Fayette County Superintendent presents “State of Schools”
The student population of public schools in Lexington continues to get more racially diverse, Fayette County Superintendent Manny Caulk said Wednesday, and if the current trend continues in the 2019-2020 school year, children of color will be in the majority.
“For the first time ever, we will be a majority minority district,” said Caulk, who talked about the district’s students, their successes and challenges in his annual “State of Schools” address at the Lexington Convention Center.
“It means... we are going to attract and recruit talented educators of color,” Caulk said. “We want to make sure that the composition of our employees , the staff, our teachers, the educators, reflect the demography of our students. We want to make sure that the materials that we put in front of our students are rigorous but also respect and represent our cultural diversity as well. “
In the 2018-19 school year, the demographic breakdown of the district’s 42,087 students was 50 percent white, 23 percent black, 17 percent Hispanic, 5 percent Asian and 5 percent were categorized as “other.” Each year the percentages of children of color have increased by about 1 percent, district officials said.
Caulk told a crowd of approximately 600 people that Fayette County students led the state and nation on several measures in 2018-2019.
He said although the student population accounts for just six percent of all public school students in Kentucky, 30 percent of Kentucky’s National Merit Semi-Finalists were from Fayette County.
Last year in America, 0.2 percent of students tested earned a perfect score on the ACT exam. But in Fayette County, 21 of 2,331 seniors earned a perfect 36. That’s 5 times the national average, he said.
On Advanced Placement tests that allow students to earn college credits, he said white students, Hispanic students, and students living in poverty in the district earn college credit bearing scores 1.5 times more often than their peers elsewhere in Kentucky. For black students, the rate is 1.75 times greater.
Caulk said results on a national assessment called Measures of Academic Progress – known as MAP for short — show that in every grade level K through eight, students scored higher than the national average in both reading and math. Kindergarteners showed more growth in math than 99 percent of the rest of the nation, and more growth in reading than 97 percent of the country, he said.
He explained how the district spent $13.3 million, supported by a tax increase, not only to prevent a school shooting, but also to mitigate other risks students face including bullying, self- harm, suicide, drug use, online exploitation, trauma and community issues. That included hiring more mental health personnel and police, and installing metal detectors and other equipment and several other new safety initiatives.
In addition to talking about the successes and initiatives in the district, Caulk noted that some children in the district were challenged by poverty, homelessness and language barriers.
During the 2018-19 school year, nearly 23,000 of the district’s students — about 54 percent — qualified for free and reduced lunch.
He said 1,225 students experienced homelessness last year, a 50 percent increase from 837 the previous year.
Caulk said 6,818 students come to the district as English language learners who speak 93 different languages from around the world.
He said the school district would continue to partner with agencies and people in the community to address the challenges.
“Every child born represents a promise,” he said. “A promise to love, to protect, to guide, to nurture, and to teach.”