• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Scott Hawkins appreciates being able to change lives

When Scott Hawkins was hired as schools superintendent in March 2008, he described Woodford County Public Schools as "a very, very good school district" with the potential to be "a very great school district." Eight years later, Hawkins says, "I think we are better than we were. I think we have made great progress, but . the thing is, we'll never arrive. We'll never get to a point and say, 'Okay, we've done all we can do.' "Our goal will have to be to continue to get better every day. And continue to try to provide the best opportunities for kids that we can." Moreover, Hawkins says, the school district's goal remains to provide every student with a quality education. "I think we're doing some phenomenal things in our classrooms. And I think we're providing great opportunities for our kids - probably more so than we ever have, but there's always a few more (students) to reach. And that's what we'll keep working for," says Hawkins. The Meade County native came to Woodford County Public Schools with a goal to retire here, "and I still want to retire here," he says. In April, the Woodford County Board of Education voted unanimously to extend Hawkins's contract through June 30, 2020, and its members lauded him for his job performance. "We have many, many more successes than I ever dreamed we would - and a lot of that is due to your leadership and by the ability to attract top-quality people to come work with you and work for us," said board Chair Ambrose Wilson IV during the board's evaluation of Hawkins last April. Afterward, a group of students from Huntertown Elementary sang "Happy Birthday" to Hawkins on his 50th birthday. "I love it here. My family loves it here," says Hawkins, explaining his desire to retire here. His wife of 25 years, Julie, "enjoys it here. My daughter (Anna Beth, 12) - this is her home because when we moved here she was four." Hawkins describes Woodford County as a great place to raise a family. And he cannot imagine living or working anywhere else. "I tell people this a lot - and I truly believe this - every day is a great day. Some are greater than others. And that's the way I view life," says Hawkins. Hawkins says he's also fortunate to work in a small district with just over 4,000 students in one high school, one middle school and four elementary schools. "To me it's the perfect size," he explains. "I can visit every school in a day - and actually spend 30 to 40 minutes in that building." So Hawkins gets to see what's happening in classrooms on a regular basis while also being accessible for conversations with teachers, counselors and principals in the schools. "In some large places," he says, "you don't get that." Asked if he's goal-oriented, Hawkins responds with a laugh, "A little bit." He wants Woodford County Public Schools to be a flagship school district where educators from other school districts in Kentucky come to see firsthand how educators here are changing lives. "I may not change a life directly," says Hawkins of being Woodford County schools superintendent, "but everything I do impacts changing lives. "What greater mission can anyone have other than the opportunity to positively change lives, and to help put students in a position where they can be successful regardless of what they choose to do." Then-school board member Tom Tipton told The Sun in March 2008 that the leadership skills demonstrated by Hawkins gave him an edge over other finalists seeking to become schools superintendent. And Hawkins hopes he's a better leader today than when he arrived. One way he's worked to become a more effective leader is seeking out more thoughts, opinions and input from others before making a decision or recommendation. "I think I try to listen more than maybe I did at the beginning," explains Hawkins. "I hope I value - even more so than I did then - developing people around me." He views himself as having an obligation to prepare those around him for what they want to do next in their careers as educators. "I see that as a real important part of my job," says Hawkins, who began his 29-year career in education as a math teacher and basketball coach. He gained administrative experience as a high school principal, director of personnel and then the director of high schools for Fayette County Public Schools before beginning his tenure as superintendent of the Woodford County Public Schools. Hawkins describes Stu Silberman - a highly respected schools superintendent, under whom he worked in both Daviess and Fayette counties - "as a tremendous influence on me." Hawkins says he knew from an early age that he wanted to teach and coach, and eventually become a school principal and schools superintendent. "I had some great role models - starting with my dad," says Hawkins. ".He was going to do what was right, and he was going to do what was right by the kids. "I saw that from day that I entered school because he was my principal. So I saw that every day." His high school basketball coach was another great mentor, giving Hawkins leadership responsibilities as team captain and point guard. And no matter what happened in his life, Hawkins says he could always count on his mom to "pick me up when I was down and cheer me on when things were going well."

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