Archive for Thursday, June 19, 2003

There’s no I in Hackett

Teamwork a hallmark for new school district superintendent Jill Hackett

June 19, 2003

Everyone from teachers to secretaries to school custodians.

That's how far Basehor-Linwood School District superintendent in-waiting Jill Hackett wants opinions and help to come from in handling her new administration.

"It has to be our idea and not just mine," Hackett said. "I rely heavily on interaction with others when making a decision. I firmly believe every member of the staff has a contribution to make."

Although her contract doesn't become official until July 1, Hackett is essentially the acting school district superintendent. Her predecessor, Cal Cormack, is retiring, but will be vacationing until his contract expires.

Hackett, 39, is the former assistant superintendent of the Goddard School District, west of Wichita, and was a unanimous selection to succeed Cormack.

Hackett spent 11 years in the Goddard School District, serving in various capacities including elementary and middle school principal as well as assistant superintendent.

Since January, when the Basehor-Linwood School Board approved her appointment, she has begun integrating herself into the school district, attending meetings regularly and, when asked, weighing in on issues.

If those months were practice, this is game time; Hackett has already begun implementing a simple hallmark of hers -- teamwork.

It's the only way to get things done, she said.

"I cannot do anything alone," Hackett said. "Very little can be accomplished in isolation. I just want to hear what people are thinking."

And while hearing from school district employees is valuable, Hackett said just as high an emphasis will be placed upon the opinions of community members.

The new superintendent has begun coordinating a school district advisory council, which will be composed of 60 to 70 community members, city government leaders, students and school district personnel.

The advisory council should be in place by September, Hackett said.

"I want to set goals with the community," Hackett said. "The community and the school district must be firmly linked together. Well-educated students make productive citizens."

Undoubtedly, a major discussion for the advisory council and a primary issue for the Hackett administration will be when a new bond issue proposal is put forward.

Two recent $30 million bond issues --November 2002 and January 2003 -- failed to receive voter approval. Since then, student enrollment has increased and several district schools are nearing capacity levels.

Although the question lingers, Hackett said she has no timetable on when a new bond issue could be proposed in the future.

"I truly want to approach this with an open mind," Hackett said.

"Facilities are on my mind, I can tell you that," she says, "but there won't be a (bond issue proposal) unless the board of education and myself determine that's what the people in this community want."

Another area Hackett and administrators will take a closer look at is the overall curriculum offered in the school district. While impressed with the reading program offered, the math curriculum is already at the top of her list for study and improvement, she said.

With the implementation of the federally mandated No Child Left Behind Act (see related story, page 1A) its more important for every school district to have a "well aligned program in all areas," Hackett said.

And for her team to cross that goal line, this coach plans to proceed with the only game plan she's ever known.

"We can't accomplish much without the whole team philosophy," she said. "We all need to have the same vision and the same purpose in mind."

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