Three years after joining the Portland Public Schools, Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk is one of two finalists to lead the 40,000-student Lexington, Kentucky, public school system, officials said Friday.

Caulk was hired in July 2012 to be Portland’s school superintendent, and has several years remaining on his contract. The school board voted unanimously this past November to extend his contract to June 2019.

“I am most grateful to the school board for its support and I consider it a privilege and an honor to have been able to serve Portland Public Schools students, staff and families and the Portland community for the past three years,” Caulk said in a news release issued by the Portland Public Schools.

“I will miss Portland, but I’m eager to take on a new career challenge that represents an opportunity for me personally and professionally.”

Caulk did not return messages seeking comment Friday, and the news release did not address the question of whether he would give up his post in Portland if he does not get the job in Kentucky.

Caulk is one of two finalists to be superintendent of Fayette County Public Schools in Kentucky. The other candidate is Terri Breeden, assistant superintendent of Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia. Caulk and Breeden will be interviewed in person next week, and meet with community members through forums and receptions, according to Lisa Deffendall, spokeswoman for the Fayette County Public Schools.

Portland School Board Chairwoman Sarah Thompson said she hoped Caulk would stay in Portland.

“I think he’s really done a great job for Portland. My hope is that he will potentially consider staying,” Thompson said. “Certainly the board would love for him to stay.”

Thompson said the board would find a possible interim superintendent and then search for a permanent replacement if Caulk decides to leave.

Deffendall said Caulk and his wife would be in Lexington on Tuesday and Wednesday. Caulk got married last week, according to Thompson

Thompson called Caulk “a transformational superintendent,” noting his work on upgrading school facilities, his focus on student achievement and particularly his efforts to improve community outreach.

“It’s huge, the amount he’s accomplished in three years,” she said.

Caulk, 43, joined the Portland school district when it was still recovering financially from a budget crisis that led then-superintendent Mary Jo O’Connor to resign in 2007. She was succeeded by James Morse, who left after his three-year term.

During Caulk’s tenure, the district adopted a new Spanish immersion program, and expanded pre-kindergarten classes in the district. He also was the first superintendent to have charter schools in the area drawing students from the district, creating a drain on district finances.


In recent months, he has overseen an agreement to allow high school students to ride Portland Metro instead of traditional yellow buses, and extend the school day by 20 minutes for all students.

He also created a “district scorecard” to collect various student and district data in one place, and set future benchmarks for improvement. He had to relaunch the scorecard after the initial product had data errors. A contractor’s mistake indicated scores in 11th-grade writing and science had doubled, when they had barely changed.

He also proposed, and then withdrew, a plan to launch a virtual school within the district. Caulk said he wanted to lure back students who had left the district for area charter schools, but withdrew the plan after criticism from Maine’s commissioner of education and Portland’s mayor.

Caulk has an annual salary of $137,500. The Lexington position is posted at between $235,000 and $255,000. The last superintendent there, Tom Shelton, left in December to be executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents.

“Our community asked us to find a superintendent with a record of success in an urban school district and documented results of consistently improving achievement for all students,” Fayette County Board of Education Chairman John Price said in a news release announcing the selection of Caulk and Breeden as finalists. “We are confident that as superintendent these two transformational leaders would put children at the center of every decision he or she makes, and rebuild trust and strengthen relationships with students, employees, families and the community at large.”

Before coming to Portland, Caulk worked in Philadelphia as an assistant superintendent in charge of a division with 36 schools and 16,500 students, more than twice Portland’s enrollment of roughly 7,000 students.

“I think he’s done a lot of work in the community. He’s been an engaging superintendent who understands equality in education,” said board member Pious Ali. “I’m proud to have had the opportunity to work with him.”

Board member Holly Seeliger said she was surprised by the announcement.

“I think it’s unfortunate that Manny is leaving us,” she said.

“I know Manny worked really hard and tried to make Maine work for him, but I don’t know if Maine was the best fit for him,” Seeliger said. “I hope we can find a superintendent with ties to Maine and some experience with Maine education.”

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

[email protected]