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Utopia ISD superintendent retiring

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Posted: Wednesday, December 6, 2017 12:00 pm

Utopia Independent School District Superintendent John Walts retired the first time 10 years ago, but now he expects the decision will stick.

Walts changed his mind about retiring in 2007 and has remained as the Utopia superintendent ever since, though working only part-time as the Utopia’s education chief over that period.

In an interview this week, the superintendent said after working as Utopia’s superintendent for 15 years and in education for 34 years, he’s ready to step down again.

“My patience has worn a little thin,” said Walts, who was an ag teacher and a principal in Utopia for six years before leaving teaching for 11 years and returning to Utopia as superintendent in 2003.  “I’m calling it quits.”

He said he had really good school boards to work with over the years but also has faced challenges that are common to any superintendent.

“I feel like it was time,” Walts said about his decision to retire.

He said he loves Utopia and has no plans to leave the area.  Walts said he still plans to work in some capacity but probably not in schools.

Utopia School Board President Steve Darden said Walts let the board know about his plans two months ago.  The school board was not dissatisfied with Walts’ performance, said Darden.  He felt that Walts had done “a very good job” for Utopia ISD.

“We’re going to miss him,” said Darden.

Darden said Walts leaves the district in great shape and has agreed to be available to help the new superintendent as he or she gets accustomed to the job.

Walts said his retirement should take effect at the end of May.

The outgoing superintendent characterized the district is being in “pretty good shape.”

He said that the state has never made up the cuts it made in its financial support to Utopia about six years ago, so local tax dollars are the primary source of the district’s operating funds.

While student enrollment has grown in Utopia for two years, student performance is “acceptable” but not as strong as it had been in earlier years, said Walts.

“I wish we could do better,” he said.

Darden said the school board has circulated a survey seeking the community’s input on what qualities it wants to see in a new superintendent.  He expects responses to that survey will weigh heavily in the board’s decision on a replacement.

Darden said the board will decide in the coming board meetings whether to hire a search firm to assist it in looking for a new chief.

While no official timeline has been set on the search, Darden hopes its completed in time for the new superintendent to be on board shortly before Walts exits.  Darden said he knows the board will do what’s needed to find a superintendent who is right for Utopia.

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