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A combined 20 years of overseeing the operations of public education will end this year with the departure of two Bitterroot school superintendents.

Darby and Florence-Carlton school boards are looking for replacements for what could be called their quarterbacks of the district. Florence's Steve Gaub is planning retirement at the end of the school year, while Darby's Jack Eggensperger submitted his resignation last month but will finish out the school year.

School officials on both ends of the county are using services provided by the Montana School Boards Association in the search for new candidates.

Both of Gaub's children will have graduated from Florence-Carlton by the end of this school year, and Gaub said he's just ready to end his 27 years in education, of which 17 were as a superintendent. Gaub was superintendent at Charlo for 10 years prior to moving to Florence. He earned $75,000, including benefits, this year.

"I really think we've done some great things," Gaub said.

Atop his list of accomplishments at Florence was changing the high school schedule to a block schedule and developing the staff. And the lack of space issues the district has faced in recent years has been the most challenging, he said. The district has been bursting at the seams and has been forced to deal with the overcrowding since voters have thrice rejected bond measures to build a new school.

"Trying to work on a good product with the space constraints has been very difficult for everyone here," he said.

Eggensperger turned in his resignation in December after months of high-tension between himself and the school board. He said he plans to retire from the $60,852-salaried job and doesn't know yet if he'll stay in Darby, where he has a daughter who is a sophomore this year.

"I just figured it was time," he said.

Darby's new biomass heating system that uses waste-wood to heat all three of Darby's schools was one of the biggest accomplishments during Eggensperger's tenure, he said. The prototype project is drawing interest from school districts all over the Northwest. He's also proud of the improvements made in facilities and the experienced and dedicated staff Darby has developed over the years.

With continued enrollment declines at Darby, which is the driving criteria behind school funding, Eggensperger's biggest challenge has been balancing a declining budget with increasing costs.

Both school boards have outlined timelines for hiring new superintendents and plan to have them in place by the end of the school year. The school board association will help with advertising, screening and interviewing, but ultimately school board trustees are responsible for interviewing and selecting a superintendent.

Reporter Jenny Johnson can be reached at 363-3300 or jjohnson@ravallirepublic.com

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