After 30 years of working for the Hillsborough County School district, Superintendent Jeff Eakins announced Monday that he will retire.
His last day in the role will be June 30, 2020.
Eakins said his retirement stems from a desire to spend more time with his parents in Ohio. He said his family and faith are the things most important to him, and that he and his wife came to the conclusion to leave together.
“We recognize that eventually we're going to have to be available for my parents,” Eakins said. “The only way we're going to be able to do that is for me to step down at the conclusion of my contract. That's the decision we came to and we're very much at peace with it.”
Eakins’ 32 years in education began as a fifth grade teacher at North Franklin Elementary School in Columbus, Ohio in 1987. He moved to Hillsborough County in 1989, where he started as a teacher and climbed the rungs of the educational ladder all the way up to Superintendent in 2014.
Eakins said he plans to use his final year to help make the transition of power to the next superintendent as seamless as possible.
“It's been an amazing experience here for my wife and I,” Eakins said. “She was also a teacher in Hillsborough County for 26 years. This community means a lot to us and we just want to make sure that we leave a very smooth transition in setting our students and our staff up for success.”
U.S. Rep Kathy Castor released a statement saying Eakins' retirement is a big loss for the district.
“Hillsborough County students have been well-served by Superintendent Jeff Eakins and I wish he was not leaving. Hillsborough County public school students and teachers need an outspoken Superintendent who understands the challenges of our diverse and growing community. Jeff’s focus on early childhood education, school readiness, modern and safe schools, and preparation for careers was on point.
It is not easy to stand up to state policy makers who elevate for-profit, private charter schools over the needs of the overwhelming majority of students in traditional public schools, but Jeff Eakins successfully led a referendum to invest in the capital needs of our public schools at a time when state lawmakers kept diverting needed funds. I wish him well, and urge the School Board to find a strong leader for our community’s most important economic driver and for students from every neighborhood.”
According to Eakins, the school board will begin a search for a new superintendent, a process that usually takes several months.
Before he leaves, Eakins said there is still plenty of work he wants to accomplish. He wants to continue working toward the goal of reaching a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020, and ensure that early childhood students are more ready for kindergarten.