Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Emmanuel "Manny" Caulk will launch an intensive examination of all aspects of district operations to help him as he begins his new job.
Caulk, who was on the job in Lexington for the first time Monday, takes on the role as the school district is under a state edict to help low-performing schools and close the achievement gap between minority, disabled and poor students and other students.
Caulk, 43, said he had spoken to Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday, who has asked Fayette County school officials to improve student achievement.
"I certainly echo and share his concerns," Caulk said at a morning news conference. "Every student should graduate prepared for college, career and life, and to the extent that we are not fulfilling that mission, ... then we need to do some additional work in that area."
Caulk said improvement wouldn't come from a one-size-fits-all solution.
Some schools will need more professional development for the staff. He said he wanted to make sure that all teachers and staff, including the district's several new leaders, had the support they needed.
Some schools will need additional resources to make progress, he said.
On Monday afternoon, Caulk met with middle school principals and officials from the state Department of Education who are working with Fayette County to reduce the number of students scoring at the novice level instead of proficient in the state's accountability system. The state officials also are working to improve student achievement at Bryan Station High School, the district's only school labeled as persistently low achieving.
Later in the week, Caulk is to meet with other principals to share the novice-reduction plan.
Students who are proficient will need to get to higher levels more quickly, and students who are at the novice level will need to become proficient more quickly, he said.
As part of Caulk's contract, he asked that experts be allowed to come into the district and help him with an entry plan. The contract says the cost of consultants would be kept in check. The consultants would help work on organizational structure, culture, policies, academics, operations, communication, finances, special education and other areas, Caulk said.
"A world-class system of great schools is our goal," he said. "Our mission here in Fayette County is to create a collaborative community that ensures that all students achieve at high levels and graduate prepared to excel in a global society."
Caulk began his first day at a meeting for classified employees, including custodians and bus drivers, at Bryan Station High School.
"Every person is critical to student success," Caulk said. His first summer job between high school and college was as a high school custodian.
Later he went to the district's Central Office, where he met with school board chairman John Price, vice chairwoman Melissa Bacon, and Marlene Helm, who had been interim superintendent since Tom Shelton resigned in December.
Caulk, who previously was superintendent of the Portland, Maine, school district, met several Central Office employees before answering questions at a news conference.
Caulk told reporters he was preparing for the first day of school on Aug. 12.
Price, the board chairman, said at the news conference: "Our role is to build a team."
He said he and Bacon let Caulk know how much "we support the work we are about to do together as a team."
Price said he was not just talking about the team at Central Office.
"It's the team of our staff and the team of our community," he said.
District officials also have spent the past several months trying to address problems in financial and budget systems that were pointed out in a 2014 state audit.
Caulk said he was reviewing the audit from state Auditor Adam Edelen and the district's correction plan to ensure that the problem "doesn't occur again."
"We are confident we will not experience again those sorts of findings," he said.