The president of the Millard school board said Wednesday that the district will fast-track the process of replacing superintendent Keith Lutz.
Lutz, 66, announced his retirement Wednesday after 25 years with the district, 17 of them as superintendent. His last day will be June 30, 2014.
Mike Pate, president of the Millard board, said district officials will start interviewing search firms in the next few weeks. He hopes the district can get applicants before the end of the year, because those candidates will have to give notice to their own districts.
Pate said the board will be looking for someone who will understand the culture that the Millard district built under Lutz's leadership.
“We're not necessarily interested in changing our culture, but someone who can embrace what we've built,” he said.
Pate said Lutz led the district through budget and finance challenges and oversaw the creation of an Advanced Placement culture.
Also on Lutz's watch, the district established an International Baccalaureate program and choice programs, he said.
Pate said Millard will miss Lutz's leadership.
“We're going to hate to see him go. It's going to be hard to find a replacement,” Pate said.
Lutz said his retirement was not a spur-of-the-moment decision.
“My family and I came to this conclusion months ago that this would be my last year,” he said.
He said the biggest challenge of his term in Millard was leading the district during the bitter controversy that erupted in 2005 when Omaha tried to take over parts of Millard under the one-city, one-school-district initiative.
“I've achieved beyond expectations, in my own mind,” he said. “Never when I was a young man did I think I would ever end up in a school district like Millard.”
He said he hopes some of the district's success can be attributed to him. He said he's confident that Millard's success will continue without him.
“I'm leaving a really competent team, a really talented team in place, lots of great people to carry it on. I don't expect them to miss a beat.”
Lutz said he has not applied for state retirement yet, but with 30 years of service he will receive an annual retirement of about $150,000 through the Nebraska Public
Employees Retirement System. He will also receive about $30,000 a year for the next five years through Millard's voluntary separation program, he said.
Lutz has overseen the district during a period of considerable growth and change, including its shift into the 11-district Learning Community.
While growth has slowed from its heyday, enrollment in pre-K through 12th grade continues to rise, increasing an average of 375 students a year over the past decade.
Voters in May approved a $79.9 million bond issue. More than a third of that will pay for improved security districtwide. The rest will cover additional classrooms and upgrades to what district officials say is deteriorating and failing infrastructure, including mechanical, electrical and lighting systems, roofing, paving and general maintenance.
Currently, the district is proposing sweeping changes to school attendance boundaries, aimed at balancing uneven growth.
Lutz joined the district in 1989 as assistant superintendent for human resources. He also served as interim superintendent before being selected superintendent in 1996. He was named Nebraska superintendent of the year in 2009 by the Nebraska Association of School Boards and the Nebraska Association of School Administrators.
He holds a bachelor's degree from Dickinson State University in Dickinson, N.D., and a master's degree in education from North Dakota State University in Fargo. He earned a doctorate in educational administration from Texas A&M-Commerce in Commerce, Texas.
Lutz began his career as a high school science teacher and coach in Taylor, N.D. He then became principal and superintendent of the district.
He also served as superintendent in Elgin, N.D., and as a member of the faculty at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill., before joining the Millard district.
He and his wife, JoAnn, who has spent her career as a teacher, have two sons and four grandchildren.