EDWARDSVILLE — District 7 Superintendent Ed Hightower will retire at the end of next school year.
Hightower has been with District 7 for 18 years, and an educator for 40 years. He said he intended to retire three years ago, but was asked to stay as the economic crisis imperiled District 7's finances.
Hightower said while the economy still challenges local schools, and District 7 still has financial issues, he feels comfortable that he can step down now without compromising the district's goals and projects.
"The board will have time to find my replacement and begin the transition in order to maintain a sense of continuity with the district's goals," Hightower said.
Hightower earned three degrees from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, including a 1974 bachelor of science in physical education, masters of education in 1977 and specialist degree in 1991, as well as a doctorate from St. Louis University.
In 1996, he was hired as the first black superintendent in Edwardsville's history, and has served as superintendent for 18 years. During his tenure, Edwardsville more than doubled its population, and the district itself grew with a new high school and other new buildings, including a second middle school.
In addition to his work as an educator, Hightower was a college basketball referee, working 12 NCAA final-fours. He retired from officiating in December 2013, 15 years after being inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
District 7 board president Jill Bertels said they are very pleased with the job Hightower has done at the school district.
"The board of education would like to thank Dr. Hightower for his 18 years of service," Bertels said. "During (the next) school year, Dr. Hightower will continue to work on the goals set for our district. As always, his interest is to have District 7 be the district of choice and excellence... (The board) wishes Dr. Hightower well, and congratulates him on his retirement."
Bertels said the board has been aware of Hightower's decision to retire for some time.
"(The board) is exploring our options to select a suitable replacement for Dr. Hightower," she said. "We hope to make an announcement soon."
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2507.