Karl Springer's goodbye was a lot like the man himself: quiet and without fanfare.
The Oklahoma City Public Schools superintendent had a written statement but mostly said what he felt.
“Now's the time in my life to make a significant change,” Springer said during a school board meeting Monday night. “Oklahoma City Public Schools is in a better place than what it was five years ago. ... Now is the time for me to retire and open the next chapter in my life.”
Springer, 64, will retire Aug. 30 after five years at the helm of the state's largest school district.
The audience was quiet. Some knew what was coming.
Others sat with mouths open in shock. About four months ago, Springer had agreed to a three-year contract.
But Monday, he spoke for a few minutes and thanked district employees.
“Together we've made important and long-term change,” Springer said. “I'll always be an advocate for the Oklahoma City Public Schools and for public education.”
Much has changed since Springer took over the job in 2008.
The school year was expanded, and school days got 20 minutes longer. A virtual school opened.
Springer described academic gains as “incremental.” Some schools improved a little. Some stayed the same. Most are still behind.
An investigation into practices at Douglass High School unearthed grade and absence fraud. The principal resigned and Springer put in a replacement who led the students to graduation, despite years of academic mismanagement.
The recession hit the budget hard; layoffs and furloughs followed. Springer took a voluntary $25,000 pay cut. Dunbar Elementary was closed.
New academies opened at area high school, giving students specialized training in subjects like finance and health. Transportation was improved to get children where they needed to go.
Uniforms were in. A grade-changing policy was out.
Teacher recruitment efforts expanded across the country. Teach for America came to the district.
The challenges remain, namely poverty. But Springer said he is hopeful for what lies ahead
“There are teachers, administrators, support staff and Board of Education members in this district who are focused on children and their successes,” he said. “They don't get the recognition they deserve, but they are changing lives on a daily basis.”