Tom Shelton knew it was real when he fired up his office computer Thursday morning and went online.
First, he visited the Fayette County Public Schools' Web site and saw that his picture had been posted as the new Lexington school superintendent.
Then, Shelton checked the Daviess County Public Schools' Web site, noting that his picture there had been replaced with that of Mike Gray, the district's newly named interim superintendent.
"I guess that makes it official," said Shelton, who was superintendent in Daviess County for seven years before coming to Lexington. "It's a little sad, but I'm excited to be here."
Shelton arrived at the school district's central office on East Main Street just after 7 a.m. Thursday for his official first day on the job, greeting veteran school district employee Don Harris, who was unloading a truck in the parking lot.
Shelton had been up since about 5:30, the time he usually begins a work day.
"I was ready to go," he said. "I spent some time trying to get moved into my office last night, but I didn't get too far. I still have some boxes to unpack."
Shelton said he had exchanged text messages earlier Thursday with his predecessor, former superintendent Stu Silberman, who was starting his first day Thursday as executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.
A neatness fanatic, Shelton almost apologized for the fact that his office bookshelf wasn't already organized alphabetically by author.
The office is extensively decorated, however, with posters and other memorabilia from Shelton's hobby, bicycling. Shelton said he and a longtime friend plan to celebrate their 50th birthdays in three years by biking coast to coast across America.
Shelton quickly got busy answering email, then he held a brief discussion with Cheryl Neal, one of his administrative assistants. Mike Burke, technology director for Fayette County schools, stopped by to offer Shelton congratulations on his first day. Moments after that, a contingent of administrative staff from Cardinal Valley Elementary School dropped by with a gift of cookies, brownies and other goodies for the new superintendent.
Shortly after 8 a.m., Shelton hit the streets for a visit to Henry Clay High School, where he conferred with principal John Nochta and greeted staffers and students.
Shelton was scheduled to visit five other schools by the end of the day. He wants to visit every Fayette school during his first month as superintendent, he said.
Shelton was named superintendent in early June. He has been in Lexington almost every week during the summer to hold meetings and get his feet on the ground.
He's living in an apartment in Lexington not far from the district offices while his wife, Gwen, and younger daughter, Audrey, remain in Owensboro for now. Shelton's wife has a year left on a work contract there, and his daughter is finishing her senior year in high school. They'll join him in Lexington next year. Shelton's older daughter, Abby, already is nearby, attending Georgetown College.