Fayette Schools superintendent earns high marks

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Fayette Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk received accomplished or exemplary ratings across the board on his annual evaluation Monday, with school board members citing specific achievements in the areas of outreach, leadership development, focus on student needs and organizational effectiveness.

“The work of Superintendent Caulk has been remarkable in all areas, especially considering the personal health challenges he experienced after shortly joining the Fayette County Public Schools,” board members wrote in the evaluation document, referencing Caulk’s diagnosis with cancer less than eight weeks into his tenure, which required an 18-hour surgery and three months of follow-up treatment.

“We are thrilled with the work you’ve done and you have done it in a shorter amount of time with more fervor since you came back,” said Fayette County Board of Education Chair Melissa Bacon, asking Caulk to share an update on his progress.

“Just as it takes the entire community to success of our schools, I want to thank the entire community for your thoughts and your prayers as I battled cancer,” Caulk said. “My health is great, but just as you prayed for me, I ask that you continue pray for other who are battling this disease, especially our young people who are stricken with cancer.” Bacon continued, “We are thrilled you are here, thrilled you are healthy, and ready to take our district to the next level with you.”

Caulk’s evaluation was based on the recommended standards as set forth by the Kentucky Department of Education and the Kentucky Association of School Administrators. The seven areas of evaluation include: Strategic Leadership, Instructional Leadership, Cultural Leadership, Human Resource Leadership, Managerial Leadership, Collaborative Leadership and Influential Leadership.

Possible ratings in each area were: Exemplary: exceeds the standard, Accomplished: meets the standard, Developing: makes growth toward meeting the standard, or Growth Required: area(s) required to be addressed in the professional growth plan. Board members rated Caulk exemplary, accomplished or “accomplished leading to exemplary” in each of the seven areas.

Fayette County Board of Education Vice Chair Amanda Ferguson pointed out that the board rated Caulk higher than he rated himself and highlighted the areas of strategic leadership, collaborative leadership and influential leadership as specific strengths for the superintendent.

Ferguson cited a long list of partnerships Caulk has facilitated and cultivated, mentioning work with the University of Kentucky, Transylvania University, Lexington Fayette Urban County Council, Commerce Lexington, Urban League, and the United Way.

“It just goes on and on,” she said, recalling her surprise and pleasure at Caulk’s participation in a press conference the Mayor held in advance of a winter storm. “It’s going to take everybody working together to accomplish our mission and we are impressed with your ability to collaborate.”

In its written document, the board said, “He is the leader that will take our district from ‘good’ to ‘great,’ and we are impressed with his willingness to follow-up and emphasize accountability while equipping and empowering individuals to share leadership and accountability throughout the district.”

“I am deeply humbled by the board’s evaluation of our first year working together as a team. It’s energizing to know that we have the full support of our school board members on the current direction of our district,” Caulk said. “This evaluation is not mine alone – it is a testament to the work happening in our classrooms, in our hallways, in our school offices, in our cafeterias, and on our buses and includes the work of the team of district support staff who work on Springhill Drive, Russell Cave Road, Liberty Road, Miles Point and here at 701 East Main Street. The success of our students hinges on all 6,000 of our employees being ‘All In,’ and your rating of me tonight is really a message of a job well done to each and every member of the FCPS family.”

Caulk, who is entering the second year of his four-year contract, was praised for his entry plan, which included listening sessions, focus groups and surveys of students, staff, families and community members as well as five audits of the district by external reviewers.

Board members were also impressed with the resulting “Blueprint for Student Success: Achieving Educational Excellence and Equity for All” that outlines 100 specific strategies that the superintendent has identified as priorities in order to improve outcomes for all students during the 2016-17 school year.

“The Superintendent reached out to those who were feeling alienated, making strides for all to feel included, and created a collaborative process for moving the district forward,” board members wrote, specifically highlighting efforts to build a culture of family in the district by establishing an annual FCPS Family Reunion kickoff, launching a community-wide Superintendent’s Book Club, and starting the 2016-17 school year with an all-employee meeting with an “All In” philosophy.

“Rather than start at ‘ground zero,’ Superintendent Caulk has built on the vision of FCPS and has reimaged the importance and focus on the district’s mission,” board members noted.

They praised Caulk for clearly defining the district’s dual moral imperatives – to accelerate the achievement of students who are reaching toward proficiency and to move students who have already reached proficiency to global competency. Significant achievements include the creation of a Partnership Zone to allocate resources to schools where achievement disparities are the greatest, and successfully writing for and receiving a $600,000 grant from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust to establish an Office for Educating Boys of Color to place an intentional focus on meeting the needs of primarily black and Hispanic male students.

“One of the things I’m impressed with is, not only are we looking at everything in the blueprint through the view of equity, but also too, your focus on social justice,” said school board member Doug Barnett. “And I wish you would have more leaders who would do that.”

School board members also recognized Caulk’s focus on leadership and staff development, praising him for holding the first-ever Superintendent’s Leadership Institute for principals and district-wide leaders, providing a conference on Professional Learning Communities for teams of educators from each school and for sending school and district leaders to Harvard for training in instructional rounds and school turn-around.

“He has fostered an improved system of accountability, empowering staff with a process of ownership that’s attached to every initiative and scope of work,” board members said, also noting the development of a principal’s handbook, reorganization of the district office and Caulk’s active participation in professional learning for principals and other leaders each month.

“As we look for Lexington to become a world class city, we look for our school system to keep up,” said school board member Ray Daniels. “What I look forward is to working on the strategic plan. Great leaders have a way of getting people to follow them willingly and that’s when our district will go to the next level.”

Caulk’s contract calls for him to receive the same average annual pay increases as other employees, so for the 2016-17 school year he received a “step-up” commiserate to the average “step-up” earned by all other eligible staff. His salary for the 2016-17 school year is $245,016.

“You not only came up with a plan, but really renewed a spirit of hope and pride across the district and community in terms of what we can become,” said school board member Daryl Love. “You have helped inspire our staff members to do more through collaboration in order to create systemic change. Our best days are ahead of us and I’m pleased to partner with you and our board team in the work.”

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