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Wichita superintendent Alicia Thompson to retire at the end of this school year

Abigail Beckman
KMUW/File photo

Alicia Thompson, superintendent of Wichita schools, announced in an e-mail to district employees that she plans to retire at the end of this academic year.

Wichita school district Superintendent Alicia Thompson says she plans to retire at the end of this school year.

"I have been part of the WPS family literally my entire life," Thompson wrote in an email Thursday to district employees. "The time has come that I will now be able to retire through the KPERS system, and I intend to do so this coming summer."

Thompson, 53, was appointed superintendent in 2017. She is the first Black woman to serve as leader of the state's largest school district.

Thompson also is one of the highest paid public school leaders in the state. As superintendent, she receives a base salary of $296,305 a year. In addition, she receives a $780-a-month car and mileage allowance, $525 a month for "professional, civic and incidental expenses," and a $25,000 a year contribution to her retirement, bringing the total package to $336,965.

Thompson attended Wichita public schools and graduated from Heights High School. She began her career in 1992 as a third-grade teacher at Ingalls Elementary.

"I chose to announce my intention now so that our Board of Education will have sufficient time to search for a new leader," Thompson said in the email. "I have informed the board of my decision, and I know they plan to hold their first public discussion about the process at their next meeting."

School board member Sheril Logan spoke to reporters Thursday at Adams Elementary School. She said Thompson has served the district well.

"The board respects her decision to retire, but she has huge shoes to fill," Logan said.

During her tenure, Thompson guided the district through school closures and the transition to remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. She also helped launch the district's "Every Student Future Ready" strategic plan, which focuses on third-grade reading, graduation rates, college and career preparation, and school safety.

"I remain your superintendent and faithful leader through this school year, and will continue to focus our collective efforts on a body of work that has student success at its core," she said in the email.

Prior to becoming superintendent, Thompson was a principal at Little Early Childhood Center, Cessna Elementary and Spaght Elementary. She served as the district’s executive director of staff development before being named assistant superintendent of elementary schools in 2005.

She received her bachelor of science degree from Langston University in Langston, Okla., and a master’s degree in curriculum instruction and assessment from Newman University. She received a doctorate of educational leadership from Wichita State University in 2015.

Logan, the school board member, said the board will begin public discussions Monday about the search process for finding a new leader. Urban districts across the country are seeing higher than normal turnover rates for superintendents.

"I think you always worry that you can find a candidate that meets the needs of your particular district," Logan said. "The field is tight, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t good people available."

Suzanne Perez is a longtime journalist covering education and general news for KMUW and the Kansas News Service. Suzanne reviews new books for KMUW and is the co-host with Beth Golay of the Books & Whatnot podcast. Follow her on Twitter @SuzPerezICT.