For the third year in a row, a team from the Kentucky Department of Education has determined that district support of Fayette County’s public schools “continues to be below expectations.”
Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt delivered the news to Fayette County Superintendent Manny Caulk in a letter last week. Both are new on the job, having been hired in 2015.
The team determined that Fayette County Public Schools “does not have the capacity” to make improvements that state officials told district officials last year were a priority, Pruitt said in the letter.
“Very little, to no action, was taken by the district to address” the needed improvements noted in the previous district diagnostic review, Pruitt said. “The review team’s findings indicate a vast disconnect between the district office and schools in terms of support required to ensure that all students’ needs are being met.”
Pruitt said he was concerned by the findings from the review in March, but he told Caulk, “I am confident that under your leadership, you will use the findings to take the district to the next level to ensure all students graduate college- and career-ready.”
In response, Caulk released a statement Friday afternoon, saying, “I’m not surprised by the findings.”
“The improvement priorities identified by the state review team are consistent with the preliminary results from the audits and surveys commissioned in my entry plan, and were echoed by students, staff and community members who participated in more than a dozen listening sessions and roundtables,” Caulk said.
“The path forward to increasing student success is very clear. I share the department’s concerns about the capacity of the existing district structure and look forward to continuing our close partnership with the Kentucky Department of Education. Once I release my superintendent’s plan next month, we will begin implementing the needed changes with deliberate urgency.”
Pruitt said he was pleased that Caulk had initiated other audits of the district. Pruitt said a monitoring system must be created to ensure that an improvement plan is being implemented.
The letter noted that in 2014 and 2015, a review team found that the district had the capacity to lead turnaround efforts at Bryan Station High School, which at the time was labeled “persistently low-achieving,” but was not doing anything intentionally to support the school.
In May, then-commissioner Terry Holliday wrote a letter to John Price, who was Fayette board chairman at the time but has since died. In the letter, Holliday noted that the district did not have a system or process in place to ensure that improvement was occurring. He noted significant achievement gaps between disabled, minority and low-income students and other students.
The state Department of Education offered six months of intensive support, but Pruitt said, “At no time were the same district/building leaders at the table.”
The review teams report said although Bryan Station High School has exited priority status and is no longer considered by the state as persistently low-achieving, “there are significant concerns regarding the district’s ability to support all schools in the district so as to ensure that additional schools do not fall into priority status and to lead intentional district-wide efforts to close the achievement gap.”
Pruitt told Caulk that his leadership was crucial in making sure that systems are put in place to remedy deficiencies.
“We stand ready to continue our assistance at the state level,” Pruitt said.