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Superintendent Mike Matthews speaks to students at Pacific Elementary on May 31, 2017.

Manhattan Beach Unified Superintendent Mike Matthews will leave the district’s top post, which he has held for more than a decade, at the end of the school year, he announced Tuesday, April 13, making official what he said last summer was possible.

In July, Matthews said he was inclined to make the 2020-21 academic year his last. This school year extended what has been a tumultuous time in education since the coronavirus pandemic took hold in March 2020, shuttering schools. Students spent months learning virtually, including much of the fall semester. The district’s youngest students didn’t begin hybrid instruction — partly on campus, partly virtual — until December. Students at Manhattan Beach middle and high schools began hybrid learning on March 29.

The improving pandemic outlook — with the recent partial return to campus, decreasing coronavirus metrics and increasing vaccinations — has made it easier for him to step down, Matthews said. If the situation hadn’t improved, he said, leaving would have been a harder decision.

“Every leader wants the succession to go smoothly,” Matthews said. “I believe we have an outstanding Board of Trustees, strong management team and staff, and I’m highly confident the good work we’ve done will continue if not get even better.”

Matthews informed the school board about a month ago that he’d made the final decision to leave the district after 11 years, he said. His contract is up on June 30.

Leaving behind the relationships he’s developed with colleagues and people in the community will be hard, Matthews said.  But, the longtime educator added, he’s also excited about the changes and personal growth the move will bring.

“There’s a little fear,” he said in a Tuesday phone interview. “But I like that.”

The district has been preparing for Matthews to exit, Board of Trustees President Jen Fenton said via email Tuesday, and will formally begin the search for his successor this week.

“We are committed to hiring someone who believes in our district’s goals and vision, and we have set the appropriate wheels in motion to find Dr. Matthews’ replacement,” Fenton said. “We remain focused on in-person instruction, as well as a full reopening in fall, and recognize the importance of a seamless transition with the new superintendent.”

Matthews’ announcement marks the second high-profile departure the district will face at the end of the school year.

Mira Costa High School principal Ben Dale announced in March he would retire once the academic year comes to a close. Dale and Matthews both came to MBUSD in 2010.

“Dr. Matthews and Dr. Dale joined MBUSD around the same time,” Fenton said. “So while it’s sad for them both to leave, it also provides our district with a unique opportunity for new perspective and organizational growth.”

Matthews said that after working in education since 1985, with no breaks, it was time to move aside, reflect and decide where to go next. At 59, he’s not retiring but doesn’t have firm plans for a new endeavor; it could be another job in public education, he added, or something in an entirely different direction.

Before becoming MBUSD’s superintendent, Matthews had been assistant superintendent of human resources for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, principal of Malibu High for 11 years and a middle school principal in Lodi. His education career began in Oakland, he added.

Matthews said he’s proud of the work he’s done with MBUSD, but there’s never enough he can do to fulfill the district’s needs.

“The hard thing about work in public education is you’re never done no matter how hard you work,” he said.

“It seems each year brought its own challenges,” he added. “But the past 13 months have certainly been the greatest challenge.”

Contact Lisa Jacobs lisa.jacobs@TBRnews.com or follow her on Twitter @lisaannjacobs.

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