Malignant tumor removed during Fayette school superintendent's 18-hour sinus surgery

Superintendent Manny Caulk talked to students in the library of Bryan Station High School on the first day of school in August.
Superintendent Manny Caulk talked to students in the library of Bryan Station High School on the first day of school in August. Lexington Herald-Leader

Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk underwent surgery for 18 hours last week to remove a malignant tumor from his sinus cavity, school officials said Monday.

Caulk, who became superintendent over the summer, said in a statement that "the good news is that doctors were able to remove the entire tumor, and I will make a full recovery."

He remained at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital on Monday, district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said.

School board chairman John Price, who has remained on the board while being treated for leukemia for the past two years, said Caulk was continuing to work from the hospital. He said the superintendent had the full backing of the board.

"We knew from our very first interview with Manny that he was the right person to lead our district," Price said. "His spark, his drive and his passion remain strong. and we are thrilled that he is willing to work during his treatments."

Price said district officials did not publicly discuss the malignancy last week because the information Caulk "wanted to share was his decision."

Price said that he spoke to Caulk on Monday and that Caulk remained on track to unveil an action plan for the district in February.

Caulk will return to his office as soon as his doctors allow it, Price said.

"The board is very willing to be as accommodating as we need to be to allow him to recover," he said.

Since moving to Lexington in August, Caulk has struggled with severe allergy problems, which led him to see several specialists.

He announced two weeks ago that he would undergo sinus surgery.

"Had I not been offered the wonderful opportunity to become the superintendent of the Fayette County Public Schools, my allergies wouldn't have flared up, and we might not have found the tumor in time for such an excellent outcome," Caulk said in a news release.

"I didn't want to cause a distraction from our important work while waiting for my prognosis," he said. "Nothing is more important to me than doing what's best for our students here in Fayette County."

His recovery is expected to take weeks.

During his absence from the office, Caulk will conduct meetings via phone and Skype, and stay connected through email and text messages. He said he would schedule medical treatments early in the morning so he could conduct district business throughout the workday.

"Nothing will keep me from the important work facing our school district," Caulk said. "Nearly 41,000 children are counting on us to deliver a brighter tomorrow than they have today, and it will take every ounce of commitment and energy we have to make that happen."

In the news release, Caulk praised the hospital, saying, "the men and women who work at the University of Kentucky Hospital are the best team."

Marlene Helm, who served as acting superintendent from January until August, filled in for Caulk at Monday night's school board meeting.

Caulk named her acting senior director of academic services a few weeks ago. She will serve in that capacity, helping to raise student achievement, through December, then a permanent hire will be made.

Budget approved

During Monday's meeting, the school board approved the 2015-16 budget totaling more than $442 million.

That is an increase of $20 million, or 4.8 percent, over the previous year, according to district budget director Julane Mullins.

Price said the board would continue to tweak the budget throughout the year.

The state Department of Education requires that school boards approve a final working budget no later than Sept. 30 each year.