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Utah's public school system will likely see its fourth superintendent in five years following the resignation of Brad Smith, it was announced Wednesday.

Smith, a divisive figure, has been on sick leave since January due to chronic but not life-threatening medical issues and was expected to return to work after the 2016 legislative session.

In his resignation letter, Smith makes no mention of his current health status or whether it contributed to his decision to resign.

He said his intention was to serve as long as he was adding to the public education system, which he is no longer doing.

"After meeting and conversing with you and other members of board leadership," Smith wrote, "I have regretably [sic] come to the conclusion that I am no longer able to make a positive contribution as state superintendent."

In a prepared statement, the school board announced that a hearing would be held Thursday to consider Smith's replacement. "He assembled a great team, and we are confident in their abilities to continue working to improve student outcomes while working cooperatively with multiple community partners," school board Chairman David Crandall said.

Smith was selected as state superintendent in October 2014, following three years as superintendent of the Ogden School District.

A lawyer by trade, Smith's tenure in Ogden was known for the reassignment of school administrators and scuffles with the local teachers union, which contributed to an exodus of teachers from the district.

As state superintendent, Smith's hiring coincided with a complete turnover in the top positions of the State Office of Education.

Smith also generated a backlash from Utah's teachers last year by comparing the organizers of a pro-education rally at the state capitol to children asking for more toys on Christmas morning.

His work is regularly praised by Utah lawmakers on Capitol Hill, but his hiring was narrowly approved by the state school board in an 8-7 vote.

"I hope I can win over those of you who have felt uncomfortable," Smith said after being sworn into the position in 2014. "I would like to say I'm confident I can, but I'm at least confident that I'll endeavor to do that."

Members of the school board's leadership team praised Smith's tenure.

"Brad Smith is a true education visionary whose focus on evidence-based reforms has moved the needle in ensuring that all students are college- and career-ready for the 21st century," David Thomas, the board's vice chairman, said in a prepared statement.

Deputy state Superintendent Sydnee Dickson has served as acting state superintendent since Smith's leave of absence was announced.

Dickson declined to comment Wednesday, but the school board statement said she would continue in her role as acting state superintendent until future plans are made.

Twitter: @bjaminwood