Millie Hamner: Newsmaker of the year
FRISCO – Each day Millie Hamner, Ph.D., carries the weight of 3,087 children.Whether it’s figuring out how to get them home in a snowstorm or campaigning hard for a mill levy that will fund school safety projects, she agonizes over the right decision for her students. She is the superintendent of Summit School District and certainly no stranger to making news.In 2007, the Summit Foundation named her outstanding educator of the year. Throughout the fall, she battled mill levy increase opposition and won the support of Summit County voters. And she rejoiced over the new funding for full-day kindergarten. “We’re excited about everything we’ll be able to accomplish as a result of the election success,” Hamner said, with the same glow of happiness she had the night the results came in that it had passed by about a five percent margin.Also this past year, she was there when the first class of graduating International Baccalaureate students all received the diploma. She celebrated when the $25 million Summit Middle School renovation and construction was completed and the new Career and Technical Education wing was added to the high school. And she helped the new school board get adjusted after voters elected four seats, including three members who are new to the board.
The construction projects, particularly the CTE wing and SMS, that were accomplished through a 2004 bond initiative were challenging because, due to the escalating cost of construction materials after Hurricane Katrina, the projects had to evolve and priorities needed to be figured out, Hamner said.”Up until the last minute there was so much work that had to happen,” she continued, adding that the new facilities have had a tremendous impact on students.Throughout her time in Summit County, she has been impressed with the community collaboration and partnerships.”People here deeply care about the school system and kids,” Hamner said with a smile.This is the fourth school year Hamner has been superintendent – something that in itself could be considered an accomplishment. Some reports show that the average tenure of a superintendent is about two and a half years.Hamner was offered the position in March 2004 after her predecessor didn’t work out. At the time, she was the assistant superintendent. But her career in education dates back to 1975 when she started as a third grade teacher in Ohio. She grew up there. However, ever since her family took a vacation to Telluride, she fell in love with the mountains and always knew she would return.
So in 1978, she and her husband, Rich Holdman, a teacher at Berry Creek Middle School in Eagle County, traveled to Vail to stay with a relative. Shortly after, they began teaching in the Eagle County school system.Throughout the years, Hamner continued to reach for advanced degrees and positions, which led her to Summit County.Still, along the way, it is the moments she has spent reading Dr. Seuss to preschoolers or playing music with her husband at a former student’s wedding or attending a dinner for a student who won a prestigious college scholarship that make her smile the most.Hamner also works as an adjunct professor at the University of Denver whenever she can spare the time on weekends. And in fact, she helped design and develop the Ph.D program for education administration and leadership there.It helps her stay current with what teachers are dealing with and the latest in the field of education, she said.
The challenge she has faced along the way is public education in itself. Her goal is to make sure people feel confident in the system so they don’t have to find an alternative. Particularly, the No Child Left Behind act, Adequate Yearly Progress and immigration are issues she is frequently explaining.Looking ahead to 2008, plans to put the mill levy money into safety and security projects are taking shape. One of the major projects will involve renovating school entrance ways to create a vestibule that is safe, but still welcoming, Hamner said. Communication upgrades are on their way. And another project that is coming up will be the redesign of the flow of traffic at the middle school.Also, recently, the school board had its first retreat and some of what Hamner will be working on with them includes: More work implementing the International Baccalaureate Programme across the district, improving staff salaries, affordable housing, early childhood education, high school reform and a better cultural integration of English and Spanish speakers.”I’m committed to doing everything I can for every kid that comes to school,” Hamner said.Lory Pounder can be reached at (970) 668-4628, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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