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School Board Appoints Marlene Helm Interim Superintendent Of FCPS

By unanimous vote, the Fayette County Board of Education has agreed to appoint Marlene Helm as Acting Superintendent of the Fayette County Public Schools.

“Dr. Helm’s variety of experiences and familiarity with our school district make her uniquely suited to hit the ground running and tackle the challenges we face,” said Fayette County Board of Education Chair John Price in a news release.

Thursday’s vote marks the second time in a decade that Helm has been named interim schools chief for FCPS.   She previously served as Acting Superintendent for three months in the spring of 2004 after then-superintendent Ken James resigned less than a year into his contract, and before Stu Silberman was hired.

“Not only has she stepped into this role for Fayette County in the past, Dr. Helm has also served in an interim capacity in many challenging situations with other organizations and has been highly successful,” Price said. “We are confident she will surpass our high expectations.”

No stranger to the Fayette County Public Schools, Dr. Helm began her career teaching sixth grade science and reading at Breckinridge Elementary School.   After six years as a Director of Elementary Curriculum in Scott County, she returned to FCPS and over the next 14 years held a variety of administrative positions, including, Personnel Supervisor, Director of State and Federal Programs, Director of Early Start (KERA Preschool), Assistant to the Superintendent, Affirmative Action Officer, and Director of Elementary Schools.

“I am humbled and honored to have been selected by the school board to serve as the Acting Superintendent during this interim period,” Helm said. “I will approach this role with tenacity and a sense of urgency.   My focus will be on improving, clarifying and correcting that which needs to be better, and helping to craft a new vision for persistent areas of concern and challenge.”

The school board has identified the following top priorities for Helm: improving culture, climate and communications, maintaining a focus on student achievement, addressing the issues in the state audit, continuing the process of redrawing school attendance boundaries, and moving forward on the budget and staffing allocation efforts.

“I expect long days and many meetings, school visits, work and planning sessions. I am actually energized by what I know will be a tremendous opportunity to help make a profound difference in the lives of children,” Helm said. “I am committed to educational excellence, high expectations and equity for all children and I will work tirelessly to ensure the district is closing achievement gaps and providing each child with a quality education.”

Helm has most recently served as a Branch Manager with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and a Lead Evaluator for AdvancED.   Her experience also includes service as Commissioner of Social Services for the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, Secretary of the Education, Arts and Humanities Cabinet for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and interim Dean of the College of Education at Eastern Kentucky University. She has also taught graduate teacher education courses at Georgetown College and the University of Kentucky.

“Dr. Helm’s exposure to what’s happening in education on a statewide and national scale will be a huge benefit,” Price said. “Her service with more than three dozen community boards and existing relationships throughout Fayette County will also help garner the community support we are going to need to accomplish our goals for all students.”

Price underscored the importance of making significant movement in closing achievement gaps and implementing the 10 Equity Council recommendations recently approved by the school board.

“Dr. Helm has a proven track record of putting students first and working to ensure high achievement for all students,” Price said. “We know that’s where her heart lies and based on our past experiences with her, that needs to be our focus.”

Although Helm’s service will not officially begin until January, her contract provides for her to work up to 12 days this month in order to overlap with outgoing superintendent Tom Shelton. Her contract extends through June 30, since the school board has previously said they hope to have a permanent schools chief in place to start July 1.   But her contract also includes language that her service could be extended if a permanent superintendent is not in place by then.   Her salary will be $1,000 a day, which is slightly less than Shelton’s current daily rate of pay.

The board also voted to name Chief Operating Officer Mary Wright as superintendent designee from Dec. 13 through Dec. 31, the time period during which Shelton officially remains superintendent, but will no longer be working in the district because of accrued leave time.

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