Superintendent candidate Emmanuel "Manny" Caulk said Wednesday that people have told him they want to "restore the luster" to Fayette County Public Schools.
If hired, Caulk, now superintendent of the Portland, Maine, school district, said he would be intent on raising student achievement and helping teachers and other staff develop.
Caulk is one of two superintendent candidates visiting Lexington this week as the Fayette district seeks to replace Tom Shelton, who resigned last year. Portland is the largest school district in Maine, serving about 7,000 students. Caulk previously was 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.
The other candidate is Terri Breeden, assistant superintendent of Loudoun County, Va., Public Schools, who will be in Lexington on Thursday and Friday.
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School board chairman John Price said the board would meet Saturday to evaluate those two and could decide to bring in two other candidates next week.
On Wednesday, Caulk described some of the methods he has used to close the achievement gap between low-income, minority and disabled students and other students.
He said he not only made sure that minority high school students had access to advanced placement and more rigorous classes, he put support systems in place to help them. In other cases, students were given extra learning time, and schools formed "parent academies."
"For some of our students, it's ensuring their demography doesn't equal their destiny," said Caulk, 43.
Caulk said he would work to more quickly get students who are ranked as novice by the state's accountability system to the proficient level, and would help proficient students advance to become "globally competitive." He said he would foster the involvement of parents, businesses, community groups, and elected and appointed officials.
Interviews with several groups, including parents, teachers and students during closed sessions at Bryan Station High School, were part of Caulk's interview process Wednesday. He appeared at a public forum Wednesday night.
Vincent Clark, a senior at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, said he was encouraged that Caulk committed to staying in Lexington for an extended period so he could make improvements.
William Parris, a music teacher at Sandersville Elementary, said Caulk got his attention when Parris was among group of teachers who met with Caulk in a private session.
"He's really into what makes schools tick," Parris said.