Baltimore County School Superintendent Robert Y. Dubel, who has been head of the school system for 15 years, today announced his plans to retire next year.
"I think it's a time for fresh leadership," Dubel said.
He will officially retire June 30, 1992.
"I decided this pretty well last spring," said Dubel, 66, who will have the longest tenure of any superintendent in the 100 largest school districts in the country at the end of the 1991-92 school year.
The superintendent sat on the stage in the Loch Raven High School auditorium, his feet resting on steps that led to the floor, as he made the announcement to about 300 principals, assistant principals, board members and staff members who attended the county's annual opening meeting of schools.
"It has been a rare privilege to serve the school system that educated me as a child," Dubel said.
"My memories of Randallstown Elementary School and Catonsville High School are happy ones, and the lessons I learned there have served me well over the years.
"I just hope that I . . . have been able to pay back in part what all those wonderful teachers did for me."
As an administrator, Dubel has been known for his political skills and for controversial stands, such as his automatic expulsion policy for students caught with drugs or alcohol, and for his refusal to participate in the federally funded breakfast program on grounds that it undermines family relationships.
He also helped defeat a plan several years ago by former county executive Dennis F. Rasmussen to get the General Assembly to give the executive power to appoint school board members.
His influence was considered so great that some critics have accused him of virtually dictating school policy to his board, and they have called him the major influence behind current executive Roger B. Hayden, a former school board president.
Dubel's career in education began in 1949, when he first worked as an English instructor at Upsala College, in East Orange, N.J. He joined the superintendent's office in 1968 as assistant superintendent in the division of staff and community relations.
He is the highest-paid employee in Baltimore County, earning $115,000 a year.
Dubel called "our ability to get everyone to work as a team" one of his greatest accomplishments. The biggest challenge he's recently faced, he said, is the lack of governmental support for education.
"Public finance in this country is in a mess," he said. "We could justify a 25 percent increase in our budget."
Rosalie Hellman, president of the Board of Education, expressed the board's reaction to Dubel's announcement.
"It goes without saying that board members have very mixed feelings about this," she said in a statement.
"We respect and honor his decision, and we wish him well in his retirement. On the other hand, we are terribly saddened at the prospect of losing one of the finest educators in the state and in the nation."
Hellman will discuss the board's plans for carrying out a search for a new superintendent at a news conference Friday.
Dubel said he will not totally retire and is entertaining offers to do "some rather attractive things that other people would like me to do."
"I'm going to continue doing something," he said.