Dr. Robert Abbott has been appointed to serve as the new district administrator of the School District of Fort Atkinson, effective immediately.
On Thursday, the board of education unanimously appointed the middle school principal to this new role after former District Administrator Dr. Lynn Brown and the school board mutually agreed to a separation of contract.
Hired as superintendent in 2017, Brown has been on a medical leave of absence since September 2019, and just last month extended her leave. In her absence, the board had been making plans to move forward and find a successor superintendent.
“The board thanks Dr. Brown for her service to the School District of Fort Atkinson and wishes her well in her future endeavors,” said board of education President Mark Chaney.
“The board of education looks forward with a continued commitment to our district’s mission in serving the students of Fort Atkinson as ‘One District, One Team and One Community,’” he added. “The School District of Fort Atkinson Board of Education is committed to the district’s mission in serving the students and community of Fort Atkinson.
“Please join us in welcoming Dr. Abbott to this new role,” Chaney said.
Abbott, who has been an administrator in the district for 23 years, has served as district interim superintendent since October of 2019 when Dr. Brown could not continue with her duties.
“In addition to Dr. Abbott’s 23 years of administrative service, the board is excited for the wealth of knowledge, community commitment and focus on achievement he brings to this important role,” Chaney stated.
Abbott had served as principal of Fort Atkinson Middle School prior to accepting the interim-superintendent role in October and the superintendent assignment this month.
“Dr. Abbott is a veteran educator in Fort Atkinson and has shown tremendous leadership throughout his time with the Fort Atkinson school district, and most recently serving as interim superintendent,” Chaney remarked. “The board of education is confident that Dr. Abbott will lead the district with a continued commitment to our district’s mission.”
Abbott graduated from Stevens Point Area Senior High School. After graduation, he attended St. Cloud State University to complete his bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a minor in English and certifications in middle-level education. He then began his career in education as a middle school math and science teacher in the Tomorrow River School District.
Abbott received his master’s degree in educational leadership from Marian University in 1998.
Abbott joined the School District of Fort Atkinson in 1997 as a middle school associate principal. In 2000, he accepted the principalship at Fort Atkinson Middle School and has led the school for 20 years.
He earned a doctorate of educational leadership from Edgewood College in 2007.
Abbott holds administrative licensure as superintendent, director of instruction and pre-K-12 principal, as well as educator licensure for grades 1-8 and middle-level English grades 6-9.
In his 23 years of experience with the School District of Fort Atkinson, Dr. Abbott has been involved with and led many districtwide initiatives set in motion by the school district’s strategic plan at all levels of the organization.
In fact, education has been Dr. Abbott’s family vocation for generations. Both his grandmothers taught in one-room schoolhouses in central Wisconsin, his mother worked for a district superintendent throughout her career, and his father was a lifelong high school teacher and coach.
Abbott has led several key academic initiatives as middle school principal, such as increasing the school report card performance, and established a strong focus on whole-child instruction to meet the unique needs of adolescent learners. During the last several years, he has reworked the middle school schedule to allow for students to spend more time in English language arts and math, while maintaining adequate time for electives.
In addition, Abbott implemented robust math and literacy intervention programs to assist middle school learners. In an effort to build connectivity between the middle school students and the community, he has designed programming and offered a variety of opportunities for students.
One of his highly recognized academic accomplishments is leading the district team in securing the International Literacy Association Award for Exemplary Reading Program.
“It is difficult to leave the Fort Atkinson Middle School; the middle school has literally been my family for better than two decades,” Dr. Abbott commented. “We have done some incredible work and made some great strides in learning at FAMS over the years.
“I am extremely proud of the collective efforts of our FAMS team,” he added. “While leaving the middle school will be hard, I look forward to continuing to serve the FAMS learning community as well as serving our other five building learning communities in a new way.”
In regard to the changes at the middle school, Abbott continued, “I view it as an honor to be able to select a successor to the position I have loved so much for over 20 years. I am excited to appoint Mr. Matt Wolf as our next principal at Fort Atkinson Middle School.
“Mr. Wolf came to Fort Atkinson with a wealth of personal and professional experiences that have helped him find success with our middle school students, staff and families,” he indicated. “No one can fake their desire to work with middle school-aged kids for very long. Matt is a middle school guy through and through, and it shows day in and day out.
“Our learning community has come to know him, trust him and support him; Fort Atkinson Middle School will continue to grow under Mr. Wolf’s leadership.”
Abbott is not known for sitting still. Among other hobbies and interests, he enjoys completing home projects, landscaping, cooking, travel, spending time with family, anything around water, his pets, and, when his joints will allow, running.
An avid distance runner, he has completed multiple marathons, many half-marathons as well as several other races.
“While crossing the finish line always is an emotional rush, it’s the hundreds of miles leading up to that moment where the real satisfaction lies,” Abbott acknowledged. “It is the culmination of planning, training, sacrifice and endurance that leads to the successful completion of a goal.”
Given those achievements, board members said they believe there could not possibly be a stronger parallel to that of educational leadership.
Abbott has lived in Fort Atkinson for his entire tenure and has two daughters who have attended Fort Atkinson public schools. Kate is completing graduate school at the University of Wisconsin in the area of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. Quinn is a sophomore at Fort Atkinson High School, perhaps looking to a future in education.
“Serving the School District of Fort Atkinson for over 23 years has allowed me to truly ‘live’ what makes our district great,” Abbott explained. “My longevity in Fort Atkinson has been by choice. I believe we can build on our past to inform and serve our future; it is a privilege to have been asked to serve as the superintendent of schools in Fort Atkinson.”
When asked about the status of the district within this transition, Dr. Abbott shared, “Our district is positioned for some incredible growth. With the hopeful passage of our operating referendum in April, we will be on course to continue the work we have begun over the past few months.
“Since taking the interim (superintendent) role in October, we have not lost a beat,” he added. “We are on track with our (operational) referendum, our Facilities Advisory Committee is on schedule, and we have moved to a much greater focus on school improvement plans.”
Asked about his vision for the district under his leadership, Dr. Abbott answered, “We have some incredible things happening in our district; we also have some improvements to make to fully realize our mission.
“In the future, we will be readjusting our district’s strategic focus to be related specifically to student growth and achievement,” he added. “Fort Atkinson cannot rest with simply being a good district; there is always more on the path to being great. We have some hard work to do, changes to make, retooling to consider and community to build — all the things I am excited to lead.”
Overall, “The best lies ahead for the School District of Fort Atkinson,” Abbott concluded. “We are ‘One District, One Team, One Community,’ and it is with immense pride that I have been asked to lead our district into its next chapter.”
Meanwhile, Brown came to Fort Atkinson in 2017 after serving as superintendent of the Montello School District in Montello. She succeeded District Administrator Dr. Jeff Zaspel, who served 31 years in the district, four as superintendent.
During a community meet-and-greet as a finalist for the job in February 2017, she was asked why she wants to be superintendent of the School District of Fort Atkinson.
“Today is never tomorrow,” she said. “Those that excel anticipate the future. As the superintendent of the School District of Fort Atkinson, I have a unique opportunity to collectively cast a vision, build partnerships with stakeholders and equip staff to help realize students’ dreams.”
A member of the Fort Atkinson Rotary Club, she served as superintendent in Montello for 3 1/2 years.
Brown earned her bachelor of arts degree in elementary education from Governors State University in University Park, Ill., and later earned her master’s in educational administration from the same institution. She earned her Ed.D in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University in North Miami Beach, Fla.
Brown also served as elementary principal of Jacob Shapiro Elementary School and Jacob Shapiro Brain-Based Instruction Laboratory School in 4K-5 in Oshkosh; assistant principal at Bright School, pre-K-8 in Chicago; math/media teacher at Bright School, pre-K-8; and mathematics teacher at Prairie Hills Junior High School in Markham, Ill.
She and her husband, Phil, have four children, John, twins Jeff and Steve, and Elizabeth.