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School Board accepts Cooke’s retirement request

The 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 candidate.