Baldwin County Board of Education Superintendent Robbie Owen announced his resignation on Friday morning, effective June 30. In a statement released Friday morning, Owen stated his intention to return to his previous role as principal at Rockwell Elementary School in Spanish Fort on July 1.

Owen submitted his resignation to school board President Norman Moore on Friday.

“While it has been a tremendous honor to serve as superintendent during the past school year, my heart will not allow me to move beyond working directly with children and in a capacity where I feel that I can have the greatest impact on their lives and their families,” Owen’s statement reads. “As the time has approached to make a decision on the course of my future as an educator, I have come to realize a decision made over 30 years ago to work directly with elementary school children is one I am not prepared to call my past. This has become very evident as the school year has drawn to a close and I have attended ceremonies where students have celebrated accomplishments with their parents, families, school families, and friends.”

Owen said his decision was not caused by the school board’s tax defeat in March. On March 31 voters rejected a proposed 8-mill property tax increase the school board said would have funded a 10-year, $350 million capital campaign that included building new elementary schools and updating others in the county. Further, voters rejected the renewal of several existing property taxes and left the county short of the 10 mills it needs to receive state funding.

“There will be those who think my decision is a result of the election and there will be those who may not believe this is my decision, but the truth is it is my decision and I simply miss being the principal of Rockwell Elementary School,” Owen said. “I will be available to work as superintendent throughout the month of June, but have informed the school board that I am prepared to vacate the superintendent’s position earlier if they see that to be in the system’s best interest. It has been a pleasure to work with the school board members, the central office staff, and with all of you! I greatly appreciate the words of encouragement and prayers that have come my way.”

Owen, four school board members and Attorney General Luther Strange had been named as defendants in a lawsuit filed May 1 by State Auditor Jim Zeigler. The lawsuit alleged that the Owen and the school board misused of taxpayer funds in the Build Baldwin Now campaign for higher property taxes. Baldwin County Board of Education spokesman Terry Wilhite said Friday Owen and the school board members had been dismissed from the lawsuit and only Strange remained as a defendant.

Wilhite said the board would need to have at least an interim superintendent in place by July 1. He said the board could limit the search to just local candidates or it could open the search nationwide. The decision, he said, would need to be made by the board at meeting before July 1.

“This came as a surprise and it is something we will have to figure out where to go from here with,” Wilhite said. “The board has multiple options to find a successor.”

Wilhite said the board would be deliberate and methodical in its search.

“The board will take as much time as is necessary to find a successor,” he said. “The next milestone is to have an interim superintendent in place by July 1.”