Dr. Hammond was hired in the fall of 2007, and has presided over nearly three years of continual budget battles. And while the district was fighting hard to stay afloat, they also managed at the same time, thanks to the leadership of James Hammond and CBO Bruce Colby to put the district on much better fiscal footing than when they entered.
Dr. Hammond wrote in an email message to DJUSD Staff and Community on Friday, “I have greatly appreciated the hard work of all our stakeholders that has helped build a respectful and positive team among all the employees, parents and community members for the benefit of our students.”
Prior to Dr. Hammond’s arrival, there was frayed relations between the city and the school district and also various segments of the community.
For me the point that stuck out most was in March of 2008, James Hammond had barely been on the job at that point, the community was up in arms about school cuts, teacher layoffs, program cuts, etc. Students and parents marched from the Community Park to Central Park and then they marched to the school district.
Instead of hiding out in his office as his predecessor would have, Dr. Hammond seized the moment, took the megaphone and addressed the crowd. He did not tell the crowd everything that they wanted to hear, but he took a negative situation and turned it into the first step towards communication.
To me that was a great lesson in leadership. Unfortunately, the economic times and budget cuts have not ebbed.
I have a great sense that we have no finished what Dr. Hammond was brought here to do. When I interviewed he and Bruce Colby last year at this time, he told the Vanguard, “I would rather be working on ways to develop more instructional practices at every site for kids that are not achieving at grade level—particularly for Hispanic/ Latino children or African-American children who traditionally don’t tell well on our STAR assessments.”
He continued, “I wish I had more time to focus on the instructional leadership and best practices and provide more embedded professional development for teachers and classified staff to support students slipping through the cracks.”
One of the big issues facing the school district that has not been resolved due to the budget shortcoming, was the achievement gap.
In our very first conversation back in August of 2007, he told the Vanguard, “As far as the achievement gap for me, I think it’s been a very popular slogan for educators or even people in popular society to use.”
“Really what we are talking about is a performance gap on standardized tests,” he said. “So really getting our eyes to look at a performance gap on standardized tests and particularly looking at our demographics on African Americans, Hispanic and Native American Students and how there’s disparity with Caucasian and Asian Students and really what causes this performance gap is really a multitude of other gaps.”
According to Dr. Hammond, “Kids will perform better once they know people care about them.”
“All of those factors to me lead to the performance gap or what you call the achievement gap,” he said. “I think it is a very complex sophisticated question that’s going to require a lot of intentional work, a lot of research, a lot of data, a lot of student evidence to dictate our behaviors. So I’m hoping that we can begin that work because of the urgency behind the need.”
Superintendent Hammond then added, “I think that is going to be one of my biggest challenges. I think that and a lot of other things are going to be a huge part of my learning curve over the next few months, absolutely.”
Unfortunately, he would never get to work on the issue. He barely took over when the first crisis hit and the hits have come ever since.
—David M. Greenwald reporting