In a statement released by Wilton Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Gary Richards has informed the Board of Education of his intention to retire, effective December 31, 2013.

Dr. Richards’ announcement signals the conclusion of another chapter in a distinguished 42 year career in education, including 27 years of service as a superintendent and almost 10 years of service to Wilton. Dr. Richards has been Superintendent of the Wilton Schools since 2004. Prior to that he was Superintendent of the Oak Park, California Unified School District, the New Canaan, Connecticut Public Schools, and the San Marino, California Unified Public School District.

Richards was named “2013 Superintendent of the Year,” by the Connecticut Association of Public Schools Superintendents (CAPSS).

“We accept Dr. Richards’ decision with mixed emotions,” said Wilton Board of Education Chairman Bruce Likly. “Our schools, our children, and our community have benefitted tremendously from Gary’s commitment to educational excellence, and we will miss his guidance and leadership,” Likly said. “At the same time, he has certainly earned a happy and fulfilling retirement, and we wish him the best.”

“Wilton has meant a great deal to me and my family and I have enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to work with such fine people all of these years,” said Dr. Richards. “There is never a perfect time to announce a transition such as this but I am confident now is a good time for me to make this change given the leadership and direction in place within the District.” Added Dr. Richards, “While I am looking forward to fewer late nights and new horizons, I will miss the daily interactions with our wonderful faculty, staff and students.”

Likly said that, pursuant to district policy, a search committee will be convened in the near future to begin the process of identifying a new superintendent. He also said the search would cast a wide net, and solicit qualified candidates to apply from across the country.

“Dr. Richards will leave a large pair of shoes to fill,” Likly said. “And given the critical importance of the superintendent’s position, we will take the necessary time to find the right candidate.”

Dr. Richards has graciously offered to remain flexible with regard to his effective retirement date, in order to help ensure a seamless transition.

“We are grateful to Gary for offering to push his retirement date back a bit if we need more time to find a successor,” Likly said. “This is indicative of the ‘students first’ attitude that has guided Gary throughout his long and successful career.”