By Nancy Badertscher
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Cindy Loe, superintendent of Fulton County schools, abruptly announced Thursday that she'll be retiring at the end of the school year for family reasons.
Loe was hired in April 2008 as the county's sixth superintendent since 1995.
With her resignation, Fulton will become the fourth metro district in search of a new superintendent. Searches are already under way or planned in Cobb and DeKalb counties and the city of Atlanta.
Loe, a 30-year veteran educator, broke the news to members of the school board in a specially called executive session Thursday afternoon. An e-mail to staff followed a short time later, and news spread quickly after that.
Staff and parents contacted late Thursday said they were caught off guard.
"She was doing a good job," said James Reese, a resident of south Fulton with two children in the school system.
"She came into a difficult situation and was doing a good job," he said. "You could see it was going in the right direction."
Kelly Himes Brolly, a mother of three from Alpharetta, said Loe's departure will be a "loss to the system."
"I have a lot of respect for her," Brolly said. "She's a very good superintendent."
Loe came to Fulton from Gwinnett County, where she'd been a principal and associate superintendent, and quickly became known for seeking parental feedback on all major issues. Parents in the county also gave her high marks for balking at changing to a new integrated math curriculum that continues to spark debate.
In the past, Reese said, parents "were always agitated with the school system. With her, it just felt comfortable."
“Dr. Loe brought a great amount of professionalism and accountability to our schools," board President Linda Bryant said.
In a prepared statement, the school board announced a national search for a replacement will be conducted, with the goal of having a new superintendent by June 1.
"We know what is needed to keep our school system moving in the right direction,” Bryant said.
About 92,000 students attend Fulton County’s 101 public schools, which are generally considered to have a good track record for student achievement. The latest reports show 78.9 percent of the system’s schools made Adequately Yearly Progress, a critical benchmark of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The latest SAT results show the county’s students outperforming the state and national averages on reading, math and writing.