David Shaffer’s last day on the job won’t come until the end of the month, but Brown County Schools’ new superintendent is already working.
The school board voted 4-0 to hire Laura Hammack on May 31. Board member Steve Miller Jr. was not present because of a conflict that could not be rescheduled, board President Judy Hardwick said.
At this less-than-two-minute meeting, no comments from the public were taken.
“We would like to thank all of those who came to our meeting last Monday (May 23) to express their thoughts on Dr. Laura Hammack’s contract,” Hardwick told the audience of administrators, teachers and parents.
The school board’s choice of Hammack was announced May 4 when a draft of her contract was released. Her pay — $125,000, plus benefits — prompted more than an hour of discussion at a public hearing May 23.
“We want you to know that we looked at all concerns that were presented,” Hardwick told the audience May 31.
After the meeting adjourned and refreshments were being served, Hammack was all smiles.
She has been receiving emails and calls from the school board about her potential transition plans for the last two weeks, she said.
“It feels amazing. I couldn’t be more excited to get started. I just have so much thanks and feeling very humbled by the board’s support,” she said. “I am just really looking forward to working with them and the administrative team as well as the teachers, the students and the families. I just can’t wait to kind of reintroduce myself to the community.”
Hammack started her career here, working as a special education teacher, sixth-grade teacher, elementary school principal and assistant superintendent.
After 13 years, she left to become the director of quality learners at Beech Grove schools and eventually the assistant superintendent for seven years.
Even though Hammack knows many in the community already, she looks forward to developing new relationships and reconnecting.
In June, Hammack will spend two days in Beech Grove helping train her replacement and three days here meeting with administrators and the central office staff. She is using vacation days from Beech Grove to allow her to work in Brown County, she said.
The meetings are part of a three-month transition plan she developed with the board.
“I am conducting what I am calling listen and learn team meetings,” she said.
Starting June 3, she plans to spend two hours with building principals, assistant principals and district office staff members, asking 25 questions to get a sense of what their roles and responsibilities are, areas they want to celebrate and areas where they’re hoping to make a difference or grow.
“That, I think, is going to give me a really strong sense of what’s going to be next,” she said.
After those meetings, Hammack said she and the school board have talked about developing a strategic plan for Brown County Schools.
She hopes to develop it with a team of not just school staff, but also parents and community members — “getting stakeholders involved in that process to kind of help us direct the future of the district,” she said. “It’s really important.”
Some concerns brought up at the May 23 contract discussion meeting revolved around the recently passed referendum and if that new property tax money would go toward supporting teachers’ salaries as voters were told it would.
Hammack said she is committed to being transparent about where those dollars will go.
“The community has entrusted us and given us quite a gift by giving us their support. I feel like it’s our fundamental responsibility to pay it back and to really make sure that folks understand that the dollars are being spent in a way that’s reasonable,” she said.
“It’s going to teachers and going to students. That’s where we want those dollars to be.”