Higley Unified School District Associate Superintendent Denise Birdwell will become the district’s interim superintendent starting Friday .
The district’s governing board Thursday night approved releasing Superintendent Joyce Lutrey from her contract a year early. She will officially depart the district June 30 and will work with Birdwell and the district to complete any projects from now through the end of her employment.
There is no buyout, just an early release from her contract, Lutrey said.
According to a joint separation statement, Lutrey plans to seek opportunities “outside the district to advance her career knowing the district is making great strides with the goal and plan in place to achieve excelling labels for every district school.”
According to the statement, “She believes the district is well positioned to move forward as a new governing board takes shape in January 2009.”
Birdwell said she has enjoyed working with the Higley school district, and she looks forward to serving students and teachers in her new role.
The board also approved a $6,000 stipend for Birdwell as she assumes duties as the interim superintendent along with her current associate superintendent pay.
“We have got some difficult decisions to make, but I have a wonderful team that will not let anything fall through the cracks,” Birdwell said. “I think we have a good board coming in.”
The new board, which includes new members Greg Land and Paul Howell, who will be seated in January, will decide how to search for a new superintendent.
Lutrey has been with the district for five years. In eight years, the district has grown from one school to nine.
The governing board and Lutrey said the decision is amicable; however, a group of parents earlier this year circulated a petition, which collected more than 500 signatures that asked Lutrey to step down. There has been a lot of criticism from parents and at least one board member about Lutrey’s leadership of the district.
School board member Kim Anderson, who has been critical of Lutrey in the past, said the negotiations were “very cordial.”
Anderson said that this decision “is going to be good for everyone.”