Commentary: Superintendent Hammond Embodies Leadership

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james_hammondOn Monday night, Superintendent James Hammond did two things.  First, he put to rest persistent rumors suggesting that he was planning to leave the Davis School district by taking a contract extension by two years.  This is an important event in and of itself as it shows Dr. Hammond’s continued dedication to the Davis School District in the face of tough financial times that will only get tougher as the State Legislature and Governor last night failed to reach agreement on the budget, meaning the state now faces a cashflow problem that will result in IOUs being issued as soon as tomorrow.

The second part of that commitment is that his contract which now runs through June 30 of 2012 takes a pay cut in–and not a mere superficial paycut, but a real one.

First, he forgoes the 4 percent annual pay increase that his previous contract gave him each year.

Second, he has taken a five percent pay reduction for 2009-10 and beyond.

Now let us be clear first that Dr. Hammond will not exactly leave him in the poor house.  The $21,000 in savings is not exactly going to save the district fiscal situation.  And he is still receiving an annual salary of nearly $200,000.

But at the same time, this is an important demonstration of leadership.  Dr. Hammond has stepped to the plate and has taken a pay cut that frankly he did not have to take.

We can contrast Dr. Hammond’s actions against others in our community that to this point have not shared in any sort of sacrifice.  We can contrast these responsible actions against those who have taken decidely irresponsible actions.  But in a way that would demean Dr. Hammond’s responsibility.

I will admit from day one, I was pleased with the hire of Dr. Hammond way back in the early fall of 2007 when he was hired.  But as with so many in this community, I was guardedly hopeful that a new Superintendent would bring an end to the multitude of problems that we faced as the result of the irresponsible leadership of his predecessor.

The day I realize for certain that it was a new day in Davis, it was not just about talk and rhetoric was in the spring of 2008.  It was a trying time as the district was actually facing a more serious budget situation then than they are today.  We were facing massive layoffs and cut backs of programs and the closure of Emerson.

Students and parents marched from Central Park to the front of District Administration Building on B Street.  Then an amazing thing happened.  Instead of the Superintendent hiding in his office–as there was no doubt that the previous Superintendent would have done–Dr. Hammond grabbed a bullhorn and addressed the crowd.

Did he tell the crowd what they wanted to hear?  No.  He could not tell them what they wanted to hear, because that would not have been the truth.  I would like to believe that each and every person in that crowd gained a measure of respect for the honor and integrity shown by Dr. Hammond that day.  I became a fan.  He would probably just shrug it off as part of the job.  I know better.  I have seen a whole lot in my time covering events for the Vanguard, but I have never seen a great performance like that.

This comes close.  We are faced with trying economic times which probably have become a whole lot worse as the result of the inaction by our state government last night.

However, for those skeptical about government–which in this day and age, you would be crazy not to be–perhaps this small gesture and show of leadership can inspire a little faith, the likes of which I first saw in that spring day of April 2008 when it showed that this was not just more of the same, this was something new.  I wish we would actually get to see Dr. Hammond at work doing something other than trying to save us from the economic crisis.  Hopefully he will be around long enough so that we can build things, not take things down.

However in the meantime, every parent in this district should sleep better at night knowing that the able hands of Dr. Hammond will guide this ship another three years through what unfortunately figures to be more stormy waters.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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17 thoughts on “Commentary: Superintendent Hammond Embodies Leadership”

  1. David Park

    “We can contrast Dr. Hammond’s actions against others in our community that to this point have not shared in any sort of sacrifice.”

    If that isn’t a blatant dig at Davis teachers, then I don’t know what is.

    5% of a $200,000-plus salary is NOT THE SAME as 5% of a $40k salary. Stop putting pressure on teachers to sacrifice more. They already contribute their dedication, expertise, and efforts in the classroom and are not compensated properly to begin with.

  2. black bart

    Hammond is the best thing to happen to Davis since sliced bread. Hammond has done three things that earn my respect:

    He has tried to address the achievement gap when Davis could hide behind the strength of its numbers from white and asian students.

    He has diversified the administration something that the previous administrations had faied to do. With a diverified administration we can expect to see a more diversified staff will follow.

    By taking a pay cut, however small compared to his fabulous salary, he is leading by example, the finest form of leadership.

    I’m not saying that those who can’t afford a 5% salary cut should follow suit. They will need to make those decsions on their own. But at least he isn’t asking them to do something he is unwilling to do himself.

    I was really happy to see his contract renewed.

  3. Skeptic

    “If that isn’t a blatant dig at Davis teachers, then I don’t know what is.

    5% of a $200,000-plus salary is NOT THE SAME as 5% of a $40k salary. Stop putting pressure on teachers to sacrifice more. They already contribute their dedication, expertise, and efforts in the classroom and are not compensated properly to begin with.”

    First, I also actually read the commentary as a dig against city and UC administrators.

    But second, your response is misguided.

    So what’s your answer? Layoff more teachers?? That’s what already happened this year. DJUSD already has a lower than average administrative ratio (admin to students) than California and the nation. DJUSD takes on almost a million dollars additional expense each year because of step and column increases, mostly from teachers. The result is that newer teachers in the district get canned so that more senior teachers can get their step and column increases. If DTA negotiates for salary increases to accomodate cost of living increases, what happens when the cost of living goes down?

    Laying off a few teachers to accomodate that step and column increase is not what I think of as shared sacrifice; to me that’s eating your young. If a 5% reduction is unreasonable for teachers, then how about a 2% reduction? DTA has a bizarre logic of acting in the interest of its members; it is acting in the interest of its more senior protected members, not its newer members or future leaders.

  4. Lorne

    Congratulations to James and to Davis. While I don’t always agree with James, he is thoughtful, real, approachable, dedicated, open to other/alternative viewpoints and has really reached out to this community on many occasions. I have personally made it a point to get know James and am quite pleased to know that Davis has a champion for education. His leadership and passion to have this school system excel will go a long way in the education of all our kids. I wish him and his family the best of luck.

  5. Whatever

    1. James Hammond is sacrificing 5% of 200,000k. That is not a hardship.
    2. James Hammond is committed to continuing davis because he gets a lucrative salary during tough financial times.

    But at the same time, this is an important demonstration of leadership. Dr. Hammond has stepped to the plate and has taken a pay cut that frankly he did not have to take.

    oh, bull. Considering the massive layoffs, and the state’s budget problems, the writing is on the wall that Hammond may lose his job in the future. He is doing a good PR move to save his own skin. If enough teachers get laid off, then there will be a battlecry for Hammond’s hide or take a paycut that will be well over 5% and he knows it. Hammond can see that his salary is going to be difficult to justify in this economy.

    We can contrast Dr. Hammond’s actions against others in our community that to this point have not shared in any sort of sacrifice. We can contrast these responsible actions against those who have taken decidely irresponsible actions.

    I agree that teachers may need to take a paycut. but to attack them for not sacrificing and act like Hammond is when Hammond gets a a salary that is over 3 times the amount of $ takes nerve.

  6. sick of the achievement gap crap

    I’ve heard this garbage about the achievement gap for quite sometime and its long since time to rip into it.

    black bart just mentioned it.

    1. Lets say district A has blacks and whites take a test. the blacks score 70% and the whites score 75%. that is a gap of 5%. but lets say district B has blacks score 80% and whites score 90%. That is a gap of 10%. Yet both groups fared better in district B than in district A. Therefore, the achievement gap is not necessarily the yardstick for student achievement.

    2. Second, if people are worried about the successes of minority students, then maybe someone needs to tell their parents to stop blaming society and whitey for all of their problems and maybe they will do better!

  7. Skeptic

    “I agree that teachers may need to take a paycut. but to attack them for not sacrificing and act like Hammond is when Hammond gets a a salary that is over 3 times the amount of $ takes nerve.”

    Hammond and top administrators should take a bigger cut for reasons that you suggest. Also to show some leadership on the issue.

    Have Katehi and UC adminstrators taken a paycut? How about city administrators? Have they taken pay cuts? I haven’t read about it.

    Does your silence on UC and City of Davis suggest that you don’t care about bringing salaries in line with revenue?

    What alternative do you suggest? Layoff teachers? That seems even more unfair than a paycut. And teachers opted for layoffs of their colleagues rather than a paycut.

    People like you bit his head off for even making the suggestion earlier this year.

    Where’s the shared sacrifice? Are other district employees exempt from shared sacrifice? Are you against shared sacrifice?

    If a 2% or 5% paycut for teachers is too much, then how about a 1% or a half percent? Every little bit helps.

    The alternative is to lay off teachers and other employees.

  8. Whatever

    furthermore, James Hammond is cutting his salary by the same percentage teachers have been asked to take. He knows if he does not meet the same percentage, he will look bad. How does this make hammond look good?

  9. My View

    I don’t see Hammond as sacrificing anything, but rather enhancing his own job security. However, I do think he has done the responsible thing – even tho giving Bruce Colby a raise and improving the DHS Stadium are the fiscally irresponsible thing to do at this time. But the raise to Colby and DHS Stadium improvements were not only Hammond’s decision to make. Thus IMHO, Hammond is a mixed bag, but certainly better than his predecessor (which wouldn’t be hard to do!).

    I don’t think DPD’s veiled sarcasm referred to Davis teachers. From a logical point of view, I assumed he was referring to upper management in the city and at UCD. But on the subject of teachers taking a pay cut, I do think they should for the good of all (but can insist on bigger paycuts by upper management, say 10-15%). I agree with one poster, who said the DTA has decided to “eat its young”. I think this is a very telling point.

    I would remind “senior” teachers that those young teachers who get fired cannot make house payments. No house payments means foreclosure. More foreclosed houses on the market means the price of houses tanks, which means less tax revenue coming in to the state. Less state tax revenue means another round of layoffs. That next round of layoffs will most likely involve “senior” teachers. Keeping people employed is for EVERYONE’S BENEFIT.

  10. wdf

    “furthermore, James Hammond is cutting his salary by the same percentage teachers have been asked to take. He knows if he does not meet the same percentage, he will look bad. How does this make hammond look good?”

    I don’t think any fixed quantity was ever agreed to; it was suggested earlier in the year that teachers agree to a paycut (in concept) to help balance the budget. Hammond threw out some numbers to show what would be saved at certain percentages. Hammond also suggested that the top administrative staff would be willing to take double what the teachers agreed to. The teachers collectively rejected taking any cut. The administrative staff took cuts described above. And a certain number of teachers have been laid off.

  11. black bart

    Dear Sick,

    You should take a look at Ginsburg’s dissent in Ricci. Maybe it will help you understand this issue better because your lack of understanding is only surpassed by your lack of empathy.

  12. ???

    –Considering the massive layoffs, and the state’s budget problems, the writing is on the wall that Hammond may lose his job in the future. He is doing a good PR move to save his own skin. If enough teachers get laid off, then there will be a battlecry for Hammond’s hide–

    I don’t get this argument. Hammond serves under contract under supervision of the school board. I don’t see anything there that makes me think the school board is unhappy with him. I really don’t see any outrage with the public over him either. But maybe I don’t get out enough. To me he looks like he’s doing about as well as any superintendent could under these circumstances. It’s hardly Hammond’s fault that the district is facing these budget difficulties.

  13. Dont Rack Your Brains on This One

    The individual who posted the anti-Hammond stuff for whatever reason doesn’t like the guy. I don’t really get it.

  14. earoberts

    “The individual who posted the anti-Hammond stuff for whatever reason doesn’t like the guy. I don’t really get it.”

    I don’t like or dislike Hammond. I just don’t think his salary cut was anything more than somewhat self-serving, as opposed to completly altruistic. But it is still better than what upper mgt at the city and UCD are doing. To that extend, Hammond is showing himself to be at least professional.

  15. wdf

    Some news stories on area school districts and their financial situation:

    Solano County, Dixon:
    [url]http://www.thereporter.com/news/ci_12729858[/url]

    Same general article, but with a Bay Area perspective:
    [url]http://www.insidebayarea.com/education/ci_12724711[/url]

    Folsom-Cordova doing summer layoffs:
    [url]http://folsomtelegraph.com/detail/118500.html[/url]

    Bay Area schools, class size reduction:
    [url]http://www.insidebayarea.com/education/ci_12753952[/url]

    Athletics budgets cut:
    [url]http://www.insidebayarea.com/search/ci_12753961?IADID=Search-www.insidebayarea.com-www.insidebayarea.com[/url]

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