Students returning to Ocoee Middle School remember band director - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Students returning to Ocoee Middle School remember band director killed in crash

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Ocoee Middle School's Band Director, Kelley Burroughs, had a tough job on Monday morning. It was her first time greeting students without her teaching partner of 11 years, Brian Gallaher. 

"I imagine this is what it feels like to lose a brother," Burroughs said. 

Gallaher, 37, was one of six people killed after a semi truck plowed into eight vehicles on Interstate 75 in June.

Guidance counselors were on hand for students struggling with the loss on Monday.

"We started off just letting them know that it was OK to be sad. It's ok to be mad," Burroughs explained. 

While students and faculty try moving forward, Gallaher remains a big part of the OMS band room. Students already started filling out a memory book, and this year's band t-shirts have Gallaher's signature on it.

After news of the popular band director's death rocked the Bradley County community this summer, Principal Ron Spangler knew that eventually, he'd have to hire a replacement.

"I put it off for as long as I could before I realized that school is going to start, and Brian would want us to carry on this program with qualified people," said Spangler.

One of those candidates up for the job was former OMS student, Spencer Hughes.

 "Fourteen years ago, I was the student in this room listening to Mr. Gallaher talk," Hughes said. "It was about making band fun, and making band cool."

Hughes said he was inspired to follow in his former band director's footsteps. He already had Band Director at Copper Basin Middle/High School on his resume.

But Spangler said there was something in his teaching portfolio that truly set him apart. It was an old letter of recommendation from Gallaher himself.

"Brian's letter was there in front of us," Spangler explained. "It said, 'This is one of my students. I believe in him. He can do the job. So I'm recommending him for the position.'"

Hughes was hired on before the start of the school year. The young band director hopes to give back some of what he was taught by Mr. Gallaher.

"I told (the students) that I'm not here to take Mr. Gallaher's place," said Hughes. "I'm here to continue on his legacy."

"I just feel like the best way to honor him here is by making the band as awesome as possible," Burroughs added.

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