SMMUSD HDQTRS — Tim Cuneo, superintendent of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, has announced he will step down when his contract ends in June.

His departure means the district’s board will have a major decision to make in the month’s following November’s election, when four of seven seats will be decided.

“It’s going to be a great loss. He really has been a really incredible leader,” said SMMUSD board president Barry Snell. “His leadership has helped guide the district though some of the most difficult times we’ve ever had.”

Snell said the board did not pressure Cuneo, who has been at the district’s helm since 2008, to leave.

“We brought him out of retirement and he’s going back into retirement,” he said.

Cuneo told the board during its meeting Thursday night he plans to leave the district. He could not be reached for comment on Friday.

The board member who has been most critical of Cuneo’s leadership, Oscar de la Torre, echoed Snell’s comments.

“I deeply appreciate the work of Tim Cuneo and I wish him well in his retirement,” de la Torre said. “He brought stability in management during a time of transition, but we need a strong and visionary education leader and we will find that person through a national search.”

Snell said he expects the board to consider hiring a search firm to begin looking for a new SMMUSD superintendent at its next meeting. He said the board could consider candidates for the job as early as January.

Cuneo’s tenure was a tumultuous time for the district marked by cuts in state funding, a failed attempt to pass a $198 parcel tax and a vigorous fundraising campaign led by the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation that raised $1.5 million to help pay teachers’ salaries.

Cuneo took charge of SMMUSD shortly after the district’s assistant superintendent of special education had resigned amid controversy and was credited with restoring trust in the district’s special ed program.

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