MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - State School Superintendent Dr. Joe Morton announced Thursday morning he is preparing to retire, capping a 42 year career in the Alabama education field.
Morton acknowledges he's leaving as the state's education system faces "unprecedented challenges" but says he's reassured he's leaving students "in very competent hands".
Morton, who has been the State Superintendent of Education since unanimous approval in 2004, made the announcement official in a meeting with the State Department of Education Executive Council.
The educator has had a long career in the education field. Before taking the top position at the education department, Morton served for 8 years as its deputy superintendent.
At the age of 27, Morton took the reigns as Alabama's youngest-ever superintendent at the Sumter County School system. He also spent 17 years in the same position with the Sylacauga City Schools system.
Prior to administrative duties, Morton was in the classroom, teaching students in Jefferson County.
Morton said there is never a perfect time to leave something you're passionate about, but thinks now is a good time to move on. He said there were no extenuating circumstances in his decision to retire. An inner voice that would not retreat kept telling him, "Joe, it is the right time for the state and for you," adding that he believes God led him to his job and that God is that inner voice.
"Education is what I've dedicated my entire life to – it's all I know, so this will be an adjustment for me...I feel I have come full-circle in my career," Morton told the Executive Council.
Morton claims several accomplishments in his career including the Alabama Reading Initiative and the ACCESS program that connects teachers and students to video statewide for distance learning.
The retirement is effective as of August 31, 2011.