School Board Chairman Harry Kinnan said he was initially surpirsed at the Superintendent's decision to retire effective Feb. 28. Afterall, the board had just extended the superintendent's contract and given him a good performance evaluation.
But Kinnan said he realized that the last four years have been stressful for everyone in the district. And McGonegal has had to lead the district through some tough decisions as he cut the budget from $700 million four years ago to $550 million today.
"The stress of the job led him to come to this decision," Kinnan said. "Dr. McGonegal has given his heart and soul to this district."
McGonegal, 54, will retire from the schools chief position nearly four years after he took the job.
His departure will take place after the school district starts planning for the next budget year. The schools budget for 2013 is expected to be approved this month, and the superintendent's role in the process is critical.
The school board will immediately begin its search for McGonegal's replacement. They will start with a call to Wayne Blanton of the Florida School Boards Association to come up with the qualifications and background the school board wants. Kinnan said they will also likely recruit a community committee as they have done in the past to get feedback from people in the community on the candidates.
This will be at least the third time that the district has gone to the community for its participation in choosing a superintendent.
Kinnan said the participation is important in choosing a new school leader in order to assure the board that it has the confidence of all of Manatee County in its choice for superintendent.
Kinnan said the new school chief will face three major challenges: Raising morale among the school district employees who have been affected by budget cuts, finances as the budget continues to shrink and dealing with the state's new requirements for academics.
School board member Julie Aranibar said she was not surprised by McGonegal's announcement given his 32-year tenure in Florida schools.
"It's a streesful time," she said. "He has every right to retire."
McGonegal has three children, a daughter at USF and two children in the Manatee Public schools and he said he wants to be able to spend more time with his family.
Kinnan said in his 16 years on the school board he has learned that the average tenure for a superintendent is about 4 or 5 years. But this may be the first time that the school district has had so much change in the top administrative positions.
In the past year, the district's finance director has retired, the director of curriculum and education has retired and the district's attorney has announced he will retire. At the same time Kinnan himself decided not to seek re-election so will be leaving the school board shortly before McGonegal retires.
McGonegal, who now earns about $171,000 a year, joined the Manatee County School District in January 2002 as Assistant Director of Finance. He was named Director of Finance in June 2004 and promoted to Assistant Superintendent of Business Services in February 2005.
McGonegal replaced Roger Dearing, who served as Superintendent in Manatee County from 2003 to 2009.