The news on Tuesday morning, March 1, that Dr. Tommy Bice was retiring as State Superintendent effective March 31 came as a jolt to most in the Alabama education community.

While rumors of someone in such a position moving are simply par for the course, and had been in this case for many months, this news at this point in time caught most off guard.  Bice has served as state superintendent for four years and plans to join the Mike and Gillian Goodrich Foundation in Birmingham as Education Director.

“While I may be retiring from formal public education, my work on behalf of students is far from over,” Bice said in a statement from the state department of education.

The veteran educator has more than 39 years of service in Alabama.  He began his career working at the Alabama School for Deaf & Blind and held most jobs in the field. “from bus driver to superintendent,” he once told me.

One of his most notable accomplishments as head of ALSDE was putting into place Plan 2020, a strategic plan for reform.  He lead the effort for more rigorous standards and encouraged local systems to be more innovative.

And to his credit, Bice has probably spent more time visiting schools and classrooms than any past superintendent.  I’ve been on some of those visits and have seen him on the floor talking to a child time after  time.  It is obvious he has always understood that more than anything else, his job as state superintendent was to try with all his might  to make life better for students.  If this meant changing the way things have always been done, so be it.

I have certainly enjoyed getting to know Tommy Bice as my friend and have appreciated the candor of the times he and I have sat alone in his office talking.

He will be missed.  But the world waits for no one and now we start the process of a new chapter at ALSDE.