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For one KY superintendent, district success is all about relationships

student engagement

“Proud of you.”

For Emmanuel Caulk, superintendent at Fayette County Schools in Ky., these simple words were the inspiration for a life of service and educational leadership.

Caulk still carries the sixth-grade report card with those three handwritten words, a note from one of his most cherished teachers. He uses it as reminder of the importance of educators in inspiring students.

Caulk was recently featured in an Education Week video profile after being named one of the publication’s 2018 Leaders to Learn From.

In its profile of Caulk, Ed Week points to three distinct leadership lessons from his tenure:

  1. Creating a shared mission and values for the entire school community
  2. Developing clear accountability measures and goals to ensure everyone has a stake in district success
  3. Cultivating partnerships

As Caulk tells Ed Week, this last point is key. Great leadership is all about relationships:

“How do you have transformational change? Not reform, but transformational change. I believe you do that from the inside out, but you also have to improve from the outside in as well.”

To do that, Caulk has established important relationships in all phases of his district’s community that lead to empowerment.

In the classroom, Caulk established “empowerment zones,” which provide support teams, extra resources, and extended classroom hours to ramp up student engagement in struggling schools. For parents and other community members, Caulk launched community book clubs and parent-advocacy sessions. And, based on urging from his school board, Caulk also lead efforts to partner with the Ford Motor Company to offer specialized academies that provide students with real-world career experiences.

For Caulk, it’s all about ensuring that every community member–be it students, parents, or staff–feel listened to and empowered to take control of their own success.

School board member Daryl Love sums up Caulk’s success this way: “In Fayette County, for those who feel that they don’t have a voice, in Manny Caulk they have a voice.”

For more on the work of Emmanuel Caulk and Fayette County Schools, check out the full Education Week video report below:

How does your school or district work to build relationships that encourage student engagement, parent involvement, and staff empowerment? Tell us in the comments.

About the Author

Todd Kominiak
Todd is Managing Editor of TrustED. Email: tkominiak@k12insight.com.

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