A fourth elementary school principal is planning to step down at the end of this school year, sending the district in search of a replacement ahead of next fall. 

Oak Bluffs School principal Megan Farrell notified parents Thursday that she will be stepping down at the end of August as she takes on increasing elder care responsibilities and explores part-time education roles. 

Her departure means superintendent Richard Smith will be on the hunt for three principals. Earlier this week, Edgartown principal Shelley Einbinder announced she would retire in July. Her assistant principal MaryAnn Bartlett is also stepping down at the end of the year.

Those principals are following Chilmark School principal Susan Stevens, who announced late last year that she planned to retire after nearly 50 years in education. The district recently hired Concord teacher Kate Squires to take her place. 

For Ms. Farrell, the decision to retire came with mixed emotions, but she believed the school was on the right path.  

“I am confident that I am leaving the Oak Bluffs School staff and students on a continuous improvement trajectory with an emphasis on social/emotional learning in a safe, secure, and welcoming school facility,” she wrote in her letter. 

She went on to thank the school's educational leadership, expressed gratitude for board members and praised the school’s staff. 

“I am forever indebted to the outstanding Oak Bluffs School staff, at all levels,” she wrote. “They are an extraordinary group of committed educators that continuously give 110 per cent of themselves so students can succeed, and families can grow.” 

Ms. Farrell was hired as the permanent principal in 2016, after serving as the interim when Jack Rizzo suddenly resigned after less than a year on the job. At the time, she had been at the school for 19 years, working as a teacher and a reading specialist before becoming an administrator.

In an interview with the Gazette Monday, Mr. Smith said he was happy for Ms. Farrell and he praised what she’s done for the school. 

“I think she’s done a good job,” he said. “She’s grown the school, the academic program is stronger. I will miss her.”

With only a few months of school left, Mr. Smith expected there would be an abbreviated search for Ms. Farrell’s replacement. 

When Ms. Stevens announced late last year she would step down from Chilmark, the district conducted a broad search, putting ads in education publications and on other job posting sites. 

In that search, the district got 12 candidates back, and held several interviews. The finalists visited Chilmark and Island officials even went to the finalists’ schools to see how they work. 

“Those are things that may not happen in an abbreviated search,” Mr. Smith said. 

The Oak Bluffs process will still likely be more expansive than the hiring in Edgartown, where Mr. Smith said he would likely exercise his power to appoint both a principal and an assistant principal. 

The different approaches are partially due to Mr. Smith’s direct involvement in the Edgartown School after nearly 200 parents attended a school committee meeting earlier this year to underline concerns about education at the school. He said he’s talked to many parents and staff, giving him a strong handle on the type of leadership needed moving forward.

“I am really confident about the succession plan that’s going to be there,” he said. “I feel like there’s been a lot of data gathering that’s already been done.”

The principal departures aren’t all surprising to Mr. Smith. Ms. Einbinder-Fleischmann worked in education for 41 years and wants to spend more time with her brother who has been fighting brain cancer for the past 10 months. Ms. Bartlett last year had discussed potentially moving back to Nantucket or pursuing other education opportunities. Ms. Farrell had also been in education for decades and Mr. Smith knew she would likely retire in the next year or two. 

He hopes the openings will provide a chance for the district to reexamine itself and continue to get better. 

“Whenever there is an opening you aspire to find opportunities to improve and I think we’ll do that in all three of our schools,” he said.

Editor's note: this article has been updated with comments from superintendent Richard Smith.