UPDATE: Condolences roll in paying tribute to Caulk


LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk died unexpectedly on Friday, according to Fayette County Board of Education Chair, Stephanie Aschmann Spires.

As word has spread, condolences have poured in from city and regional leaders.

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“We will always remember Manny Caulk for his devotion to our children,” Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton said. “He put their safety first, working as part of our stakeholder group to combat the pandemic. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.”

“The Commerce Lexington Inc. family and our local business community are saddened to learn of the passing of Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk,” said Commerce Lexington Inc. President & CEO, Bob Quick. “From the moment Manny arrived in Lexington and became our superintendent in 2015, the best interests of our children were at the basis of every decision he made, every initiative or program that was created, and every refinement made in the operation of the district. His leadership has raised the profile of our schools on a national and global scale, while his focus on challenging Lexington leaders to work collectively toward raising the achievement levels of all students is positively impacting our local community. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.”

Commerce Lexington Inc. Board Chair Ray Daniels said, “Having served on the Fayette County School Board and the Commerce Lexington Inc. Board for a number of years, I can say that Manny Caulk fully recognized that education and business must collaborate in every way possible to ensure that the Lexington economy is strong for generations to come. As our ‘Servant Superintendent,’ his positive impacts on our school district will be felt for many years. Manny showed us the equitable way for all kids to achieve at a high level. He will forever be our Superintendent of the Year, and it is our pledge to carry on his work.”

Business and Education Network Executive Director, Betsy Dexter, said, “Manny was a champion of education working together with business and industry to ensure that curriculum and student experiences reflected the skills needed for our current and future workforce. As a collaborative partner with the Business & Education Network, Manny and the Fayette County Public Schools have provided personnel, resources and guidance for the implementation of the Academies of Lexington, which are preparing our students to thrive in a global economy. We will miss him greatly.”

“Manny Caulk cared deeply about children and their families, particularly in his fight every day to create a more just and equitable education for everyone in our community. The best way for us to honor him is by continuing his commitment to creating opportunity for all children through the life-changing power of education,” stated University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto.

Monday, Nov. 30, the board met virtually in closed session for nearly two-hours and announced Caulk would be on temporary medical leave through at least January 31, 2021.

No details were released at that time about his medical condition.

Caulk was hired after Tom Shelton resigned in 2014.  Not long after taking over, in the fall of 2015, Caulk underwent surgery to remove a malignant tumor from his sinus cavity.  It was reported at the time that doctors removed the entire tumor, the cancer had not spread and he would make a full recovery.

Before joining FCPS in August 2015, Caulk had served as superintendent of Portland Public Schools, Maine’s largest school district, since 2012. He previously was an assistant superintendent in the School District of Philadelphia, serving 167,000 students. He also was assistant regional superintendent and deputy chief for the office of instruction and leadership support, and was assistant superintendent for high schools of the 46,000-student East Baton Rouge Parish School System.

Caulk’s experience in education included time spent as a special education teacher in a juvenile detention facility, an elementary principal, and a high school principal. He also practiced law, serving as an education law attorney and former assistant prosecutor for the state of New Jersey.

Caulk earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the University of Delaware and a law degree from Widener University School of Law.

Marlene Helm is acting FCPS superintendent, a role she has filled in the past.

The statement from Stephanie Aschmann Spires released late Friday night is below:

Dear Fayette County Public Schools Families,

Tonight, I write with a heavy heart to inform you of the death of our Superintendent, Emmanuel Caulk, who has led our district since 2015.

We are grateful for Manny’s servant leadership and passion for our two moral imperatives – to accelerate achievement for students who have not yet reached proficiency and to challenge students already proficient to achieve global competency.

Both current and incoming members of the Board of Education are working together to ensure a smooth transition. Once the new board members take office in January, we will begin the arduous task of finding a new Superintendent to continue our commitment to ensuring that all students reach their unlimited potential.

We ask that you keep Manny, his family, and everyone who loved him in your thoughts and prayers, while also respecting their privacy during this incredibly difficult time.

Arrangements to honor his life and work are incomplete at this time, but will be sent out to our FCPS Family when finalized.

Stephanie Aschmann Spires
Chair, Fayette County Board of Education

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