Superintendant Bill Huyett speaks on the first day of the 2011 school year at Rosa Parks Elementary. Photo: Rachel Anderson

In a surprise move, Berkeley Unified School Superintendent Bill Huyett announced today that he will retire on June 30, 2012.

In a statement published on the BUSD website, Huyett said: “I was drawn to Berkeley because I saw an opportunity to work on the achievement gap. With a committed Board, dedicated staff, an involved community and the 2020 Vision, much has been accomplished in the past four years.  Now I’m ready to pass the torch so I can spend more time with my wife and family.”

“Bill is an intense family man,” said BUSD spokesperson Mark Coplan, adding that when Huyett accepted his current position, his wife took retirement. “Bill’s wife has been enjoying retirement for four years now and Bill would like to do the same,” he said.

Huyett has had a 38-year career in public education. He came to BUSD four years ago, replacing Michele Lawrence who retired in 2007. Huyett had previously served as superintendent in Dixon and Lodi.

The Berkeley Board of Education will start looking for Huyett’s replacement soon. Coplan said the board may take the route of hiring a consultant to help with the process as it did four years ago with Lawrence’s recruitment.  “It’s up to the board to define the approach,” he said.

Typically, assistant superintendents and principals of large high schools of the calibre of Berkeley’s would apply, Coplan said.

Coplan said that although the job is a tough one — four years ago there were 50 openings for school district superintendents in the state, reflecting the difficulty of attracting people to the position — Berkeley is a relatively appealing proposition compared to many other school districts.

“We in good shape,” he said. “We are not in financial trouble. You can probably count on one hand the number of districts with balanced budgets. And initiatives like 20:20 Vision are impacting student achievement gap,” he said. Coplan also cites the $23 million BSEP money and the $210 million that has been committed to construction for schools locally.

The flip side, he said, is the relatively high cost of living locally compared to other locations.

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...