Calling Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Tom Shelton approachable, accessible and responsive, Lexington school board members had high praise for their schools chief at the close of his first year.
"We are so pleased with the seamless transition that has been made with Dr. Shelton joining our district,” said school board vice chair Melissa Bacon. “He has taken the time during this initial phase to observe, listen and learn from our staff and community and will take that information to build on the positive momentum and excitement within the district.”
Shelton met or exceeded standards in all eight areas of his evaluation, including leadership, management, policy and governance, communication, board relations, community relations, district goals and planning, and professional standards. The school board met with Shelton in closed session on July 9, but delivered his summative evaluation publicly during tonight’s school board meeting. He will receive the same 2 percent salary increase and step up for experience as all other FCPS employees.
Although Shelton was hired last June, his first day on the job in Fayette County was Sept. 1, 2011. He began his tenure by outlining a 100-day entry plan that called for him to visit every school and department in the state’s second largest school district at least twice. He also set about listening to and learning from students, employees, families and community members through a series of small and large group meetings, advisory panels, and surveys.
"The board is extremely pleased with Tom's first year of service with our district,” said school board member Amanda Ferguson. “He has gone to great lengths to get to know all aspects of our community and has listened to the needs and concerns of countless stakeholders.”
After completing his entry plan, Shelton developed a series of recommendations based on the input and feedback he received. Those recommendations include establishing an intentional culture in the school district that places value and respect on every individual and focuses on the transformative power of authentic relationships. Expansion of the district’s superior customer service initiative, continued drive to eliminate achievement gaps and the development of professional learning communities centered on five main district goals are also cornerstones of Shelton’s proposal.
“I particularly appreciate his willingness to keep in place those structures and programs which have proven successful and his boldness to make change where it is needed,” Ferguson said. “We are headed for a bright future with Dr. Shelton leading our school district.”
In its evaluation of Shelton, the board endorsed his entry plan report, embracing his call for the establishment of concrete goals in five main focus areas: student achievement, student engagement, family engagement, business and community engagement, and staff development.
“I appreciate your comprehensive plan,” school board member Doug Barnett told Shelton tonight. “It’s the right step at the right time for the district. I’m also excited about the focus on early childhood development, because this is one of the best ways to close achievement gaps in the district.”
In the written evaluation, board members cited management as Shelton’s greatest strength area, praising the budget alignment with district goals for the 2012-2013 school year including restructuring Project Rebound at the Horse Park, allocating increased funding for school nurses after the Health Department funding shortfall, continuation of funding for foreign language programs previously funded by federal grants, refinancing existing bond issues at reduced interest cost, realignment of positions to better serve our student population and equitable funding based on need.
“He’s developed a very clear plan to move us forward with student achievement, which is our primary goal,” said school board chairman John Price.
Other pieces of Shelton’s entry plan report include evaluating the effectiveness of all existing district programs, managing student growth, meeting facility needs, developing systemic structures that will ensure consistency across the school district, and expanding community partnerships.
Board members asked for additional focus on communication in the school district and the development of an overall strategy that will provide multiple avenues of connecting with stakeholders. The board is also considering the addition of a third meeting each month to allow board members time to develop a deeper understanding of targeted district initiatives and needs.
“You’ve challenged us as a board to explore innovative ways to reach across all aspects of our community, understanding that we have a duty to educate every child so they are prepared to leave our school district career or college ready,” said school board member Daryl Love.
Shelton thanked the board for its support and praised board members for keeping first things first.
“We have a board focused on student achievement,” he said. “There are a lot of districts where school boards are debating issues that won’t matter in the long run.”
His ability to spend the time needed to learn the community hinged on a strong leadership team that kept the district moving ahead while he immersed himself in making connections with students, employees, families, business partners, faith leaders and community advocates, Shelton said.
“This has been a phenomenal year,” Shelton said. “After 26 years in Daviess County, I never thought I’d be able to fall in love with another community as much as I have here in Fayette County. I love this community and I look forward to a long time of us working together.”