Hamm will lead Sumter School District for 2nd year

Board votes unanimously to keep interim superintendent for the 2018-19 school year


Debbie Hamm will remain acting superintendent of Sumter School District through next school year, officials voted Monday night.

Noting "significant progress" the district has made in recent months and other project work under her leadership that is still in its early stages, Sumter School District's Board of Trustees voted to keep Hamm - its interim superintendent since Aug. 1 - with the district through the 2018-19 school year.

The board's action came after the trustees returned to open session from executive session behind closed doors about 10:40 p.m. Monday.

Hamm was originally selected in late July to serve as interim superintendent for just this school year, through June 2018, after former superintendent Frank Baker retired effective July 31. The board had not previously announced publicly any intention to retain Hamm's services for next school year, but the trustees have been discussing the superintendent search in executive session in recent meetings, according to meetings' agendas.

On Monday, the board said various factors influenced its move to stay with Hamm for another year. The motion, read by board Vice Chairwoman Karen Michalik, noted major progress made by the district in Hamm's first four months in the areas of finance, instructional programs, long-range planning and facilities.

The district's official Fiscal Year 2017 audit report, also presented Monday at the board meeting, showed it ended last fiscal year in the black with a net income - or surplus - of $779,230.

As far as instructional programs, the district's principals - under Hamm's guidance - outlined in October a formal best practices plan to improve student achievement this year.

In the area of long-range planning and facilities, in November, the board agreed with Hamm's suggestion and voted to allow the district to move forward with seeking independent proposers for a population demographics study and a facilities study.

The demographics study will include short-term and long-term enrollment trends and projections for each of the district's 28 schools. The facilities study will be a comprehensive look at existing schools' physical assets and needs and contribute to a five-year district facilities plan, according to district staff.

Both studies could factor into closing certain low-enrollment schools in the district. The topic of possibly closing schools has been discussed as a cost-savings measure for the district for at least a year.

The board motion Monday also noted that because those studies are still in their "early stages, it would be in Sumter School District's best interest to have (Hamm) continue as lead educational counselor to the board."

After Monday's meeting, Hamm said talks between her and the school board to stay with the district through the end of next school year have been fairly recent discussions. She said she's looking forward to the opportunity.

"I'm really invested in what we are doing in the district, and I'm excited to be able to stay," Hamm said. "I feel like things are moving ahead, and I'm glad to be a part of it for another year."

A lifelong public educator, Hamm spent the majority of her career in Richland School District 2 in Columbia. In her last four years there, she was superintendent before retiring in June.