December 1, 2015

School Board accepts superintendent’s retirement request

KathleenCookeWEBThe Hamilton School Board accepted the retirement request of Superintendent Kathleen Cooke, Ph.D., at its Dec. 1 meeting. Cooke has been superintendent of the district since 1993. Her retirement will be effective at the end of the 2015-16 school year.

School Board President Gabe Kolesari said the Hamilton School District was fortunate to have Cooke as its leader for the past 23 years.

“Dr. Cooke has provided dedicated service and worked collaboratively to build a school district that reflects the community’s expectations for high performance,” Kolesari said. “She worked in partnership with staff, parents, community members and business leaders to affect meaningful, positive change.”

Under Cooke’s leadership, the district saw significant increases in student achievement, completion of nearly $50 million of facility additions and renovations, and realization of considerable cost-saving measures. In the past two decades, Hamilton has become one of the highest-achieving, lowest-spending school districts in the region.

She oversaw the implementation of numerous initiatives including: school improvement, strategic and tactical planning processes; the Seniors & Students Volunteer Program; and innovative programs to increase achievement including the high school block schedule, four-year-old kindergarten, early reading and early mathematics empowerment programs, honors and advanced placement programming.

To better understand constituency expectations, she promoted engagement of stakeholders through surveys, focus groups, quality interviews, learning environment reviews, formation of a Business Advisory Council and other advisory groups that studied facilities, budget, curriculum, achievement and attendance boundaries.

After graduating from Marian College in Fond du Lac in 1979, Cooke began her career in the Oconomowoc Area School District where she went from elementary teacher to program evaluation specialist, elementary and middle school principal, human resources director and ultimately assistant superintendent. She earned her master’s degree in 1984 from the University of Wisconsin (UW)-Milwaukee and doctorate in 1991 from UW-Madison.

While superintendent in Hamilton, she was recognized for outstanding leaderships skills and the district earned awards for high performance and efficient operations from more than a dozen regional, state and national associations, watchdog groups and publications.

At its next meeting Dec. 21, the School Board will establish parameters and a timeline for the superintendent search process. Opportunities will be available for staff, parents and community members to provide input to develop a profile of ideal candidates.

ELL has success increasing parent participation

The district provides services to 64 English Language Learners (ELL) who come from homes where a total of 26 different languages are spoken including Russian, Mandarin, Punjabi, and most commonly, Hmong and Spanish.

Human Resources and Organizational Development Director John Roubik presented a report to the School Board that included a chart showing the number of ELL students is at its lowest level since 2011. The number of ELL students in the previous five years ranged from 79 to 106.

Two teachers whose full-time equivalency is 1.5 positions provide services for students and support classroom teachers who deliver instruction in the classroom. One ELL focus has been to increase parent participation. The ELL Family Literacy Program started three years ago to help parents feel more comfortable with the district’s academic expectations and stress the importance of parent engagement in the student learning process. As a result, the district has seen an increase in family participation and attendance at district functions including parent-teacher conferences.

In addition, the Hamilton Education Foundation (HEF) provided a grant to support development of vocabulary using iPads and the Flowcabulary application. The district supported the HEF grants by purchasing Fast ForWord, software that promotes vocabulary development and increases fluency. Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) tests taken in spring 2015 revealed that 70 percent of participating students’ reading scores increased.

Plans for the future are to implement new literacy resources including Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant software. ELL teachers have taught specific literacy instruction courses at the middle and high schools. The courses are part of the schools’ site plans and a HEF supergrant initiative.

Quarterly report on strategic, tactical plans given

Human Resources and Organizational Development Director John Roubik gave an update to the School Board on the strategic priorities and tactical planning areas that will be addressed in the coming year. Tactics include:

  • implementing personalized learning, differentiated instructional practices;
  • using universal screeners and specific progress monitoring tools to assess students’ response to selected and intensive interventions and close achievement gaps;
  • constructing a high school classroom addition;
  • utilizing effective two-way communication practices; and
  • providing professional development on knowledge and skills staff need to engage and empower students, differentiate instruction and ensure continuous progress to promote increased achievement.

Other personnel business

In personnel business, the School Board accepted the retirement request of Marcy kindergarten teacher Mary Stein effective at the end of the school year and appointed Leah Smith as a Hamilton associate kitchen employee.