Karen Woodward, under whose tenure Lexington 1 has grown into one of the state’s top school districts, is planning to retire.
The Lexington 1 board made the announcement Wednesday night at a special called board meeting.
Woodward did not give a firm date for her retirement, instead planning to work with the school board in its search for a successor, according to district spokeswoman Mary Beth Hill.
“We have been privileged to have Dr. Woodward at Lexington 1’s helm for the past 15 years,” board chair Debra L. Knight said in a statement. “She has provided strong leadership and guided us through significant change, while keeping our students as the major focus of her work.”
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The board hopes to have a new superintendent selected by next spring, Knight said, and will contract with Charlotte-based Coleman Lew & Associates Inc. in the search process.
Woodward – who has 31 years of experience as a superintendent and a 50-year career in public education – joined Lexington 1 in July 2000, when the district had about 16,000 students and 16 schools, 2,148 employees, an applied technology center and an alternative learning center program.
During the past 15 years, Lexington 1 has grown by nearly 500 new students per year and remains one of the fastest-growing school districts in the state, ranking seventh in total enrollment.
To keep up with that growth, the district has built 14 new schools since 2000. As a result, almost 3,700 employees support 30 schools – 17 elementary, seven middle, five high, one technology center – as well as an alternative learning program and seven Centers for Advanced Studies, according to the district.
Today the district is home to more than 24,500 students.
From an academic standpoint, Lexington 1 has consistently rated among the top public school districts in the state over the past several years. During her tenure, the district was selected to join Digital Promise’s League of Innovative Schools, a national network of school districts committed to demonstrating, evaluating and scaling innovation.
“I’m honored to work alongside Lexington 1’s outstanding staff, students and parents,” Woodward said in a statement. “The work we are doing in Lexington 1 is the result of a very strong, caring team committed to excellence as they prepare children for life beyond school. We have incredibly competent, creative teachers, wonderfully capable administrators and dedicated support staff who do the right thing and put children first.”
Woodward, who has a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Carolina and masters and doctorate degrees from the University of Georgia, has received numerous local, state and national honors. Most recently, the South Carolina Foreign Language Teachers Association presented Woodward with the 2015 Friend of World Languages Award. In 2014, the national School Superintendents Association presented her with the 2014 AASA Women in School Leadership Award, which recognizes the exceptional leadership of active, front-line female administrators who make a difference in the lives of students every day.
“Public education opens that door to millions of young people and empowers them for their future,” Woodward said. “Our democracy, our economic prosperity and our individual development rest on the foundation that a public education is available to each and every one of us. It is the pathway to a brighter future.”