This month’s spotlight features Emmanuel Caulk (The Broad Academy 2017-2018), Superintendent of Fayette County Public Schools and 2019 Kentucky Superintendent of the Year.
What initiative are you currently working on?
In partnership with our local chamber of commerce, we are reinventing the high school experience to better prepare students for college and professional success in today’s competitive global economy. We have transformed our large, comprehensive high schools into “The Academies of Lexington” – small, career-themed, academies aligned with growing industries. As ninth-graders, students explore their strengths and interests, visiting college campuses and learning about potential career paths. Students then select an “academy” where they complete their high school coursework through the lens of a field of study such as engineering, medicine, information technology, education, manufacturing, business or professional services.
What is the most exciting potential outcome of this initiative?
In The Academies of Lexington, students work closely with professionals in their field of interest, participating in job shadowing, internships and other career exploration activities. This adds relevance to their studies and connects classroom knowledge to success in the workplace. Fayette County is raising the bar for our graduates. Our goal is not high school completion. We want our students to be future ready – equipped to excel in whatever field they choose for themselves, because the true benchmark of success is not a high school diploma, but where that diploma takes our students in life.
What is your vision for the organization in the next five years?
Our strategic plan charts the course to becoming a world-class system of great schools in which all students – regardless of demography or zip code – attend safe and inviting schools where they are welcomed by caring and committed staff and engaged in challenging learning activities. Our promise to the community is that every student who enters the doors of the district graduates academically prepared, college and career ready, civically engaged, culturally competent and equipped for the future. We will continue to bend the arc of justice toward equity until every child reaches his or her unlimited potential.
What inspires you to do this work?
Education changed my life, and my calling is to share that gift with the children and families we serve. I grew up in abject poverty – under the weight of institutionalized racism and the cycle of poverty – in a city so violent it was nicknamed “Murder Town USA.” My path to a better life began at the schoolhouse door, and I credit my mother and my first male teacher with illuminating the way. My mother gave me the heart of a servant leader, raising me to make the best of every opportunity and to understand my moral obligation to help others, while my teacher encouraged me to dream bigger than I’d ever dared. My work today is an effort to do on a larger scale what they did for me by making a difference in the lives of the children we serve.
What is the last education-related book you read?
Find Your Why by Simon Sinek. Education is more than an occupation – it is a vocation, a calling. Our work is mission driven and requires that members of our team work from their why so that together we can change the world for the children and families we serve.