Elizabeth Celania-Fagen's run as TUSD superintendent is coming to an end, less than three years after she started.

Fagen said she has been selected to head the Douglas County School District in Colorado.

The announcement was made Friday. A formal motion to appoint Fagen is anticipated in April, and Fagen said she will gladly accept the post then.

"I am very grateful to be selected as the finalist for the Douglas County superintendent position," she said in a news release. "I am excited about the opportunity both personally and professionally." Fagen, who has been denying district rumors since January that she is leaving, was not available for further comment Friday.

Fagen was appointed superintendent of the Tucson Unified School District in March 2008 and began serving as its top administrator a month before the 2008-2009 school year began.

She was given a three-year contract, and at the time said she hoped to remain with TUSD for five to 10 years. In an e-mail to TUSD staff Friday, Fagen acknowledged that leaving now was not her original plan.

"My family and I love Tucson and thought we would remain here for a long time; however, an opportunity presented itself to me and after careful consideration I decided to go through the interview process," Fagen wrote. "I want you to know this was a very difficult decision for me to make."

The Douglas County School District is the third-largest in Colorado. It is in Castle Rock, about 20 miles south of Denver, and has 76 K-12 schools and 34 preschool locations.

While the district is smaller, it has just as many students enrolled as TUSD - about 55,000.

Within the next two weeks, the Douglas County Board of Education will visit TUSD to obtain more information through discussions with board members, parents, students and the community.

TUSD Governing Board President Judy Burns said she was sorry to see Fagen leave, and she wishes her well. It is too early to discuss how the district will move forward without Fagen, but the board is planning to meet in executive session Tuesday, Burns said.

Added board member Mark Stegeman, "The superintendent's departure comes at a difficult time for the district, but the board will act rapidly to preserve continuity and to build on the reforms which she has begun."

Some of those reforms include the implementation of first-choice school models, in which campuses were encouraged to create a niche for themselves to attract and retain students - for the last three years the district has been losing students at a rate of 1,500 per year.

"I have enjoyed our collaborations and the forward movement the district has already made over the last 20 months," Fagen said in her e-mail to staff. "I know you will continue the hard work you are doing to facilitate change in the new school year."

Assistant Superintendent Edith Macklin-Isquierdo said she believes that the strength of the cabinet built by Fagen will allow the district to continue her efforts successfully.

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Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at 573-4175 or ahuicochea@azstarnet.com