EVANS COLUMN: Remembering Kirk Hancock

Published 2:48 pm Thursday, June 22, 2023

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I’d been covering the Troup County School Board for roughly six months to a year when the decision was made in August 2018 to find a new superintendent. 

As a relative newcomer to Troup County at that time, I wasn’t completely blindsided, but I didn’t have the institutional knowledge someone might’ve had from years of covering school board meetings. I filed for every open record request I could regarding communication about Cole Pugh’s dismissal, and I set up an interview with then-Board Chairman Kirk Hancock, who I knew, but not well, at the time.

I admit walking into that interview that I was a little nervous. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. While it was public information to request it, in my experience people don’t always respond well when you’ve asked for their emails and communication.

But the public needed answers. Why was TCSS looking for a new superintendent? Why did this happen now? 

For roughly an hour, I sat with Kirk and I tried to get any information from him I could.

He was calm, understanding of the job I was doing, and it was clear from the moment I sat down that he had the best interest of the children of Troup County in mind. It was also clear he wanted to say more — something I’ve heard from other school board officials over the years — but he was bound not to by policy red tape.

He answered all of my questions to the best of his ability, as he always did.

Leaving the meeting that day, I felt like both Kirk and I had gained a great deal of respect for each other. I know at least that I’d gained a lot for him. 

In 2017, a year earlier, when the cost of the gymnasiums at LaGrange High and Troup High ballooned, Hancock and current Board Chair Brandon Brooks voted no, though the measure passed. It’s one of only a handful of split votes I remember from covering the school board over the years.

Hancock, clearly agitated, called the process “unacceptable,” noting that the board basically wasn’t kept in the loop.

While always very professional in his actions, he knew when to speak up and make it clear when he disagreed on something. When he spoke, people listened. 

Kirk left the board in 2020 after only one term as he traveled in his retirement, but in those four years his impact was major. As part of his legacy, he led the board in the hiring of current Superintendent Brian Shumate. I remember him being emotional about leaving at his final board meeting. 

After he left, we texted a few times over the years, usually regarding a school system issue or education in general. I always enjoyed hearing from him and getting his perspective. 

I was stunned to hear that he died earlier this week. My interactions were minimal compared to others in our community who knew him better, but I always appreciated the way he represented the school system publicly. I’m sure many others who knew him from the business world, where he excelled well before his time on the school board, would say a lot about his leadership skills. 

With no disrespect meant to anyone on the current school board, as a parent, I felt reassured sending my kids to a school system whose board was led by Kirk Hancock. 

My prayers are with his friends and family.