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Browder stepping down as Anchorage school chief; board picks Graff as replacement

Anchorage schools superintendent Jim Browder, hired a year ago, is retiring in June and will be replaced by Ed Graff, the district's chief academic officer, School Board president Jeannie Mackie said Thursday.

The surprise announcement came after a closed-door executive session of the board Thursday morning.

Mackie said Browder will retire effective June 14. The board unanimously agreed to offer the job to Graff, she said.

The board cannot take official action at an executive session, but will confirm the decision at its Monday board meeting, Mackie said.

Browder, 65, told the board in February that he was looking for a job in the Lower 48 to be closer to family members with serious illnesses. He was a finalist for the school chief job in Des Moines last week, but was not chosen.

Browder said Thursday at a news briefing that he asked the Anchorage board to allow him to retire. Mackie said the board and superintendent collaborated on the timing.

Browder said he will not be applying for any other jobs in the near term because of the family medical issues. His daughter and grandson in Atlanta, Ga., are both sick, he has said.

Graff and Browder will work together over the next three months in a transition period, Mackie said.

Graff has been in the district since 1991 as an elementary school teacher, principal and central office administrator. He was assistant superintendent for instruction, though the title of the job recently changed to chief academic officer.

Graff's contract terms are not yet available.

Browder will receive no severance package, Mackie said.

"Dr. Browder is not asking for any buyout," she said.

Browder did get severance deals from his last two jobs, according to the Naples Daily News in Florida. Edison State College in southwest Florida paid him $175,000 to buy out two years of his contract there in 2011 after faculty complained about his salary and that he had been hired without a search, local news reports said.

In 2010, when he left the Lee County school district in Fort Myers, Fla., the district also agreed to pay for two years, at an annual salary of $167,815, the Naples newspaper said.

Browder has said he left Lee County schools as new board members sought to change key policies.

The Anchorage board will amend its contract with him so that Browder does not have to pay back moving expenses, and to allow him to leave in 90 days instead of the 120 days' notice that is required in the unamended contract, Mackie said.

Browder's salary here was $180,000 per year plus benefits. His contract called for the district to pay up to $10,000 to move him here.

Browder was hired last year to replace retiring, long-term superintendent Carol Comeau. He was chosen after a national search. He had been superintendent of the 82,000-student Lee County, Florida, district from 2003 to 2010, and was credited with raising student achievement there. Anchorage has about 49,000 students.

Browder worked alongside Comeau from April to July 1, 2012, then took over as Anchorage's superintendent. His contract was for three years.

"We're thankful for the things Dr. Browder brought to the district," Mackie said. She said the district benefitted from an outside perspective.

Graff said a strategic plan developed under Browder will continue.


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