By Susan Riddell
When Larry Hammond was a young student in the Rockcastle County school district, his school had roughly 30 students, one room and one teacher – his mother.
Hammond spent grades 1-8 in that one-room school. He said this “wonderful” experience not only paved the way for his educational career, it later helped define his teaching and administrative career as well.
“The one-room experience was very profitable (to me) when education was reformed in Kentucky,” said Hammond, who taught in the district before moving into administration, where he has served as the district superintendent for 16 years. “Actively engaging students to assist younger and struggling students commonly occurred at the one-room school. As a teacher, I implemented many of the practices I observed from my mother.
“As an administrator, I also had practical experience in facilities management since the students got water from a well and coal from the coal house and prepared the meals on a rotating basis.”
Earlier this year, Hammond was the recipient of the F.I. Dupree Award, given to an outstanding Kentucky superintendent each year by the Kentucky School Boards Association. Award honorees, chosen by a panel of past recipients, are recognized for high-quality leadership in educational programs and building strong bonds with students, staff and community members.
“He has roots in Rockcastle County and wants the best for it,” said Ralph Baker, principal of the Rockcastle Area Technology Center (RATC). “Emerging through the ranks has given him time at several schools, so he knows the people and the schools.
“No system can rise above the leader’s limitations,” Baker added. “Rockcastle County has had great success, so this must speak well for its leader. Character, professionalism and morality are expectations of Rockcastle County schools’ employees, and I feel that is his desire and has been an unspoken mandate.”
Rockcastle County High School Principal Jennifer Mattingly has known Hammond most of her life and has worked with him professionally for more than 17 years.
“(He) is a man with integrity who is dedicated to the students and community of Rockcastle County,” Mattingly said. “His communications with individual teachers are both positive and professional in nature. He cares about all staff members who work for the district, and he has high expectations for every employee.”
Hammond said his vision for his school district is simply “to become a model district” that makes decisions based on the best interest of its students.
“Rockcastle County school district is not the model it can be,” he said. “My plans would revolve around efforts to positively impact expectations for the entire education community. We must maintain a positive outlook on the opportunities that we control.”
One of Hammond’s biggest contributions to the district, according to Mattingly and Baker, was how he oversaw a plan to bring the Rockcastle Area Technology Center to the district in 2008.
“He was instrumental in helping our district receive funding for and build a new, state-of-the-art area technology center that serves Rockcastle students in several programs,” Mattingly said.
“He has included me and (RATC) in the positive things we do in Rockcastle County,” Baker added. “Transportation usage, substitute teacher access, teacher professional development, and he allows me to be part of the leadership team by having input on scheduling.”
The Rockcastle Area Technology Center is a 60,000-square-foot facility that has been a source of pride for the district. Hammond also made sure other school buildings received updates when needed and worked to procure funding for those projects.
Having come from the simplicity of a one-room school, Hammond said that helps him appreciate the advantages present in facilities today.
“From the chalkboard to the whiteboard is definitely a drastic change,” he said. “Technology did not exist. I realize this experience is like sharing a Little House on the Prairie story and that few can relate to any comparison to the educational opportunities of 2011.”
While providing strong facilities is important to Hammond, so is maintaining a strong relationship with faculty and students.
“(Hammond) is a visible presence in the district, visiting schools and interacting with teachers and students on a daily basis,” Mattingly said.
“I believe my biggest contribution to the district would center on improving the culture and climate, resulting in increased expectations for all,” Hammond said.
Hammond also has strived to place emphasis on all students academically. He credits that with helping district test score improvement during recent years.
“I believe accountability for personnel also has enhanced student results,” he said.
To do that, Hammond has entrusted schools to work independently in attempts to make gains in accountability and assessment.
He “understands the role that assessment plays in the overall instructional program of our district,” Mattingly said. “He allows each school to implement strategies and interventions to ensure continued improvement in student achievement and encourages cooperation among all schools to promote districtwide success.”
Hammond said it’s important to hold everyone accountable by some means of credible assessment.
“I also believe we should be approaching an assessment process that would not warrant major changes on an ongoing basis,” Hammond said. “I realize some change will always be necessary, but some form of stability would gain credibility with many of the education critics.”
Larry Hammond, firstname.lastname@example.org, (606) 256-2125
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