Lexington school Superintendent Paul Ash announced at Tuesday's School Committee meeting that he will retire on June 30, 2015.
Ash, who has served as superintendent for nearly nine years, said in a prepared statement that he is stepping down from his role to take a new position at a large national educational consulting company. He said he announced his retirement now to ensure that the School Committee has time to find a new candidate for superintendent.
Ash's announcement comes as School Committeee members were negotiating a contract extension for Ash beyond the 2014- 2015 school year.
The committee voted 3 to 2 in December 2013 to enter into contract negotiations with Ash, whose contract ran through June 2015.
School Committee Chair Margaret Coppe said the committee had had several negotiation sessions, and that she had met with Ash on behalf of the committee, but that her team had not reached any conclusions before Ash announced his retirement.
Coppe called Ash a superb leader and said that he turned around the school system’s finances, which were in a tenuous place nine years ago.
“We have one of the best school systems in the state, if not the country. A lot of that has to do with his leadership. He will be missed,” Coppe said. “Our responsibility as a School Committee now is to make sure we continue to keep up the high standards of our students and schools and to find someone who can continue with the leadership
standards that he practiced.”
Ash’s tenure as superintendent was marked with both accomplishment and controversy, with some Lexington residents and officials lauding him for steering the district through the worst years of the recession and for his willingness to discuss issues with members of the public, and others criticizing him for perceived problems with transparency and teacher morale.
Ash said in his statement that he is proud of Lexington’s high SAT and MCAS scores, and he said during his tenure the achievement gap has closed significantly.
He also pointed to the schools’ strong financial situation and the good condition of its facilities.
Coppe said she and her fellow School Committee members found out about Ash’s planned retirement yesterday, so they have not devised a process for finding a new superintendent. But she said the committee has already received offers of help from two prior School Committee members who hired Ash, and that it will soon start setting dates for the hiring process.