Q1: Background information and motivation.
Other family members:
Previous Public School Affiliations:
Previous Public Service or Elected Office/Years Served:
Name: Melissa Hammann
Work Experience: I worked for fifteen years in the chemical industry, first as an organic synthetic chemist producing photoactive compounds for a novel new imaging system and then as an analytical chemist for Wisconsin Energies. I became a homemaker in 1997, after our second child was born and my husband Bill took a job that required more than half of his time on the road. The Review needed a reporter to cover the school board proceedings in 2010. My previous three years as school board clerk uniquely qualified me for the job. I stopped covering the school board to run for this office.
Education: I earned a BA in Chemistry and an MS in Organic Synthetic Chemistry.
Age: I turned 54 last September.
Spouse: I’ve been married to my husband Bill Hammann for almost 24 years.
Spouse’s Occupation: Bill specified and built a coating facility for D&K Coatings in Janesville, where he continues to serve as the plant manager. We moved to Evansville in 1998 as the plant was completed and have embraced the many opportunities available to give back to the community.
Other family members: We have three great kids. Sarah is 18, graduated EHS in 2012 and attends UW-Madison. Holly is 16 and is a sophomore at EHS. Will is 13 and attends 7th grade at JC McKenna Middle School.
Volunteer Service: I began volunteering in the school system when our oldest started kindergarten. I helped with learning stations and acted as a reading buddy. I provided assistance as needed for classrooms such as food or supervision for parties. Once our youngest was finished at the elementary school we focused on other community volunteer opportunities as a family.
I served from 2006-2010 as co-chair for the publicity committee of the Jack-O-Lantern Jamboree, the largest K-5 PTO fundraiser in the district. This became a chance for our entire family to volunteer. The kids baked goodies and as they got old enough, ran games and volunteered to run the café.
The Eager Free Public Library provided foundational preschool programs for our kids from the day we moved here. We began volunteering for the summer fundraisers sponsored by the EFPL Friends group as a way to show our appreciation. The kids bake cakes and scoop ice cream while Bill and I do our best to outbid others at the Ice Cream Social auction. We provide muscle to help move what seems like a ton of books in preparation for the annual Sidewalk Days used book sale in early August.
Along with other swim team parents, I provided transportation to and from Edgerton for daily practices, since the school board could not provide the funds necessary to support the new sport this year.
Previous Public School Affiliations: ECSD volunteer 1999-2010.
Previous Public Service or Elected Office/Years Served: I was honored to serve as clerk of the Evansville Community School District Board of Education from 2007-2010.
Q2: A few years ago, the ECSD produced its Vision Statement in collaboration with the community:
“Creating a culture of excellence in:
• Academic achievement
• Character development
• Pursuit of arts, athletics, and other activities
• Community engagement
• Highly effective staff”
The Evansville Board of Education must balance the needs of many stakeholders in pursuit of this Vision. Who do you view as the primary customer of the school board and why? How would you provide excellent service for this customer?
Answer 2: If we consider the district Mission Statement in combination with the Vision Statement above, a clearer answer to this complex question begins to emerge. The Mission Statement for the Evansville Community School District (ECSD) states “The Evansville Community School District, in active partnership with families and the community, will provide a positive learning environment that challenges all students to achieve personal excellence and become contributing citizens of the world community.” The Mission Statement sets the stage to think of the ECSD as a business with the unique product of graduates who are well prepared to take the next step in their life journey toward becoming contributing citizens of the world community. If competent students are the product of the district and the school board is charged with governance of the school district, the primary customer of the school board is the collective of young adult employers: secondary education, the military and entry level employers. Each of these stepping stones comes with its own set of prerequisites that students must complete in high school. The role of the board of education in this case is to allocate revenue to support the programs and curriculum choices that will prepare students adequately for these challenges. Individual members of the Board of Education are responsible to inform themselves sufficiently so they can work with the board as a team to meet this objective.
I offer four strengths to help the school board provide excellent service to future employers of our students. First of all, my analytical skills are outstanding and are applicable to a wide variety of school board responsibilities from budget analysis to student achievement evaluation. I had many opportunities to scrutinize data as a former board member and, more recently, as a reporter. I wrote a series of articles featuring the new Wisconsin District and School Report Cards that relied heavily on my ability to evaluate and interpret data. The Report Cards are required as a part of Agenda 2017, Wisconsin’s new school improvement plan that replaces the Federal No Child Left Behind Act. Fundamental understanding of the criteria on which the Report Cards are based will be central in helping ECSD achieve a number of state goals mandated by Agenda 2017.
A second area in which I am proficient is school finance. I have honed this knowledge by following the ECSD budget process for seven years and continue to be an active student of this often convoluted financial process. I will be able to join the board in April ready to help govern in this area. The experienced members of the board will be able to depend on my informed vote from day one. This becomes even more important in light of the recent economic recession, state aid cuts from Act 10 and increasing debt service obligations. It has been my observation that this perfect storm of financial challenges facing the ECSD has forced the board into crisis management mode. Proposed changes in programs and curriculum must be evaluated first in terms of budget constraints and then with regard to their educational value added to the district, students and our customers. This is not an ideal situation. The district vision of excellence will remain elusive until the board can stop reacting to daily budget fires and proceed to outline a pathway to excellence. My presence on the board would provide continuity in board financial expertise and may help the board get to the business of proactively governing for excellence even faster.
The third advantage I offer to enhance customer service in the district is the autonomous viewpoint of one outside of the vast public education apparatus. I am not an educator and I have no financial or familial connection to the school district. That independence helps maintain the concept of impartial governance intended by the legislature when establishing school boards in the first place. It can also provide some unconventional and creative thinking that will be valuable as budget pressures mount in the coming years. The worst case scenario budget forecast for next year predicts a deficit of nearly $750,000 only two years after facing a projected $672,000 shortfall. For a variety of reasons, the fiscal year ending in 2012 had a shortfall of only about $160,000: still problematic but much better. This is not a sustainable financial model for the district. Business as usual is no longer an option and novel ideas to provide funding will be necessary in order for the district to retain a competitive edge. History supports that creative thinking is enhanced when one adopts a new perspective such as I can provide.
Finally, and perhaps most critically, my personality will help serve the primary customers of the school board. I am confident in my abilities and will always seek information to aid in governing the district. My persistence coupled with my training as a scientist compels me to search for answers that can be independently verified. If I am elected, I will use all of my skills to actively partner with the ECSD Board of Education as it pursues its vision of excellence.