experience in the field of education.

When Judy Gunnett retired, effective June 30, it seemed there were no members of the Nelson/Gunnett/Tipane clan employed in the RUSD. Tipane had retired last year.

Enter Chris Gunnett, the new principal at Hanson Elementary School.

Gunnett started his education at Ramona Elementary School, was in the last class that attended Ramona Intermediate School in what is now the district offices, and attended and graduated from Ramona High School in 1989.

While at RHS he played baseball, football, and soccer and earned six varsity letters. He was an all-league selection in baseball and a three-year letterman. He also competed in automotives and his team came in third in the state in 1989.

Gunnett said that the two teachers who had the biggest influence on him at RHS were Mike Jordan, his automotives teacher and coach, and Bill Tamburrino, his English teacher and football and baseball coach.

He received his undergraduate education at Point Loma Nazarene University, where he played baseball and led his team to the NAIA College World Series. After graduating from Point Loma, he played three years of professional baseball and pitched for the California Angels in spring training.

He worked his way through high school and college.

“During the summers I would work for my grandfather on construction jobs,” Gunnett said. “He made sure that I never did any finish work. I learned to use shovels, wheel barrows, hammers, and saws. He made sure that I learned to work hard, and I think that he wanted me to see the value of an education and wanted me to go to college.”

His mother, father, aunts, and uncles also had an impact on inspiring him to go to college.

“My family had a big part of shaping my values. They showed me what is important in life. They attended all of my games because they believed in the importance of teamwork. I am fortunate now to be reaping the benefits of what my entire family taught me.”

In 1996 he started his teaching career at Mt. Woodson Elementary School and taught there for 13 years.

While teaching, he earned a master’s degree in educational administration.

He left RUSD to accept an assistant principal’s job at Olympic View Elementary School in Chula Vista. He was later promoted to principal at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School in the same district.

This June, Gunnett accepted the job of principal at Hanson Elementary School. He has a job in his hometown, and he has a big job ahead of him. As a result of student scores on standardized tests, the state Department of Education has designated Hanson Elementary for Program Improvement the past three years.

Of his immediate goals, Gunnett said, “We are in the people business. We educate people to make them better people, students, and teachers. To do that I have to build trust. The parents and students have to trust what we are doing to educate the students.

“Once we build that relationship of trust, we will be able to improve student achievement. Once they see and feel success, they will improve. I have been fortunate enough that student achievement at every school where I have been an administrator has improved. It wasn’t me. It was a team effort. I have met the teachers at Hanson school and they are ready to take off and do more great things for kids.

“My leadership style comes from my experience in sports and automotives and construction work. It is a team concept. Working together with the students, parents, and teachers, we will improve student achievement. By working hard as a team, the Hanson Elementary School family will be successful.”

Gunnett has a personal interest in the Hanson Elementary School family. He and his wife Michelle have two sons, Miles and Reed, who are students there.

Michelle Gunnett, a commander in the medical corps of the U.S. Navy Reserve, is a nurse manager at Palomar Medical Center.

Related posts:

  1. School enrollment continues to drop
  2. 17 say yes to RUSD’s $80,000
  3. Ramona Elementary principal earns regional award
  4. Enrollment continues to drop
  5. Principal stays at Mt. Woodson school

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Posted by Karen Brainard on Aug 23 2012. Filed under Local Spotlight. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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