Portland school board moves early to extend superintendent’s contract

Portland Public Schools Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk is shown in this Aug. 15, 2013 photo.
Portland Public Schools Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk is shown in this Aug. 15, 2013 photo. Buy Photo
Posted Feb. 26, 2014, at 6:28 a.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — The Portland Board of Public Education announced Tuesday night it voted to extend the contract of Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk by one year.

Caulk received the extension less than two years into his initial three-year deal, which was set to expire June 30, 2015.

But while Caulk’s contract wasn’t set to run out imminently, the move helps lock down one of Portland’s most visible public officials at a time when multiple nearby school districts have been competing to fill top administrator jobs.

Over the last six months, school departments in Yarmouth, Falmouth, Cumberland and Freeport, among others, have launched searches for new superintendents, although some of those positions have since been filled.

With the Portland board’s latest action, the former Philadelphia school administrator will remain under contract through June of 2016. Caulk makes an annual salary of $137,500.

“By extending Mr. Caulk’s contract now, the board would like to convey that the board and the superintendent are working well as a team and that the community can expect continuity and stability in the leadership of Portland Public Schools,” board chairwoman Sarah Thompson said in a statement.

While the period of transition in Portland has settled down in recent months, the decision to secure Caulk may help calm public nerves in the aftermath of heavy turnover at City Hall. Caulk was hired in 2012, in the midst of an approximately two-year period in which Portland hired a new city manager, fire chief, police chief, deputy city manager, planning director, top attorney and mayor.

Caulk also took the post after his predecessor, James Morse, held the position for only three years before deciding not to seek a contract renewal.

In his nearly 18 months on the job, Caulk has already presided over a difficult budget cycle, in which city and school leaders blamed state budget cuts for a spending plan that included approximately 40 job cuts.

But he has also stepped forward to bear some of the district’s financial pain, taking furlough days this year to help balance the budget and passing on a 5-percent pay raise he was eligible for.

He has also been credited with an aggressive outreach campaign to help network the schools better in the community, by inviting local business leaders in as “ Principals for a Day,” a survey of district parents and the launch of an online “ toolkit” to allow the public to more actively weigh in on the budget process underway.

Under Caulk’s watch, the district has also acted quickly to acquire and renovate the 50,000-square-foot former Goodwill Industries building on Cumberland Avenue, providing much-needed new permanent homes for the department’s central office, the West Program for students with emotional disabilities and mental health diagnoses, and the Multilingual and Multicultural Center.

Earlier on Tuesday, Caulk was on hand as Portland High School’s newly expanded and renovated in-house health center was dedicated in the name of longtime school nurse Amanda Rowe.

“Despite the many challenges that come with leading the largest, most diverse school system in Maine during difficult financial times, Mr. Caulk has always put the needs of our students first,” Thompson said in a statement. “He has remained focused on helping us build a world-class school system for a great city, and has spent countless hours holding listening and learning sessions with staff, parents and other stakeholders throughout the community.

“Mr. Caulk was brought here to bring leadership, stability and innovation to our school system and he has succeeded on all counts,” she continued.

 

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