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John Barry, Former Superintendent Of The Year, To Step Down As Head Of Aurora Public Schools

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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.

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