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December 4, 2018

Michael Hammond seeks Scott school board seat

Photo/Cassandra Brown
“I’ve been in project management for 20 years, and you can’t go into a situation where you don’t have a contingency,” Mike Hammond says of the board’s performance in addressing solutions to Warrenton’s aging middle schools.
I support Mike running for school board because he’s a good guy, an honest guy, and we see some of the same issues as needing improvement.
— Natalie Erdossy, Scott District resident
Michael Steven Hammond
• Age: 44

• Home: Near New Baltimore.

• Office sought: Scott District school board seat.

• Work: Senior project manager, Forcepoint, a cyber security company in Herndon, 2017-present.

• Experience: 11 years in online banking and bill paying services; product portfolio manager, Fiserv; 2016-17; project manager, ACI, 2012-16.

• Education: Classes in education, Lord Fairfax Community College, 2006; certification in systems engineering, Stratford University, 1998; classes in theater, Brigham Young University, Idaho, 1993; Watkins Mill (Md.) High School, 1992.

• Organizations: Jamison’s Farm Homeowners’ Association, 2012-18; Fauquier Democratic Committee, 2016 to present.

• Family: Wife, Carie; children, Carly, 12, and Jocelyn, 10.

• Hobbies: Playing guitar, building theatre sets, riding motorcycles and fishing.

• Facebook: Click here.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
A parent and cyber security project manager who lives near New Baltimore will run for Scott District’s school board seat in 2019.

Michael Hammond, 44, has become the first school board challenger to announce his candidacy for election next November.

Promising to focus on fair compensation for teachers, improved fiscal responsibility, resolution of the aging middle school issue and better communication with stakeholders, Mr. Hammond announced his candidacy late last month.

“When my daughter went into middle school, I became more aware of issues in the community, especially because her school (Warrenton Middle) is one of the targets for change,” Mr. Hammond said.

Running for school board “is something I believe in,” he said. “You talk to enough people and get enough encouragement and say, ‘It’s time’.”

A Fauquier resident for 15 years, Mr. Hammond has two daughters — one at Warrenton Middle and the other at Ritchie Elementary.

After talking with parents and teachers such as Jennifer McIntyre, who taught both of his daughters at Ritchie, Mr. Hammond decided in September that he would run for the seat, which Suzanne Sloane won in 2015.

Scott District resident Natalie Erdossy met Mr. Hammond about three years ago through her children’s ballet classes at Lasley Center for the Performing Arts.

Mr. Hammond’s daughter performs there and he designs sets for the organization twice a year.

“Mike is a great communicator and a person who is able to find solutions to ongoing issues,” Ms. Erdossy said. “I’ve seen him troubleshoot at the dance studio and in life, and he’s good with that. The county would benefit from having his perspective and his ability to reach compromise across a number of issues.”

Her two oldest children attend Greenville Elementary after years of home schooling.

“I support Mike running for school board because he’s a good guy, an honest guy, and we see some of the same issues as needing improvement,” Ms. Erdossy said. “In particular, teacher salaries . . . . It’s abysmal that we can’t do better by our teachers, and that’s an issue that needs resolution.”

She described Mr. Hammond as “funny, personable. He’s a very involved parent, and that’s something the school board needs as well.

“I know he shares my concerns . . . with a more productive relationship with the board of supervisors. I would like to see the supervisors and school board work more collaboratively. Especially when comes to Warrenton Middle School issue,” Ms. Erdossy added.

Teacher salaries represent a major issue for Mr. Hammond.

“I feel like they’re not getting the attention they deserve,” he said. “I think there’s more the community and county can do for them.

“This has been an issue for 12 to 15 years in the county. The compression issue been really heighted over last eight years . . . and there are members of the board that have been on there since 2005, and it’s not great that they have just started to address it now.”

Acknowledging it will take time to make major improvements, he looks forward to the board’s recommendation after it gets results of a compensation study early next year.

As for the debate on what to do with Warrenton’s two aging middle schools, Mr. Hammond favors renovating Warrenton Middle, expanding Auburn and then figuring out what to do with Taylor as “a more financially feasible option.”

He believes one consolidated school in Warrenton would be too expensive.

“Trying to spend, I think the last one (study) was $55 million and $43 million, on a brand new middle school is not a workable solution,” Mr. Hammond said.

“What I’d rather see is adjustments to Auburn Middle School to increase its capacity and reasonable changes you can make to Warrenton Middle School. I do think it will involve redistricting, at least for middle schools.”

From the beginning, the school board should have had a Plan B for the project, he added.

“If you’re going to go to supervisors and have a $55 million ask, you have to have a backup plan, too.

“It shows the lack of forethought through the process . . . . I’ve been in project management for 20 years, and you can’t go into a situation where you don’t have a contingency,” Mr. Hammond said. “What’s your major ask? Minor ask? The thing you’ll settle for? Then you have the discussion. Instead of throwing a proposal . . . bouncing stuff off the wall, it’s not going to get anywhere.”

Mr. Hammond also believes the school board should be more fiscally responsible.

“I think the board isn’t necessarily questioning or looking into the spending priorities that the administrators’ office is coming up with and really delving into those given the other budget restraints going on,” he said. “We are behind in replacing our buses and way behind with replacing equipment at schools.

“That critical eye that the board can present to the administration is necessary. That’s why they’re elected, that’s why they’re there . . . . From what I can see, their priorities are so in line with administration priorities.” he added.

Mr. Hammond also thinks the school board needs to improve its communication with the community. If elected, he would use all media and face-to-face meetings to communicate with constituents, the candidate said.

“You need to be available to people who are putting you in office. You need to listen to those folks and incorporate their reasonable suggestions. You need to be able to be heard.

“The first thing you should be doing is talking and visiting schools, visiting PTO meetings . . . setting yourself up as an available resource for people to talk to and share concerns with,” Mr. Hammond said.

Then school board members should bring those concerns back to the board and come up with solutions, he added.

“That’s what we did on the HOA board . . . . It’s a much smaller group, but the same concept.”

Serving on the Jamison’s Farm neighborhood homeowners’ association for six years has helped prepare him for the school board’s work, Mr. Hammond said.

“Dealing with contracts, budgets, people, tempers, frustrations, rules. Some things you do, they don’t like . . . some things people love,” he said.

Jim Hewitt served five years on the homeowner’s association board with Mr. Hammond.

“I think he lets you know what he’s thinking. He doesn’t have any hidden agenda,” Mr. Hewitt said. “His cards are all out on the table, and that’s what I like about him.”

Mr. Hammond would bring a “level of professionalism” and “dedication of service” to the school board, his neighbor said.

All five school board members’ terms will expire Dec. 31, 2019. Candidates for the Nov. 5 election can begin filing paperwork in January. Getting on the ballot requires 125 signatures from registered voters in their respective districts. 

Elected every four years, the board sets policy for a system of 20 schools, with an annual budget of $140 million, about 11,100 students and 1,800 employees. It approves the budget but, under Virginia law, has no taxing authority, which resides with the county board of supervisors.

Most current school board members will seek re-election in 2019.

Contact Cassandra Brown at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 540-878-6007.

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Tell It Like It Is · December 5, 2018 at 7:36 am
Nonewtaxes ....... amen.

I think we need to apply a special tax to all those that live in Fauquier and commute over the county line to the north and east counties in Loudon, PW and Fairfax, etc.

Tax also the many, many teachers that live here and work in these other counties simply for higher pay and stay out here to reap the lower cost of living. Tell me these people went into education because they wanna help kids? likely.

Then distribute that tax windfall to the residents that actually live and work here and are totally invested in Fauquier County, teachers that live and work here included. This would pay for itself and shut the whining up. Period.

Tell me these "NOVA commuters for a buck" think they are invested in Fauquier county enough to run for office? Not likely and I'm not buying it. It's about the almighty dollar and that's the only thing it's about.

I'm tired of these people that wanna live here and work in NOVA, have kids that have not been in the county school system completely from the time they moved here and wanna tell us how to run our county and how much we can afford to pay teachers and can only do it through raising taxes.

I'm also tired of listening to teachers whine about their paychecks with the time off and benefits packages in turn for the actual hours worked annually compared to most. A large portion of these teachers live in Culpeper County anyway.

Why? Likely for the same reason this candidate does .... the almighty dollar!

If you don't live here and WORK here, then move and go politic for a county position in a county that you are willing to totally invest your life in respectfully.

Homeowners have had enough taxes already and need to vote NO for these types.

Sounds like another tax and spend democrat to me.

I was schooled, live and work here for 50+ years. These "NOVA buck hunter" types need to "shut the front" door and go elsewhere because you are ruining this county.

Have a nice day.
nonewtaxes · December 4, 2018 at 10:46 pm
Yup, this guy sounds like a politician already. He wants to improve communication but he won't say raise taxes to pay teachers more. Instead, he says there's something mroe the community can do. Maybe there is a plan B - raising teacher pay without raising taxes. That's the plan I'd like to see.
Silii · December 4, 2018 at 8:04 pm
This is the person for the job. He thinks the right way - options, contingencies, diversity of asks and demands, fiscal responsibility, teacher compensation. Fauquier County Schools need fresh thinking and new approaches to problem solving. As a taxpayer concerned about public education, I'm really tired of the same old same old stale thinking and approaches. All the best to Mr. Hammond.
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