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Originally published October 23, 2006 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 23, 2006 at 6:31 PM

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Seattle schools chief steps down

Seattle Schools Superintendent Raj Manhas announced this afternoon that he will resign at the end of the school year, less than a week after the board killed his school-closure recommendations.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Seattle Schools Superintendent Raj Manhas will resign at the end of the school year.

Manhas announced his plans this afternoon, less than a week after the School Board killed his most recent school-closure recommendations. Manhas was in the final year of his contract.

Manhas joined Seattle Public Schools as chief operating officer in October 2001 and slid into the interim superintendent's post in October 2003, when Joseph Olchefske stepped down amid financial troubles.

Later that year, a search for a new superintendent failed, and the School Board appointed Manhas.

But Manhas — a veteran of the banking industry before taking jobs for public utilities and the city of Seattle — never sought the job or considered it his long-term calling. As School Board politics shifted, Manhas often said that he went to every meeting knowing his tenure could end with a vote and the crack of a gavel. That's almost happened the past two years, when he narrowly held onto his job in two split votes.

When Manhas took over the job, the district was recovering from a $33 million budget crisis. Although the district's long-term financial outlook is still bleak, Manhas has balanced the budget and restored about $20 million in reserves.

But closing schools—a strategy Manhas said was meant to save money and improve efficiencies—was what consumed the superintendent for much of the past year. In spring 2005, public outcry prompted him to withdraw his first plan to close schools, and he later appointed a committee to evaluate the district's financial situation.

That committee, too, recommended closing schools, and the School Board in July approved Manhas' list of seven closures, one this fall and the other six in 2007-08. But his second round ran into trouble with the public and the board, and the board last week voted to kill the plan.

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