Saying he never planned to be a long-term leader for the Tucson Unified School District, John Pedicone submitted his resignation today.

Pedicone’s resignation from Tucson’s largest K-12 school district It is effective at the end of June — more than one year before his contract is set to expire.

The announcement, made Wednesday at Tucson Unified School District headquarters, came as a surprise to many as Pedicone has repeatedly voiced his commitment to TUSD despite its many challenges.

Pedicone confirmed his departure at a hastily called news conference at district headquarters this afternoon.

Adelita Grijalva said the TUSD board will begin its search for a new leader immediately. She also said at the news conference that Pedicone’s sudden departure was not instigated by anyone on the school board. She hopes to build on positive changes Pedicone has made at the district, but also said the district needs more “stability.”

“This decision did not come easily, but I believe it is in the best interests of the district that I do so,” Pedicone said in a letter to staff Wednesday. “The timing is right. It makes sense to allow our newly elected board members to work with a superintendent who will be in place for the duration of their first board terms.

“The sooner that happens, the more likely it will be that you will have a leadership team that provides long-term consistency and the stability that you deserve.”

Tucson’s largest school district has been plagued by a continuous decline in enrollment, low academic achievement, major budget woes and an ongoing state challenge to TUSD’s ethnic studies program.

Despite that, there have been gains, Pedicone said in February during his State of the District address. Those gains include: a reduction in D-rated schools and an increase in B-rated schools; development of a Common Core curriculum; improved measures to assess student performance and to predict student success on AIMS; increased access to high-level courses for all students; and adoption of a plan to bring racial balance to TUSD schools.

Pedicone said at today’s news conference that it’s time to celebrate TUSD achievement rather than make it ‘cool’ to watch it fail. He said the city should embrace the district and stand up for its schools.

When Pedicone first came on board at the end of 2010, he said he could commit three to five years to TUSD. At the time, he was given a 2 1/2 year contract that was set to expire at the end of June, but the Governing Board extended it last August to June 30, 2014.

His base salary is $211,000, plus benefits and additional allowances for his vehicle, civic responsibilities and technology.

Pedicone took over for Elizabeth Celania-Fagen who fled from the district in 2009 — less than two years into her tenure. She cited state budget cuts to K-12 education as part of her reason for leaving.

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at or 573-4175. On Twitter @AlexisHuicochea

Senior Editor, News, Arizona Daily Star, Tucson, Az.