Columbia school superintendent retiring in June

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Chris Belcher announced on Wednesday he is retiring, effective June 30.

Belcher had already indicated he was eligible for retirement in an email sent to district faculty and staff on Dec. 10. Belcher was first hired as superintendent in 2009.

The decision comes in the middle of the district's extensive 10-year expansion process, but leaders said a change at the top would have little effect on the plans.

In 2010, voters approved a $120 million bond issue to build Battle High School and fund several other projects. In 2012, the district also passed another $50 million bond issue to fund construction of a new elementary school.

An upcoming $50 million bond issue is also on the table for April to pay for another elementary school and other improvements.

According to the 10-year plan, the district will ask for $40 million bond measures in 2016, 2018 and 2020.

Belcher said his experience in the Columbia school district was one he will look back on fondly.

"I've worked in multiple school districts," he said. "I've felt multiple cultures. I've been in the community. This is exceptional."

School Board members say to remain exceptional, they must begin the process to find a candidate to take over Belcher's role immediately.

"We will move expeditiously, but yet in a controlled manner and try to find the best candidate and that person will hopefully be able to work with Dr. Belcher so there's a smooth transition into this next upcoming school year," said School Board President Christine King.

But first, the seven-member board must meet to decide how they plan to search.

"On Monday in executive session, the school board will meet and actually talk about what our plans are for the next step, so we'll talk about do we want to do an external search or an internal search or both," King said.

The board will then decide when to post the job and set a hiring timeline from there.

King said she believes the job will get quite a few applicants.

"I really do believe that Dr. Belcher has positioned Columbia Public Schools at point where this is a very desirable job for people," she said.

As for Belcher, he feels the timing was right.

"It's a good time for someone else to come in and continue to advance the same goals, the same values, the same issues we've been dealing with, because the board knows what it wants," he said.

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