MPS superintendent to retire after 12 years at helm

Garde

Muskogee School Superintendent Mike Garde plans to retire after completing 12 years of service as the MPS head.

"I've been in the education business now for 43 years," he said. "At some point, you realize it's time to retire and enjoy that other part of life."

Garde said while he has been frustrated with recent cuts in state funding, that did not factor into his decision to retire. He announced his plan to retire earlier this month during the regular Muskogee school board meeting. 

Board members approved his retirement. His last day is to be June 30.

School Board President Keith Biglow said the board will seek help from the Oklahoma State School Boards Association in finding Garde's successor. The board, he said, will schedule a special meeting as soon as possible to assemble a plan for the superintendent search — the board's next regular meeting is March 13.

MPS Maintenance Director Wayne Johnson said voters approved major bond packages in 2008 and 2013 during Garde's tenure as superintendent. Those bonds financed remodeling projects and additions at Muskogee High School, the New Tech Academy at Alice Robertson Junior High, and facility improvements, furnishings and technology throughout the district.

Johnson said Garde's biggest success has been his "One team, one vision, one community" philosophy.

"It's not just a motto, he permeates that throughout the district," Johnson said. "He really makes sure everyone's voice is heard — that is so vitally important: accountability at every level."

Johnson said Garde developed a strong leadership team that should be ready to work with the next superintendent.

Garde touted student and school accomplishments as highlights of his 12-year tenure. Five schools, he said, have been named National Schools of Character — those include Muskogee High School, Rougher Alternative Academy, Sadler Arts Academy, Early Childhood Center and Whittier Elementary.

He cited Sadler's designation as a National Blue Ribbon School in 2016 as another point of pride. 

"I say all these things, but it's a we — none of these are singularly brought about by me," Garde said. "One of the things I hope to say is that we've developed the leadership of all our staff — teachers have a voice in what we're doing, and that voice is respected."

He said MPS finances are stable despite state budget cuts. 

"Because of the actions we've taken to reduce our expenditures, cutting programs, at least we're stable now," he said.

Garde said once he retires in July, he's "just going to relax and enjoy life."

"Think I'm going to sit back and relax for about 60 days then decide what to do," Garde said. 

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928, @cspauldingMPhx or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.

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