Nancy Hammatt has been named new chief executive officer of Advance Baton Rouge, which manages four charter schools in Baton Rouge and one in Morganza.
Hammatt was the principal of Cedarcrest-Southmoor Elementary School, serving there for 10 years. She was the 2005 Principal of the Year for East Baton Rouge Parish, and was a YWCA Woman of Achievement in 2006.
She replaces Henry “Hank” Shepard who resigned June 6 after two years of leading the nonprofit group, which goes by the acronym ABR. In a news release the next day, ABR said Shepard’s departure was mutually agreed to but offered no other reasons.
ABR began operating three schools in 2008, Glen Oaks and Prescott middle schools, and Pointe Coupee Central High. In 2009, it added Dalton and Lanier elementary schools. These five schools, formerly operated by their respective parish schools systems, are now part of the state-run Recovery School District.
The schools have far fewer students than they had before the takeovers and have failed to improve on low test scores, and in some cases have declined.
ABR’s board selected Hammatt on June 21, and her first day on the job was Wednesday.
She’s working part time while completing work at LSU’s Tiger Challenge summer academic camp and will begin working full time July 25.
Since her retirement, Hammatt has served as a consultant for RSD, where she monitored and served as a leadership coach for the five ABR schools. She’s also consulted with the West Feliciana Parish school system and with Louisiana’s Teacher Advancement Program.
“She knows what’s working, what’s not working, and she’s going to bring a lot of experience and a proven track record, so we’re excited about it,” Jeff English, president of ABR’s board of directors, said Wednesday.
Hammatt is familiar with TAP, a whole school reform model promoted by the Santa Monica, Ca.-based Milken Foundation, which was founded by Lowell Milken and his junk bond king brother Michael Milken. A key TAP feature is that teachers get bonuses if their classrooms and schools as a whole show sufficient academic progress.
Cedarcrest-Southmoor was one of the first schools in Louisiana to start using TAP and continues to use it. It’s a school that was consistently among the highest-performing schools in the parish, at least among schools that lacked a selective magnet or gifted program.
“I’m really excited about the chance to use TAP to transform these five high-poverty schools, and I really think TAP can do that,” Hammatt said Wednesday.
She said that ABR schools have just finished their first year in TAP and are about to “fly.”
“The teachers are really ready to do a lot of great things,” she said.
English said that the ABR board did not place advertisements seeking Shepard’s replacement, but nevertheless received “seven or eight” applications from which board members unanimously chose Hammatt.
English said that ABR will continue with earlier plans to work with Southern University to create themes at three ABR schools in business, science and leadership. English also said that the organization’s finances are in order and no personnel changes are planned in the central office.
Neither Hammatt nor English would comment on any possible leadership changes.
Hammatt also said she hopes to strike a good working relationship with her former employer East Baton Rouge Parish, which has in the past sought to regain local control of one or more ABR schools.
“I feel sure that we can all work together to be successful with the children with whom we are involved, because that’s the right thing to do,” Hammatt said.