Superintendent Wayne Alexander will leave the Hernando County Schools in July, he said Tuesday night.
"I love this job and this community, but I love my wife and stepkids a lot more," he said, alluding to the family troubles that prompted his decision.
The surprise announcement came less than two years into his tenure in the county's top schools job.
And it capped months of uncertainty that began in December, when he announced he was seeking work in New England due to a visitation dispute involving his new wife's children.
Alexander, 48, said he had wanted to be a superintendent for most of his adult life. And from the moment he arrived, he led the schools with that passion, launching a top-to-bottom restructuring and vowing to bring a sense of equality to what he called a district of "haves and have-nots."
The speed of that change ruffled some feathers, with some parents and staff objecting to a manner they viewed as brash and overbearing.
But board members said Alexander would be remembered for pushing a school district that had lagged for too long in the doldrums.
"I think you brought to this community exactly what it needed," said member Sandra Nicholson. "This school community needed to be shown its potential. I think with your leadership, that has been shown to a lot of people, that we can do a better job than we have been doing."
"I believe we made the correct decision in hiring you, Dr. Alexander," said member John Sweeney.
Alexander said he's far from done, and promised to devote 100 percent effort in his final months to finishing what he began.
"We have accomplished so much in a short period of time," he said, citing the district's efforts to improve gifted and career education and boost teacher pay.
"And no one has lost their job," Alexander added. "It was just an enormous accomplishment. These accomplishments and this momentum will continue."
He said the board should have sufficient time to find a replacement by July, though members have said they may seek an interim superintendent due to their late start in the job search.
And Nicholson said the board would need to discuss the matter of his contract, which ends in the spring of 2010.
"I do have concerns," she said. "I think that's something we'll have to discuss in a few weeks."
Tom Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1431.