Jessamine's superintendent to become academic chief for Fayette schools

Lu Young, who heads Jessamine schools, took a Pearson Foundation trip in 2010.
Lu Young, who heads Jessamine schools, took a Pearson Foundation trip in 2010.

Lu Young is leaving Jessamine County Schools after nine years as superintendent to become the Fayette County school district's new chief academic officer.

Fayette Superintendent Tom Shelton said Young essentially will be responsible for all facets of student achievement and learning across the school district. She will take over her new duties July 1.

"There is no one in the state of Kentucky who knows more about teaching and learning than Lu Young," Shelton said during Wednesday's announcement.

Creation of the chief academic officer position was approved by the Fayette Board of Education last month. There were 34 applicants, Shelton said.

"Lu stood out above everybody else, so it was a fairly easy selection," he said. "There was no doubt in my mind who I wanted to recruit."

Young said she was surprised but intrigued when Shelton approached her about the job last month.

"Tom and have I known each other since 2004, and we have very complementary skills," she said. "Working together is something we've talked about for a long time, so this caught my attention very quickly."

The appointment means Fayette schools will have two of Kentucky's most highly regarded educators on its team. Young was named Kentucky school superintendent of the year for 2011 by the Kentucky Association of School Administrators. Shelton was state superintendent of the year in 2010.

This might be the first time that two former Kentucky superintendents of the year have worked for the same district at the same time, said Brad Hughes, spokesman for the Kentucky School Boards Association.

Young informed the Jessamine County Board of Education of her decision a few days ago. Board chairman Eugene Peel said members will meet soon to plan a search for a new superintendent.

"While we are sorry to see her leave, we wish her well as she embarks on this new endeavor," Peel said. "Lu's strong leadership skills and her passion for teaching and learning will serve her well in Fayette County, as they have here for the past 30 years."

Young joined Jessamine County Schools as a Spanish teacher in 1983, rising through the ranks to become superintendent in 2004. Shelton became a superintendent that same year, taking over leadership of the Daviess County Schools. He and Young have been close friends ever since.

Shelton, Young and Clark County Superintendent Elaine Farris were finalists to become Fayette's new superintendent in 2011. Shelton ultimately was selected.

Young said she decided to take the Fayette post after "much prayer and careful consideration."

"I have cherished my 30 years in Jessamine County, and I did not enter lightly into this decision to leave," she said. "But at the same time I've kind of been thinking of other challenges, and this seems like just the right one."

Shelton said Wednesday that the idea for the new position grew out of consideration about how best to strengthen student achievement in Fayette County. He said seven directors in the Fayette schools administration are directly involved in promoting student achievement. All have been reporting to him, he said.

"It really didn't allow for a good coherent focus," he said. "I really saw the need for a chief academic officer to align all our work toward achievement and make sure we stayed focused on our goals."

Now, all those directors will report to Young, who says teaching and learning are the parts of education "that I really love."

Young has run her own district for nine years, but Shelton said he's confident she will transition smoothly into working for someone else.

"The advantage we'll have with Lu is that she has had to see the big picture that a superintendent has to see, and she clearly understands what my responsibility is," he said. "In a district our size, it takes more than one single leader."

Shelton also said that Fayette already has one former superintendent on staff. Middle Schools director Kelley Ransdell formerly led the Fleming County Schools and soon will leave to become superintendent of the Anchorage Independent Schools.

In Jessamine County, Young managed the state's 16th-largest district, with about 8,000 students. Jessamine will open its 13th school next fall.

When she comes to Fayette County, Young will be working in the state's second-largest school district, with 63 schools and programs, and more than 40,000 students.

"She'll be a phenomenal leader for us," Shelton said.