YORK -- Superintendent of Schools Steven Staples announced Wednesday morning that he will retire next June, at the end of the current school year. A search for his successor will begin soon.
Staples broke the news to principals in an e-mail shortly after 8 a.m. Wednesday, Saturday before going to the division office to announce his retirement. He apologized for the impersonal nation.


"I don't want you to learn of this second-hand," Staples wrote. "This is not a bad thing as I am retiring and plan to accept a faculty position at William and Mary next year."
The retirement announcement is something of a surprise since less than two years ago Staples was one of two finalists for the superindent's job in Virginia Beach. The resort city instead chose James Merrill, who had led similarly sized school divisions in Burlington, N.C. Virginia Beach has nearly 90 schools and 75,000 students, compared to 19 schools and 13,000 students in York County.
"You never want to lose," Staples told a reporter after learning he didn't get the job. "But in this case I'm not disappointed at all to stay in York." In a prepared statement released from the school division, School Board chairman Page Minter said "the board expresses much regret with Dr. Staples' decision to retire, but are very grateful to have had his leadership for 17 years. He has always been in the forefront on all educational issues, making the York County School Division a premier one.
"Dr. Staples will be greatly missed by all, but will always be remembered for his many accomplishments, not to mention his integrity, positive attitude, compassion for others and for being the board's number-one team player," Minter continued. "We wish him only the best." Staples became York's superintendent in 1991. His early years were marked with several battles with the Board of Supervisors over funding. He trumped the county by threatening to eliminate middle school athletics, and public outcry over the move prompted the supervisors to give in. He was named Virginia Superintendent of the Year in 1997, and has served as president of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, and as chairman of Region II Superintendents.
According to the division's release, Staples directed efforts to re-write curriculum, earn state accreditation and meet No Child Left Behind standards. For the last five years all of the division's schools achieved the highest accreditation.
York also created two magnet schools during Staples tenure, both located in the upper county at Waller Mill Elementary and Bruton High. The division initiated an International Baccalaureate program at York High, and more recently created the Virtual High School for distance learning. At W&M, Staples is an adjunct member of the School of Education faculty. Next fall he will become a full-time professor in Educational Leadership. Members of the York School Board will meet with the Virginia School Board Association to plan a search for a new superintendent.