MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – Although he’s aware of the countless challenges he’ll face as he transitions to the Mount Vernon School District, new Superintendent Ken Hamilton says he is ready to step up to the plate and “restore the faith in public education.”
At his introductory press conference, Hamilton, while admitting he needs time to assess his new district, laid out some of the challenges and obstacles that Mount Vernon will need to overcome to repair its tarnished reputation.
Hamilton, who has spent his entire career ascending the public education ranks in New Jersey, signed a three-year, $250,000 contract that begins on Aug. 11, following an exhaustive search by the Board of Education.
“I’ve had a very rewarding and enriching experience in New Jersey. I’ve worked with children that resemble those in Mount Vernon, and it is those experiences that attracted me here,” he said. “My career has spanned a spectrum that includes wealthy, small, large and small districts.”
The new superintendent takes over as the district is in a state of upheaval. Earlier this year, it was announced the district is going to a “K-8” model and teachers and students alike have struggled with the new Common Core Learning Standards with some of the lowest standardized test scores in the state.
“I think restoring the faith in public education in Mount Vernon is a paramount concern for me, and something I will work diligently to do," Hamilton said.
“Most importantly we need to make sure that every youngster in our district has the opportunity to meet their full potential, whatever that is.
"We must remove barriers that impede their success and empower our teachers with the necessary resources.”
Interim Superintendent Judith Johnson, who was an integral part of the search committee that hired Hamilton, said her successor’s experience will be a boon to the district and city.
“He’s worked in systems where the population reflects very much the students in our schools,” she said. “Students that come from impoverished backgrounds who have every right to expect success in America. His commitment is to make sure they do realize the 'American Dream.'”
Despite the challenges he knows he’ll face in his new district, Hamilton has stood resolute and is determined to turn things around in Mount Vernon.
“I hope I will be able to change the landscape of education and restore the faith in public education,” he said.
“I understand the challenges this opportunity presents, but I’m looking forward to reengaging the community and to offer hope for the students and city.”