John Stevens, longtime educator and principal of the Edgartown School, announced Thursday he will retire next summer after 12 years at the helm of the K through 8 school, which he attended as a child.

Mr. Stevens will stay on until July 31 of next year.

“That’s going to give time for me to work with the next principal on the transition from my administration to that person’s,” he told the Gazette. “There’s a big learning curve going from another school to this school.”

Mr. Stevens, 65, grew up on the Island and graduated from the regional high school. After college, he moved to Florida and worked as an educator there for more than 30 years, rising to the rank of area director for a part of Palm Beach county that included 15 schools. After raising three children in Florida and advancing to higher levels of public education there, he said for him and his wife Susan Stevens, who is head of the Chilmark School, returning to Martha’s Vineyard seemed to him a perfect option.

“This opportunity came up, and I said, what a great place to go work and end my career,” he recalled.

He said he told staff the news Thursday morning. “I’m going to miss the kids, their families, and all the folks that work here in the building,” Mr. Stevens said.

As the Island population has evolved, he has led the school through a time of transition over the last decade.

“When I took over, the percentage of students on free and reduced lunch was well below 20 [per cent]. Now it’s approaching 50 per cent,” he said. He added, “Our Brazilian population at the school is now close to 30 per cent. The demographics are changing, which just means we have to adapt.”

He also oversaw the implementation of a new school garden program and reading methodology called response to intervention during his tenure as principal. This year, he looks forward to beginning a new math curriculum for students in grades 2 through 8. He said maintaining the school facility has been a priority of his since he took the job in 2007, and he plans to spend the year making sure things are in good shape for the next school leader.

“I want to make sure that all the curriculums are well-implemented and well-supplied, that the teachers are well-trained, and the school is properly staffed and the building is well-maintained,” he said.

School committee member Kim Kirk said she was sad to hear the news of his retirement.

“He has been just such a dedicated and strong leader for the school, and there is no question that he has benefited thousands of children passing through the doors over the years,” she said. “It’s going to be very hard to replace him.”

Superintendent of schools Matthew D’Andrea said Mr. Stevens will be greatly missed and he hopes to assemble a search committee for the next principal by November.

Mr. Stevens said he has no particular plans for retirement beyond traveling to spend time with his children and grandchildren.

“And in the summer, I sail a lot,” he said.