Canyons School District Superintendent David Doty has written more than 25,000 tweets as @Canyonsdave but he left his account silent as he broke the news of his June 30 departure at a sparsely populated school board meeting.
Both praised and criticized for his strong communication style, the young district's first superintendent is joining a Utah-based education reform group, Education Direction.
"It was a surprise," said Canyons Board of Education member Kim Horiuchi, who was on the committee that hired Doty five years ago. "He has accomplished a lot of positive things for both the district and students."
Doty did not return messages Wednesday. The district released a statement that said he will lead Education Direction and spend more time with his family.
Doty began guiding the new district's launch in August 2008, as it broke away from the Jordan School District following a controversial public vote in 2007. He oversaw the education of about 33,000 students from neighborhoods spanning upscale Cottonwood Heights, Sandy and Draper to the ski town of Alta and Midvale, home of many of Utah's immigrants.
During his tenure, he spearheaded a successful $250 million bond campaign to replace aging schools and the realignment of school boundaries. He implemented Utah's first "college ready" high school diplomas and scrapped with state education officials over the selection of assessment tests.
Several of Doty's supporters said Wednesday that he leaves the district in good shape, even if his leadership style was criticized at times.
"He had a strong personality," said Betty Shaw, Canyons PTA director. "He always supported us, so we had a good relationship."
Last year, some parents in the district questioned Doty's performance and an online petition was signed by hundreds.
Chad Iverson, who is now a member of the Canyons Board of Education, called for an independent investigation of misconduct allegations against Doty. Iverson, who did not return a phone call Wednesday, had claimed former district employees complained Doty used bullying and intimidation to maintain control.
Doty responded that he is prohibited by district policy from commenting on specific personnel issues, including those that involve him.
The board backed Doty and approved a raise that moved his base salary from $175,000 to $185,000. He also received a $25,000 one-time bonus because he had received no raises during the first four years of his contract.
Ross Rogers, president of the Canyons Education Association, which represents 1,600 teachers, said Doty has "ruffled feathers" with his hands-on style, but added that was to be expected when steering a new district. Rogers praised Doty for his restructuring of middle school grades in the fall, sixth-graders will move to middle schools, while ninth-graders will move to high schools.
Doty, 46, has been a prolific social-media user who aimed to sell and strengthen his young district.
"I think using these social-media tools is a way to communicate with people where they are," Doty said in a 2011 interview. "It's not waiting for them to come to you, it's taking the information to them."
Officials said Doty has prioritized visiting each of the district's schools and breaking down walls between parents, teachers and what he termed the "nebulous office of the superintendent."
He organized several "Ski and Shred With the Superintendent" events at Brighton Ski Resort and once took a group of students and parents to attend a speech by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg at Brigham Young University. Faculty members have said he is the most hands-on administrator they have ever encountered.
On Twitter, Doty has written about his love for the sports teams at BYU and Stanford, the schools from which he received his four degrees. His messages are often lighthearted and personal, but he also notes topical issues in education.
The school board will meet in the next two weeks to decide how to proceed with hiring a new superintendent. Board member Horiuchi said a committee will begin the search for the next district leader.
Board President Sherril Taylor, who did not return an email seeking comment, thanked Doty for his service, according to a statement from the district.
"To take this district from (a startup) to where it is now is nothing short of miraculous. We are thankful for that," Taylor said. "We thank your family for sharing you with us to get us where we are."
Doty's service as superintendent
As the Canyons School District's first superintendent, David Doty:
Guided the new district as it launched and became independent from the Jordan School District.
Conducted a $250 million bond campaign to replace aging schools.
Led the district through school boundary realignments.
Oversaw efforts to foster a nondiscriminatory environment in schools, such as the creation of a "civility commission," after an investigation into alleged racial incidents at Alta High School.
Implemented Utah's first "college ready" high school diplomas, which require more credits and a proficient ACT test score.
Drew criticism for his management style, but was backed by the Board of Education.
Frequently tweeted from @canyonsdave and was named Utah's "Communicator of the Year" by the International Association of Business Communicators and the Public Relations Society of America.
Urged the state Board of Education to give districts more flexibility in choosing assessment tests.