Superintendent unveils his plan for Fayette County Public Schools

Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk unveiled the findings of his "Blueprint for Student Success" at a news conference Wednesday at the district’s central office.
Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk unveiled the findings of his "Blueprint for Student Success" at a news conference Wednesday at the district’s central office.

Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk unveiled a plan Wednesday that he said will improve learning for all students during the 2016-17 school year and help Fayette become one of the best districts in the country by the academic year 2020-21.

As part of his plan, Caulk said he will reorganize the central office to better support schools. The plan calls for rewriting job descriptions for all central office senior staff.

The Kentucky Department of Education recently found that Fayette County had significant academic challenges and district officials did not have the capacity to carry out the turnaround. However, Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt recently said he thought Caulk, who was hired last summer, could make the needed changes.

Caulk said his plan specifically addressed the state officials’ concerns about Fayette County. He said specific district officials will be held accountable for each of the 100 initiatives in his plan, which will be posted on the district’s website.

Caulk said in a 50-page-plus plan that while many children thrive, too many children are not receiving the support they need to be successful. Last year, fewer than six in 10 students in the district reached proficiency in reading and math.

“Alarming and unacceptable achievement disparities persist for students of color, students with special needs, students living in poverty or students whose native language is not English. For far too many of our students, demography continues to equal their destiny,” Caulk said.

“The fact that nearly half of our children are not meeting academic standards is unacceptable and represents a moral failure on the part of our entire community. But this failure is neither the result of maliciousness, nor incompetence on the part of our hard-working educators.”

He said the failure to ensure the success of all students is the result of a system that has not responded to evolving student demographics, community needs, societal trends and school expectations.

More teachers will be hired for gifted and talented students and those whose native language is not English.

Jessica Hiler, president of the Fayette County Education Association, praised the plan, as did parent Annette Jett.

Fayette County board member Amanda Ferguson said it was the most detailed plan she had seen from a superintendent since she had been on the school board.

There will be more racially diverse staff and existing staff will better help minority children, Caulk said.

Classroom instruction must meet the needs and learning styles of all students, assisting struggling learners while including enrichment, depth, and complexity for students who are ready to move ahead, he said. While some specialized programs provide high levels of rigor, students who do not enroll in those programs still need to be challenged, Caulk said. The district must do everything possible to focus on hiring and retaining more effective and diverse teachers, he said.

Caulk said the district will make better use of data. According to the district reviews Caulk recently commissioned, the district generates a significant amount of data but does not use the data to inform decisions or track progress.

Caulk, along with the United Way of the Bluegrass, will ask people in the community to give 10 volunteer hours each month to schools.

Also, Caulk will launch a family university to empower families about issues involving their students.

A districtwide high school student voice team will be created along with student voice teams at each high school.

In all, Caulk said, more than 12,750 people weighed in on the plan, called the “Blueprint for Student Success: Achieving Educational Excellence and Equity for All.”

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

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader