IN the end, there was no buyout, no news conference and no messy public feud. Karl Springer's announcement Monday night that he would retire after five years as superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools was strikingly low key.
It came near the beginning of the school board's twice-monthly meeting, which then lasted more than four hours. Not quite four months ago, Springer accepted a three-year contract. “Now is the time for me to retire and begin the next chapter of my life,” he said. Springer will leave the district at the end of August.
Springer has been the longest-serving superintendent in recent memory, in a district that has a history of short-lived leadership. Marvin Crawford served as superintendent from 1995 to 2000, when school board members bought out his contract. Between 2000 and Springer's hiring in 2008, the district went through seven permanent or interim superintendents. The only superintendent in the past three decades to serve longer than Springer was Arthur Stellar, who worked from 1985 to 1992 and left amid controversy.
Springer listed a variety of accomplishments achieved under his leadership, including the district's continuous learning calendar. School board Chairwoman Lynne Hardin noted the stability Springer brought to the district — the very characteristic school and community leaders sought in 2008 when they went looking for a new superintendent. On that note, Springer was a resounding success. He deserves the community's thanks for sticking with a job that is among the most difficult in the city.
The implementation of a new school calendar is notable. So is the relative stability of the district's financial audits. His legacy in improving the school district's student achievement is less clear, as some schools have improved while others still struggle to provide students fundamental math and reading skills. Success stories have often been matched with heartbreaking news of academic disappointments.
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