The announcement came suddenly on Friday in an email from Missoula County Public Schools that Superintendent Rob Watson would announce his resignation at noon.

KGVO News and other media organizations rushed to the MCPS Administration Building to meet with Watson and hear the announcement.

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“I've been in this role for about three years,” began Watson. “Prior to that I served as the superintendent in Bozeman for seven years and this morning, I made an announcement to our teaching staff and our staff members across the district that I'd be leaving my position on June 30.”

Watson explained that he was resigning to take another position in state education.

“I'll be taking a role as the Executive Director for the School Administrators of Montana and that’s an advocacy position,” he said. “It'll give me the chance to advocate for educators not only here in Missoula, but across our state, in those venues that you typically would expect advocacy like the legislature or the interim Education Committee, or the Board of Public Education.”

KGVO asked Watson if the acrimonious atmosphere that has existed in the community over COVID 19 policy, mask mandates and mandatory vaccinations played a part in his decision to seek another position, a question that he gently deflected, simply stating that he has enjoyed his three years as the MCPS Superintendent.

“My fondest memory for the last two and a half years has been the fact that we continue to work together to keep our kids in school and to keep our kids learning,” he said. “Had it not been for the dedication and the empathy of our staff members, we couldn't have done that. Because of that I feel fortunate to have worked with this staff and to keep kids learning and that's the biggest lesson; that’s the biggest takeaway I have, is that we can survive some pretty tough situations but we can keep kids learning which is what is important to all educators at heart.”

Since the University of Montana is just days away from dropping its mandatory masking policy, Watson was asked if the mask mandates in all Missoula County Public Schools will continue until the end of the present school year.

He said no.

“We're all kind of holding our breath for whatever that new variant might be,” he said. “But I do not expect masks to last through the school year. I think we're close as well (as the University). Our board approved some metrics back in November. If you watch those metrics, we're getting pretty close to those as well. But we do want to be transparent about that with our community so that they know what we're watching and what we're going to use in order to guide that decision. And so I think we're probably within two or three weeks of it, but it's just hard to say.”

A press release from MCPS stated ‘In 2015, Dr. Watson was in the inaugural group, joining 27 fellow superintendents from around the country, to achieve National Superintendent Certification. In 2016, he was honored by the School Administrators of Montana with the GV Erickson Award, the highest recognition given to a school administrator for notable service and dedication. In 2019, Dr. Watson was named Montana’s Superintendent of the Year.

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