John Barry, a retired Air Force general and Colorado’s Superintendent of the Year in 2011, announced he will step down from his post as head of Aurora Public Schools at the end of the school year, CBS Denver reports.

Barry's tenure encompassed the tragic Aurora movie theater shooting in July, which the district estimated put 150 former and current Aurora students, parents and staff in immediate danger. The superintendent was recognized earlier this year by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for the district’s reaction to shooting.

APS is Colorado’s sixth-largest district, enrolling nearly 40,000 students. Barry took over the superintendent job in 2006, and says he had only planned to stay with the district for five years, CBS Denver reports. After helping the Aurora district reduce the dropout rate, boost its graduation rate and improve state test scores, he senses now is the time to move on.

According to the Denver Post, Barry informed the district Tuesday morning of his decision to leave before his contract expires in 2014. He says the timing allows the current school board to choose his successor before some of their term-limited seats are up for grabs during next year’s election cycle.

Education News Colorado reports that in his email to staff and community members, Barry cited several accomplishments of his time with the district, including that Aurora students have exceeded state increases in achievement rates for reading, writing, math and science every year since 2006, and have met or surpassed Colorado’s Median Growth Percentile in all subjects since 2006.

The superintendent also notably walked door-to-door, encouraging students to return to the classroom as part of a campaign to combat truancy.

Barry acknowledged the district is not without its challenges; test scores are better but remain low, graduation rates are below the state average and the dropout rate for middle- and high-school students -- while reduced -- is still more than double the statewide rate, according to the Denver Post.

“You may recall that I encourage staff to leave APS better than they found it,” Barry wrote in the email. “Although my decision has been a very difficult one to make, I want you to know I am proud of what our team has accomplished over these many years. I have been honored to serve as your superintendent.”

Barry has not indicated his future plans, but Education News Colorado reports said he and his family plan to remain in Aurora and attend district events, games and performances.

Also on HuffPost:

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  • Kindergarten Kekec by Arhitektura Jure Kotnik -- Ljubljana, Slovenia

    An extension of a typical Slovenian prefab kindergarten from the '80s, the colorful, interactive design is a response to the school's lack of play equipment. The addition's three exterior walls are made of "toy slats": natural wooden planks that the kids can play with to "get to know different colors, experience wood as a natural material and constantly change the appearance of their kindergarten, all at the same time." via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: Miran Kambič via <a href="http://housevariety.blogspot.com/2011/03/kindergarten-kekec-by-arhitektura-jure.html#.UDHC1dDl3nQ">House Variety</a>

  • Kindergarten Kekec by Arhitektura Jure Kotnik -- Ljubljana, Slovenia

    via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: Miran Kambič via <a href="http://housevariety.blogspot.com/2011/03/kindergarten-kekec-by-arhitektura-jure.html#.UDHC1dDl3nQ">House Variety</a>

  • Bailly School Complex by Mikou Design Studio -- Saint-Denis, France

    A catalyst for the development of an up-and-coming community, the bold learning complex houses a pre-school, an elementary school, and a rec center. Circulation is through a series of interior courtyards, allowing children to get fresh air between classes and to have a pleasant -- albeit brief -- experience of the outdoors during an otherwise enclosed school day. via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: Florian Kleinfenn via<a href="http://www.german-architects.com/en/projects/35702_bailly_school_complex/all/featured"> german-architects </a>

  • Bailly School Complex by Mikou Design Studio -- Saint-Denis, France

    via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: Florian Kleinfenn via<a href="http://www.german-architects.com/en/projects/35702_bailly_school_complex/all/featured"> german-architects </a>

  • Crèche Rue Pierre Budin by ECDM -- Paris, France

    Built around an expansive courtyard, this whimsical day-nursery sits in an eclectic Parisian neighborhood next to an intrusive 12-story building. Keeping the size of its Lilliputian inhabitants in mind, the scale of the project is intentionally small, and the design focuses on protection, both from the encroaching building next door and the city in general. The French architects described this elegant, cheerful school by stating that "the goal is to propose for this tiny program a frame of living that generates as much an emotion with the future occupants (children, parents, staff) than the local residents." A win-win situation for the kids and the community. via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: Luc Boegly via<a href="http://www.dezeen.com/2012/06/28/creche-rue-pierre-budin-by-ecdm/"> dezeen </a>

  • Crèche Rue Pierre Budin by ECDM -- Paris, France

    via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: Luc Boegly via<a href="http://www.dezeen.com/2012/06/28/creche-rue-pierre-budin-by-ecdm/"> dezeen </a>

  • Galjoen School by Rocha Tombal -- The Hague, The Netherlands

    This red brick primary school is intended to wind around the site like a giant, motherly crocodile. Tapping into ideas about security and adventure, the designers explain that "with its friendly face and an attractive identity, this 'colorful animal' will improve the atmosphere of the square." Playing off of a pre-existing industrial power station, the two buildings form a protected outdoor play space complete with a garden. via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: Christian Richters via<a href="http://www.dezeen.com/2012/06/28/creche-rue-pierre-budin-by-ecdm/"> dezeen </a>

  • Galjoen School by Rocha Tombal -- The Hague, The Netherlands

    via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: Christian Richters via<a href="http://www.dezeen.com/2012/06/28/creche-rue-pierre-budin-by-ecdm/"> dezeen </a>

  • Timayui Kindergarten by Giancarlo Mazzanti -- Santa Marta, Colombia

    The Timayui preschool is made up of flexible modules surrounding a courtyard like the petals of a flower, creating playgrounds, outdoor classrooms, gardens, and orchards. Not only does the school provide a healthy, inspiring environment for the children, but it also strives to ameliorate the surrounding impoverished community. Hoping to lead by example, the innovative, open-source project was designed to be easily replicated. via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: <a href="http://www.hicarquitectura.com/2011/06/giancarlo-mazzanti-escuela-rural-en.html"> HIC* </a>

  • Timayui Kindergarten by Giancarlo Mazzanti -- Santa Marta, Colombia

    via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: <a href="http://www.hicarquitectura.com/2011/06/giancarlo-mazzanti-escuela-rural-en.html"> HIC* </a>

  • Leimondo Nursery School by Archivision Hirotani Studio -- Nagahama, Japan

    The focal point of this Japanese nursery school is what the architects are calling a House of Light, conical light-wells "of different shapes, different colors and facing different directions, changing with the time and the seasons." The kids are invited to notice the change in light during the year and to play and chase the lights as they move across the walls of the room. Poetic and brilliant. via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: <a href="http://www.architizer.com/en_us/projects/view/the-leimondo-nursery-school/28040/"> Architizer </a>

  • Leimondo Nursery School by Archivision Hirotani Studio -- Nagahama, Japan

    via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: <a href="http://www.architizer.com/en_us/projects/view/the-leimondo-nursery-school/28040/"> Architizer </a>

  • The Josephine Baker Schools by Dominique Coulon & Associés -- La Courneuve, France

    <a href="http://www.coulon-architecte.fr/">Dominique Coulon & Associés</a> have given a lot of thought to the needs of a child, and the difference between children and adults. According to Coulon, "it isn't just another school which has been designed as an area for adults in a micro scale serving children." The designers really wanted to emphasize the relationship between a child's small frame and the space. via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: Eugeni Pons via <a href="http://yatzer.com/The-Josephine-Baker-School-in-La-Courneuve"> Yatzer </a>; Olivier Nicollas via <a href="http://yatzer.com/The-Josephine-Baker-School-in-La-Courneuve"> Yatzer </a>

  • The Josephine Baker Schools by Dominique Coulon & Associés -- La Courneuve, France

    via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: Eugeni Pons via <a href="http://yatzer.com/The-Josephine-Baker-School-in-La-Courneuve"> Yatzer </a>; Olivier Nicollas via <a href="http://yatzer.com/The-Josephine-Baker-School-in-La-Courneuve"> Yatzer </a>

  • Antas Education Centre by AVA Architects -- Porto, Portugal

    The striking simplicity of this project stands out and reminds us of a quote by the great American columnist <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_E._Vaughan">Billy Vaughn</a>, famous for his folksy aphorisms: "A three-year-old child is a being who gets almost as much fun out of a 56-dollar set of swings as it does out of finding a small green worm." Surely a child would find great pleasure and inspiration in this blank green canvas of a space. via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: José Campos via <a href="http://www.arthitectural.com/ava-architects-antas-educative-center/antas-education-center-1/"> Architectural </a>

  • Antas Education Centre by AVA Architects -- Porto, Portugal

    via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: José Campos via <a href="http://www.arthitectural.com/ava-architects-antas-educative-center/antas-education-center-1/"> Architectural </a>

  • Sarreguemines Nursery by Michel Grasso and Paul Le Quernec -- Sarreguemines, France

    We have to give this project points for commendable creativity. Designed as a body cell, the nursery sits at the center as the "nucleus." Cytoplasm is represented by the surrounding gardens, and the exterior wall is akin to the membrane. The pre-K kids might be too young to fully appreciate the reference, but if a little cellular biology seeps in by osmosis, then we give the architects a giant gold star. via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: Michel Grasso + Paul Le Quernec via <a href="http://www.archdaily.com/178954/sarreguemines-nursery-michel-grasso/"> archdaily </a>

  • Sarreguemines Nursery by Michel Grasso and Paul Le Quernec -- Sarreguemines, France

    via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: Michel Grasso + Paul Le Quernec via <a href="http://www.archdaily.com/178954/sarreguemines-nursery-michel-grasso/"> archdaily </a>

  • Rafael Arozarena High School by AMP Arquitectos -- La Orotava, Spain

    Way to teach the young ones about the importance of context! Integrating the pre-existing walls of the farming terraces, this bold and beautiful high school blends seamlessly with the agrarian landscape, but still maintains a decidedly modern design. via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: AMP Arquitectos via <a href="http://www.worldarchitecturenews.com/index.php?fuseaction=wanappln.projectview&upload_id=11025"> World Architecture News </a>

  • Rafael Arozarena High School by AMP Arquitectos -- La Orotava, Spain

    via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: AMP Arquitectos via <a href="http://www.worldarchitecturenews.com/index.php?fuseaction=wanappln.projectview&upload_id=11025"> World Architecture News </a>

  • Ørestad Gymnasium by 3XN Architects -- Copenhagen, Denmark

    This Danish equivalent of a high school is definitely where we most wish we'd spent our formative teen years. The progressive, media-oriented design was inspired by a philosophy that favors "open study environments" instead of traditional classrooms. Sprawling on a giant beanbag in a floating circular loft space while debating the future of Square in the world of retail? Yes, please. via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: <a href="http://archisdesign.com/superstructure-orestad-gymnasium-designed-by-3xn/superstructure-orestad-gymnasium-designed-by-3xn_1"> archisdesign </a>; Adam Mørk via <a href="http://www.dac.dk/en/service-sider/press/press-archive/2010/close-up-3xn-mind-your-behaviour/">Danish Architecture Centre</a>

  • Ørestad Gymnasium by 3XN Architects -- Copenhagen, Denmark

    via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: <a href="http://archisdesign.com/superstructure-orestad-gymnasium-designed-by-3xn/superstructure-orestad-gymnasium-designed-by-3xn_1"> archisdesign </a>; Adam Mørk via <a href="http://www.dac.dk/en/service-sider/press/press-archive/2010/close-up-3xn-mind-your-behaviour/">Danish Architecture Centre</a>

  • Marcel Sembat High School by archi5 with B. Huidobro -- Sotteville lès Rouen, France

    If there's a way to help the chronically disinterested and unaware youth of the world think twice about issues of sustainability, surely this is the way. Waking up every day to attend school in one of the most beautiful green-roofed structures in the world should be every child's right. via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: Thomas Jorion via<a href="http://www.archdaily.com/154206/marcel-sembat-high-school-archi5-with-b-huidobro/"> ardaily </a>

  • Marcel Sembat High School by archi5 with B. Huidobro -- Sotteville lès Rouen, France

    via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: Thomas Jorion via<a href="http://www.archdaily.com/154206/marcel-sembat-high-school-archi5-with-b-huidobro/"> ardaily </a>

  • Diamond Ranch High School by Morphosis -- Pomona, California

    We can't help but wonder how many industrial designers or metalsmiths this school has inspired. via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:DiamondRanchHS_-_CarolHighsmith_-_4.jpg"> Carol High Smith </a>

  • Central Los Angeles Area High School #9 for the Visual and Performing Arts by Coop Himmelblau -- Los Angeles, California

    Located just off the Hollywood freeway, this public arts school in the heart of downtown Los Angeles is known for -- according to the <a href="http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/arts/la-ca-art-school31-2009may31,0,4081776.story" target="_hplink"><em>Los Angeles Times</em></a> -- its stunning cone-shaped library, a soaring lobby opening onto Grand Avenue, a 140-foot tower rising above a 950-seat theater, and giant, circular windows. Granted, all this grandeur comes with a hefty price tag that's spawned an ongoing debate over a campus that "flaunts a district's-worth of design at one site." via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: <a href="http://www.e-architect.co.uk/los_angeles/central_los_angeles_area_high_school_9.htm"> e-architect </a>; <a href="http://www.worldarchitecturenews.com/index.php?fuseaction=wanappln.showprojectbigimages&img=3&pro_id=10892">World Architecture News</a>

  • Central Los Angeles Area High School #9 for the Visual and Performing Arts by Coop Himmelblau -- Los Angeles, California

    via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: <a href="http://www.e-architect.co.uk/los_angeles/central_los_angeles_area_high_school_9.htm"> e-architect </a>; <a href="http://www.worldarchitecturenews.com/index.php?fuseaction=wanappln.showprojectbigimages&img=3&pro_id=10892">World Architecture News</a>

  • Sra Pou Vocational School by Rudanko + Kankkunen -- Sra Pou, Cambodia

    Perhaps not as grand as some of the other designs we've featured, this rural Cambodian school's brilliance lies in the thought and careful consideration of the non-Western culture. Designed by Finnish architecture firm <a href="http://www.rudanko-kankkunen.com/" target="_hplink">Rudanko + Kankkunen</a> and built by members of the local community from hand-dried blocks of soil, the training center teaches local, underprivileged families to earn their own living in a colorful, inspiring space unlike any in the impoverished region. via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: Architects Rudanko + Kankkunen via<a href="http://n3un.com/2011/09/19/sra-pou-vocational-school-by-architects-rudanko-and-kankkunen/"> nuun design review </a>

  • Sra Pou Vocational School by Rudanko + Kankkunen -- Sra Pou, Cambodia

    via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: Architects Rudanko + Kankkunen via<a href="http://n3un.com/2011/09/19/sra-pou-vocational-school-by-architects-rudanko-and-kankkunen/"> nuun design review </a>

  • Chromatic Play by Juana Canet Arquitectos -- Mallorca, Spain

    This green, yellow, and blue multi-purpose play space was added to an existing school. As much art as it is architecture, the outdoor room is magically "dyed by the chromatic play of the coloured glassed façade." via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: Jose Hevia via<a href="http://www.archdaily.com/239432/chromatic-play-juana-canet-arquitectos/_mainimage_1337369572-juego-cromatico-07-1000x623/"> archdaily </a>

  • Chromatic Play by Juana Canet Arquitectos -- Mallorca, Spain

    via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: Jose Hevia via<a href="http://www.archdaily.com/239432/chromatic-play-juana-canet-arquitectos/_mainimage_1337369572-juego-cromatico-07-1000x623/"> archdaily </a>

  • School Barvaux-Condroz by LR Architects -- Barvaux-Condroz, Belgium

    The antithesis of greige, this cheerful school with built-in play spaces and hiding dens is sure to motivate even the most sullen of children. via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: M. van Coile via<a href="http://www.archdaily.com/234893/school-barvaux-condroz-lr-architects/lrarchitectebarvaux27/"> archdaily </a>

  • School Barvaux-Condroz by LR Architects -- Barvaux-Condroz, Belgium

    via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: M. van Coile via<a href="http://www.archdaily.com/234893/school-barvaux-condroz-lr-architects/lrarchitectebarvaux27/"> archdaily </a>

  • Maria Grazia Cutuli Primary School by 2A+P/A + IaN+ + MaO -- Herat, Afghanistan

    This project was realized by the <a href="http://www.fondazionecutuli.it/home.php" target="_hplink">Maria Grazia Cutuli Foundation</a>, established to honor the life of Maria Grazia Cutuli, a prominent Italian journalist killed on assignment in Afghanistan. The vibrant school "is an alternative to those models related to the after-war reconstruction emergencies." It includes a progressive "green classroom" and made use of local technologies and construction materials. via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: <a href="http://www.ianplus.it/"> IaN+ </a>

  • Maria Grazia Cutuli Primary School by 2A+P/A + IaN+ + MaO -- Herat, Afghanistan

    via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: <a href="http://www.ianplus.it/"> IaN+ </a>

  • Les Vinyes Primary and Secondary School by MMDM Arquitectes S.C.P. -- Barcelona, Spain

    Inspiring aspiring Stanley Kubricks in Barcelona. via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: <a href="http://www.eugeni-pons.com/">Eugeni Pons </a>

  • Les Vinyes Primary and Secondary School by MMDM Arquitectes S.C.P. -- Barcelona, Spain

    via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: <a href="http://www.eugeni-pons.com/">Eugeni Pons </a>

  • Kindergarten by Eva Samuel Architect Urbanist & Associates -- Paris, France

    One big, pink-frosted building full of magical, child-sized playhouses. via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: Gaston Bergeret via<a href="http://www.archdaily.com/244133/kindergarten-in-paris-eva-samuel-architect-urbanist-associates/gaston-bergeret-_mg_1002_/"> archdaily </a>

  • Kindergarten by Eva Samuel Architect Urbanist & Associates -- Paris, France

    via <a href="http://www.flavorwire.com/320057/the-most-beautiful-and-imaginative-public-schools-in-the-world?all=1">Flavorwire</a> Image credit: Gaston Bergeret via<a href="http://www.archdaily.com/244133/kindergarten-in-paris-eva-samuel-architect-urbanist-associates/gaston-bergeret-_mg_1002_/"> archdaily </a>