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Philadelphia school administrator tapped as Portland’s next superintendent

Seth Koenig | BDN
Seth Koenig | BDN
Emmanuel Caulk, an assistant superintendent in the Philadelphia public school system, meets with teachers, parents and administrators in a public discussion Tuesday evening, May 29, 2012, at Casco Bay High School.

PORTLAND, Maine — Emmanuel Caulk, an administrator with the Philadelphia public schools, has been chosen as the new superintendent of schools for Portland.

Caulk has accepted the job offer made by Portland’s search committee and is prepared to begin work in Maine’s largest school district Aug. 20. His appointment must be officially confirmed by the larger board of education at its July 9 meeting.

“From a field of 159 applicants from all over the country, we have selected an educational leader with a range of skills and experience that closely match our position profile and the work currently under way in Portland,” Sarah Thompson, the school board member who chaired the search committee, said in a statement. “From curriculum planning to staff evaluations to high school reform, Mr. Caulk brings practical experience to areas of great need in Portland Public Schools.”

While few details of Caulk’s proposed contract were made immediately available Friday, board of education Chairwoman Kate Snyder said in a statement that district officials negotiated an “innovative” deal that “ties a 5 percent merit pay incentive in years two and three to successful implementation of districtwide strategies and systems to improve teaching, learning and student outcomes.”

Caulk was one of two finalists for the position who agreed to meet with the public in Portland, holding a series of question-and-answer sessions during a visit to the city in late May. Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, deputy superintendent in the Paterson, N.J., public schools, also met with the public in Portland.

If his employment deal is confirmed by the school board, he will replace outgoing Superintendent James Morse, whose last day with the district is officially Saturday. Deering High School Principal Ira Waltz had been lined up by the board to serve as an interim superintendent while awaiting the arrival of Caulk, and to help with the transition to a new top administrator.

Morse, who announced in October he would be stepping down after three years on the job, has accepted a job as the superintendent for the Durham, N.H.,-based Oyster River School District.

During outreach efforts by PROACT, the Illinois-based consulting firm hired by Portland to aid in its superintendent search, focus groups around Maine’s largest city widely supported the pursuit of candidates with experience in diverse, urban school systems — as opposed to administrators with small, rural districts seeking jumps to more populated systems.

In Caulk, those survey respondents and forum attendees will be satisfied. In his assistant superintendent capacity, Caulk currently oversees 36 Philadelphia schools and 16,500 students, more than twice the school population he will see in Portland.

During his visit to Portland in May, he told parents and teachers he would seek to establish community advisory groups associated with the local schools in the district as a way to seek fresh ideas and build community support for the system. He said he would hope to provide faculty members with professional development help as soon as they need it, and would track student success meticulously.

“Emmanuel Caulk brings skills and experience using data, best practice and resources to boost achievement for students at all levels of proficiency along the spectrum,” said Snyder. “He is committed to all students performing at their fullest potential.”

Caulk has also served as a top administrator in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System in Louisiana and in Chicago’s public schools before moving to Philadelphia.

“In East Baton Rouge, he implemented high school redesign initiatives across the lowest performing high schools, implemented a tiered intervention model for school supports, increased the number of advanced placement and dual enrollment courses and implemented a dropout prevention and re-entry program for nontraditional students,” stated a Friday announcement issued by the Portland Public Schools. “The changes resulted in a rise in student achievement.”

Caulk earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Delaware, his juris doctoral degree from the Widener University School of Law, and is completing his dissertation to obtain a doctoral degree from National-Louis University, according to the district.

“I am very excited to be chosen as the new superintendent of the Portland public schools,” said Caulk in a statement Friday. “The future of Portland is inextricably linked to the success of our public schools. Therefore, it is incumbent upon our schools to ensure that each and every student has the opportunity to develop his or her talents fully, and that our students are prepared with the skills necessary to excel in college and in their future careers in this global market.

“I believe in the limitless potential of young people, and I cannot wait to begin this critical work,” he continued. “I look forward to working with parents, teachers, stakeholders and the greater Portland community as we work together to improve the life chances of Portland’s children.”

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