SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City School District Superintendent McKell Withers has announced his plan to retire at the end of the 2015-16 school year after holding the position for 13 years.

The announcement came in a letter Withers sent to the district's Board of Education on Friday where he said "it is time for me to consider other avenues to support our students, families and staff." He will keep the position until June 30.

"I have just thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to serve kids in the neighborhood I grew up in," Withers said Monday. "I might try and figure out ways to get back into a classroom somewhere. That's something I look forward to."

Withers has held the position since 2003 and currently oversees the instruction of some 25,000 students in Utah's capital city. Prior to his appointment, Withers was an assistant superintendent in the Granite School District and served as a principal and a teacher in that district. He specializes in working with special needs students and is a graduate of the University of Utah and South High School.

Withers said he made the announcement at the beginning of the school year to give board members time to discuss selecting a new superintendent for the district.

Board President Heather Bennett said she has enjoyed working with Withers for several years.

"I am saddened to receive this news," Bennett said in a prepared statement. "Dr. Withers has been a tremendous advocate for students throughout his tenure in this district and has earned the respect of colleagues and policymakers around the country. I look forward to working with him over the next 10 months to finalize our current strategic plan and further improve student performance."

Withers said he has sought to increase school safety and student performance in several facets, such as through community learning centers. The district currently has three centers, which offer holistic support services for students and their families through early childhood education, health and wellness, and adult education opportunities.

"If you make connections with the family in their own community, you build additional supports for kids to be successful," he said. "We've started to model that not only for the community and the state, but some of the things that we've done with community learning centers can change communities across the whole country."

District spokesman Jason Olsen said board members will begin the process of considering candidates for the superintendent position in the coming months.

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