With more than two years remaining on his contract, the superintendent of Lake Park High School District 108 resigned Wednesday morning.
The announcement followed at least one closed-door school board session and a staff meeting.
John Butts plans to step down effective June 30 and the board will appoint Associate Superintendent Lynne Panega as acting superintendent. Butts has held the post since July 2002 and his contract was not set to expire until June 2012.
The board has not formally approved the changes, although a vote is planned for 8 a.m. Saturday, April 17. Board President Barbara Layer said members also will discuss whether to launch a full-scale search to fill the post.
Butts said he chose to resign because he is seeking new challenges.
"I just think I've been there for eight years and that's a long time for a superintendent," Butts said. "It just gets to be time you want some new challenges and a new start. I think it's what's best for me and best for the district."
Butts said he is pursuing job options both in and out of education. He said he already has several prospects, but could not discuss specifics. He would not reveal if he plans to join another school district.
"Right now everything is a clean slate," he said.
Layer would not comment on whether Butts might be a finalist for a post in another district, whether his resignation was a surprise or why he stepped down.
District officials said they do not have details of the benefits and severance owed Butts because he is departing before his contract expires.
During his tenure as superintendent, the district realized gains in student achievement, balanced the budget for four consecutive years, and successfully completed major building additions and renovations. He also played a role in negotiating and approving two, four-year collective bargaining agreements with the Lake Park Education Association.
Currently, however, the district faces a $1.7 million deficit in next year's budget due to sagging revenues. Many school districts throughout the state are facing similar woes.
To trim the budget, which totals roughly $50 million, the board and administrators have discussed measures such as reducing supply purchases by 10 percent; cutting capital spending on computers, furniture and student desks by 50 percent; raising student fees for some programs like driver's ed or instituting bus fees for field trips; and reducing landscaping to save $25,000.
Butts said there is no major contention between him and the board on those issues or others.
"It's just more that, over time, some of the same frustrations build up and it just gets to be that it is time for a change," he said.
Layer declined to comment on the issue, saying only that a formal statement released by the board was crafted jointly with Butts. It says the two "agree that there have been many successes over the past eight years, but also agree that it is time for a new generation of leadership."
Butts added that he will miss the students, parents and staff at Lake Park and appreciates "being part of the adventure."
"More good things have happened this year than most schools have in a lifetime," he said. "Every play, every game; it's hard to think this is not going to be part of my life any more."