Portland School Board plans quick decision on interim superintendent

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PORTLAND — The School Board on Tuesday night met behind closed doors to discuss how it will replace Superintendent of Schools Emmanuel Caulk.

The board did not reconvene after the executive session, and did not vote or name an interim replacement.

Following the meeting, Chairwoman Sarah Thompson said the board expects to appoint an interim replacement within the next week. She said there is no date set for Caulk’s departure.

“By the end of next week I hope we have idea of possible interim replacement as well as an agreed upon departure date for (Caulk),” Thompson said.

Caulk, 43, is leaving to become superintendent of the 40,000-student Fayette County Public Schools in Lexington, Kentucky. He was hired by the district on June 27, after being unanimously approved by the Fayette County School Board.

On Tuesday, before the School Board meeting, Caulk said he was “deeply humbled” by the opportunity to head the Lexington school system, but also grateful to the Portland School Board for “giving me the opportunity to serve the students and families of Portland.”

Caulk said part of the attraction of the Kentucky post are his family roots. His grandfather was a coal miner in Pike County, Kentucky, and his father was born there.

“I remember listening to my grandfather speak of life in Kentucky,” Caulk said. “And as fate would have it, (my wife and I) are looking to merge our lives in Kentucky as well.”

Caulk was hired by Portland in 2012, following stints as assistant superintendent of schools in Philadelphia and in East Baton Rouge Parish in Louisiana. He said he did not seek the Kentucky post, and was not considering any other jobs when the Fayette County opportunity was presented to him.

“I’ve enjoyed my time in Maine,” Caulk said. “What I’ll miss most are the people and relationships I’ve forged.”

Thompson said she does not begrudge Caulk for leaving, acknowledging that when they hired him he was a “young up-and-comer” who they couldn’t keep forever. She said Caulk “moved the needle for us in many ways.”

“I don’t want us to lose momentum, we’re not going to step backwards,” Thompson said. “We’ll keep moving forwards.”

She added the interim replacement “is not going to warm a seat,” but “will do the work” to help the district stay the course.

Caulk was one of two candidates interviewed for the Kentucky position last week. The other was Terri Breeden, the assistant superintendent of the Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia.

Caulk said he hopes to be working in Kentucky by Aug. 12, and will work out his departure with the Portland School Board.

Caulk came to Portland after a difficult time in the School Department’s history. A budget crisis ultimately caused former Superintendent Mary Jo O’Connor to resign in 2007; James Morse replaced her, and left after three years.

Caulk will receive a salary of $240,000 in Kentucky. His salary in Portland was $137,500. In November, the School Board voted unanimously to extend Caulk’s contract to June 2019.

Caulk said he is leaving the Portland Public Schools in a good place. He cited as achievements increased student success and outcomes; improved organizational effectiveness; investment in infrastructure and facilities; increased education times in the schools, and a “revamped budget process which allowed for more community input.”

“The structures are there for the work to continue,” Caulk said.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Sidebar Elements

Portland Superintendent of Schools Emmanuel Caulk was unanimously approved as the next school chief in Lexington, Kentucky.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.