Fayette superintendent, board chairman miss school board meetings as they battle illnesses

Fayette County Schools superintendent Manny Caulk. left and Fayette County Board of Education Chairman John Price.
Fayette County Schools superintendent Manny Caulk. left and Fayette County Board of Education Chairman John Price.

Fayette County school board chairman John Price has not been present at school board meetings in November and December, and new Superintendent Manny Caulk has not appeared at the meetings since August.

Both men have publicly discussed their battle with serious illness, although the specific reason for Price’s recent absences was unclear Friday.

In the absence of Fayette County’s two top school district leaders, board vice chairman Melissa Bacon and Marlene Helm, acting senior academic services director, are running the meetings. Helm was interim superintendent from December 2014 until Caulk’s hiring this summer.

The school board normally meets on the second and fourth Mondays each month. The first meeting is to plan the agenda. The second meeting is to take action

Although Price has been battling leukemia for two years, he attended planning meetings and every monthly action meeting from August 25, 2014, until October 26, 2015, with the exception of the April 2015 meeting when he was on vacation. The board also has periodic special meetings, which Price has attended through October, and he has served on district committees.

Price could not be reached for comment this week.

District spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said that “any information would have to come from Mr. Price.”

Caulk, who was hired in late June, attended the August school board action meeting but has not attended an action monthly meeting since. He has said his entry plan work in the school district has continued in earnest while he has been undergoing treatment following an 18-hour surgery in September to remove a malignant tumor from his sinuses.

Caulk has attended school district meetings other than board meetings and has been working in his office at Central Office, Deffendall said.

“I’m anxious to be done with my treatments so that I can get back out into schools and classrooms,” Caulk said in a statement a few weeks ago. “I’m still engaged in the daily operations of the district, but I miss being able to interact with students, teachers, school staff, families and our community.”

Caulk has to avoid large groups of people while he undergoes treatment, Deffendall said. But she said he is starting to visit schools, going to two on Thursday.

“He expects to be back at full strength in January,” she said.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears