Fayette schools hope to have interim superintendent who overlaps with Shelton

Tom Shelton's last day as Fayette County schools' superintendent was Dec. 12, 2014.
Tom Shelton's last day as Fayette County schools' superintendent was Dec. 12, 2014. Lexington Herald-Leader

An interim superintendent for Fayette County Public Schools could be working by Dec. 5, about a week before outgoing Superintendent Tom Shelton's last day at work.

During a three-hour meeting Monday that dealt with several key issues facing the district, school board chairman John Price said he would like to name a permanent replacement by July 1. Shelton announced his resignation last week; he is to become executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents.

The school board will start immediately to review names for the interim position, including those on a Kentucky School Boards Association list of retired superintendents willing to take the job on a temporary basis.

Price said at least one person — whom he did not name during the meeting — had approached him about the interim job. Other board members have received calls from people interested in filling in. Price said the interim superintendent probably would not be a candidate for the permanent job, based on best practices for the process.

Shelton, who has had a year marked by controversial budget cuts and a state audit that found chronic mismanagement, spoke briefly to the Herald-Leader about his resignation for the first time since it was announced Thursday.

"I think it was what was best for me and the district. I hope things continue to move forward here in Fayette County. I wish them the best," he said.

Mike Oder, a Kentucky School Boards Association superintendent search consultant, told the school board that its screening committee would be "so critical to this process. It can make or break the process."

Under Kentucky law, a screening committee must be comprised of two teachers, one school board member, one principal, one parent and one classified employee. Because the board will elect a new chairman and vice chairman in January, board members decided to wait until then to choose the committee.

The board adjourned into closed session to discuss names of possible candidates for the interim post. The board will meet at noon Thursday to accept Shelton's resignation, develop interview questions for interim candidates, and review the list from the school boards association.

Also Monday:

■ The board approved a written response to a special examination by state Auditor Adam Edelen that found chronic mismanagement at the district. Shelton said most recommendations would be implemented by July 15. He said the district would wait until a January assessment by the state's school accounting software company before deciding on some specific changes.

Edelen's examination cost the district $94,801.08, district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said.

Edelen spokeswoman Stephenie Hoelscher said Jefferson County Public Schools spent $125,000 on a similar examination, "and they wrote on the check that it was worth it."

Kyna Koch, one of the consultants who is helping Fayette County make changes as a result of the audit, is being paid $500 a day for as long as 30 days, and her contract is renewable. A second consultant, Mike Thompson, is being paid $150 an hour for a limit of 40 hours, and his contract is renewable.

■ Lu Young, the district's chief academic officer, told the board that seven teams of district specialists had been sent to Fayette County's low-performing schools, based on recent statewide test scores. They included William Wells Brown Elementary, which had the lowest scores among elementary schools in the state.

District officials also said they were hopeful that after one more year of extra help from the district, Bryan Station High School no longer would be classified by the state as a priority or low-achieving school.

■ Shelton explained why the district was seeking a waiver from the Kentucky Board of Education to build a proposed high school on Winchester Road with more square feet than the state Department of Education will allow.

He said the campus would house a typical high school and an existing special program called the Carter G. Woodson Academy, which is why an auxiliary gymnasium was needed, adding to the square footage.

Shelton said he had spoken during the past year with state Education Commissioner Terry Holliday about the space needs and that he knew the district would need a waiver for the school, which is expected to open in fall 2017.

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