Fayette County Public Schools superintendent candidate Emmanuel "Manny" Caulk said he would bring the skill set of a CEO to the district.
In an interview at a Paul Laurence Dunbar High School reception in his honor Tuesday, Caulk said he had experience in large and small urban school systems across the country.
"If you know of an education innovation or a strategy, chances are I tried it," Caulk said. "I know what works, what doesn't."
Caulk, currently superintendent of the Portland, Maine, public schools, met dozens of parents, students, teachers and community members at the reception as part of his interview process. He is one of two superintendent candidates visiting the district this week as the Lexington school system seeks to replace Tom Shelton, who resigned last year.
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With Caulk at the reception was his wife, Christol, whom he married a few weeks ago.
Andrea Cunningham, an employee of the state Workforce Development Cabinet, said she found Caulk to be "a very energetic man who has a lot of good ideas" about building on the district's strengths and removing weaknesses.
Andrea Welker, an attorney for the University of Kentucky Department of Pediatrics, said, "I'm very excited about his interest in special education students."
William Saunders, president of the Lexington NAACP, said Caulk was personable, his credentials were fantastic, and "he would bring a lot of new things to the table."
"He is interested in the kids. He's up for holding people accountable. That's the key thing," Saunders said.
Parent Chris Tyler said he and Caulk ended up talking about their common interest in Junior Achievement, and the importance of parents volunteering in schools. Tyler said he walked away with a "very good impression."
Caulk, 43, gets high marks from the Portland, Maine, school board chairman.
The chairman, Sarah Thompson, has referred to Caulk in the Portland Press Herald as "a transformational superintendent," noting his work on upgrading school facilities, his focus on student achievement, and particularly his efforts to improve community outreach.
In Portland, Caulk proposed, and then withdrew, a plan to launch a virtual school within the district. According to the Portland Press Herald, Caulk wanted to lure back students who had left for charter schools, but Maine's commissioner of education and Portland's mayor criticized the idea.
Caulk said Tuesday that he had been looking for a short-term solution but ended up finding a long-term solution with the president of a teachers union. Teachers will be designing online courses, he said.
Caulk was hired in July 2012 to be Portland's superintendent. That school board voted unanimously in November to extend his contract to June 2019. Portland is the largest school district in Maine, serving about 7,000 students. Caulk previously served as an assistant superintendent in Philadelphia — serving 167,000 students — and assistant superintendent in East Baton Rouge Parish, a district of 46,000 students in Louisiana.
Caulk's interview will culminate in a public forum Wednesday night. A second candidate, Terri Breeden, assistant superintendent of Loudoun County, Va. Public Schools, will be in Lexington on Thursday and Friday. School officials have not ruled out bringing in a third candidate.