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After nearly seven years at the helm of St. Paul Public Schools, Superintendent Joe Gothard is headed home to be the next schools chief in Madison, Wis.

The Madison Metropolitan School District announced the hire Monday, and Gothard's current school board bosses offered up their congratulations.

"Dr. Gothard has been a strong leader for SPPS, and we are grateful," St. Paul board Chair Halla Henderson said in a statement. "At the same time, we are excited he has the opportunity to continue his career and return to his hometown with his family."

Gothard, who recently was recognized as the 2024 National Superintendent of the Year, grew up in Madison and began his career as an educator there. He came to St. Paul in 2017 after serving four years as superintendent of the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage school district, and is among the nation's longest-serving urban school leaders.

In a recent interview, Gothard said that he had not envisioned a return to Madison, but that he was in a stage of his career and his life in which "it just felt right this time."

He also has five siblings who live in the area, he said then.

In a news release Monday, Gothard added that St. Paul Public Schools was an "incredible" district that challenged him to be the best leader he could be "both in times of joy and times of great difficulty."

A year ago, a student was fatally stabbed in a hallway at Harding High School, and the district spent months exploring what it would take to make the schools safer. In 2021, his administration pushed through a districtwide consolidation plan that included the closings of several schools.

But St. Paul went on to receive a windfall in COVID-19 pandemic relief money and Gothard and his team earned national acclaim both for its use and accounting of it.

Last fall, district leaders worked with parents and community members to open a new East African Elementary Magnet School and launch a groundbreaking Karen language program.

In his statement, Gothard pledged to continue to give his full attention to the district until his tenure ends. On Monday, St. Paul teachers filed an intent to strike notice for a walkout that would begin March 11 unless district and union leaders can reach a deal in mediation.

The district said that it plans to appoint an interim superintendent until a new leader is hired. Transition plan details were not yet available Monday.