After 13 years at the helm, USD 408 Superintendent Lee Leiker submitted his resignation, effective June 30, to the board of education Monday evening.
Leiker said the decision was made simply to start a new chapter in his life, whatever or wherever it is. Leiker said he and his wife, Diane, probably will move from Marion.
He’ll draw his Kansas Public Employees Retirement and decide what’s next.
“Beyond that, I don’t have any plans,” Leiker said.
Leiker said he expects his next position will be in a different field.
“I do plan to retire from public education,” Leiker said.
Leiker said now is a good time to make the transition because the district is in good shape and someone else stepping into his shoes won’t have a mess to resolve.
Leiker came to Marion in 2004.
The district has seen much improvement during his tenure, said Roger Hannaford III. Hannaford was on the board of education when Leiker was hired.
“He stayed here a lot longer than most superintendents stay around,” Hannaford said. “He was a great hire and did wonderful things for our school district. I’m sorry to see him leave.”
Hannaford said two of Leiker’s major accomplishments are building the Sports and Aquatic Center and the Performing Arts Center.
“Those are just first-class for a community and a school of our size,” Hannaford said.
“Lee and his wife Diane have been a huge asset to our community, both Marion and Florence,” Sarah Cope said.
Cope also was on the school board when Leiker was hired.
“He definitely made being on the school board much easier,” Cope said. “He was always so aware, and when other districts were having to cut, we did not have to cut as much. He wasn’t just a superintendent, he’d pick up trash at the ball park, drive a bus. People like Lee don’t come along very often and people in USD 408 are so lucky that he chose to come to our district. It’s a big loss to our community.”
Chris Sprowls, a current member of the school board and a member when Leiker was hired as well, praised Leiker’s dedication to the school district.
“It’s been a blessing from day one when their family arrived,” Sprowls said. “I’ve never questioned his honor or integrity.”
Sprowls said the school district is a leader in its classification and similarly-sized districts look to Marion.
“On a personal level, he made me a better leader and a better man,” Sprowls said.
Durham-Hillsboro-Lehigh superintendent Max Heinrichs was principal at Hillsboro High when he first worked with Leiker.
“I worked with Lee a lot when he first moved in,” Heinrichs said. “He was a great leader.”
Leiker and his son, Landon, helped when Hillsboro ran the Trojan Classic basketball tournament, Heinrichs said.
“We had a stats program for the tournament that they ran for the games over there,” Heinrichs said. “I have nothing but good things to say about Lee. He’s spun a positive light there. He’ll be missed.”
Ron Traxson, superintendent of Peabody-Burns, also had good things to say about Leiker.
“I’ve gotten to really know know him in the last four and a half years,” Traxson said. “I’ve really learned to appreciate him and his knowledge. He’s kind of my go-to person. He’s done an outstanding job. Anybody who’s a superintendent at our level knows that you’re going to a ball game or a concert, something like that. It’s very time-consuming.”
Traxson said issues faced by school districts in Kansas may go on and on. Perhaps now is time for Leiker to close the chapter with good memories of his years in the field, Traxson said.
School board president Jeremiah Lange echoed Sprowls’ comments.
“We are so thankful for the time he’s been in the area, and being a great leader,” Lange said. “He’s done a lot of good things for us. We are sad to see him leave. We won’t be able to replace him.”
Lange said no process or timetable has yet been determined to search for Leiker’s replacement.