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Tamara Uselman, superintendent of Bismarck Public Schools, will resign in June for a consulting position and to move closer to family in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

In a letter to Bismarck School Board members on Monday, Uselman said she has an opportunity to do consulting work and also would like to return to teaching before retiring from her career in education. Her resignation is effective June 30.

The announcement came as a surprise to some school board members, including Heide Delorme, who said she spoke with Uselman over the weekend.

"I’m very sad that she’s resigning," Delorme said. "I think we have the best superintendent in the state, so I’m very sad but I support her because she has her reasons for (leaving)."

It’s not yet clear how the board will proceed with hiring Uselman’s replacement. School Board President Karl Lembke said the board needs to decide next steps, including the timeline for finding a successor. He said he does not have any concerns with finding a suitable replacement.

"She did a great job," Lembke said. "In the end, she left the district in a better place than she found it, and I am, the board is, really proud of the work she's done and sincerely wish her the best on her next endeavors."

Uselman, 56, was hired in January 2011 on a 4-1 vote to lead the district, the state’s largest district with nearly 13,000 students. Her initial one-year contract was approved at a $190,000 annual salary, and her contract was extended each year after that, along with yearly pay raises. Her current salary is $213,854.

Prior to moving to Bismarck, Uselman was the superintendent of Perham-Dent Schools in Perham, Minn., for eight years. In Bismarck, she became the district’s first female superintendent.

Uselman said Monday she hasn’t yet finalized her job doing consulting work. She considered leaving last year, but a school board member encouraged her to stay. However, this year she thought it was time to leave, despite difficulties leaving her job and employees behind.

“You can only move a community so far,” she said, noting the rapid enrollment growth and passing of two bonds for three new school buildings. “Huge work has been done, but there comes a time, I think, when that’s all you can do.”

In her office on Monday, Uselman pulled out her family Christmas card to also explain her motive for leaving. She and her husband, Tim, have three adult children and five grandchildren who live in the Fargo-Moorhead area. She and her husband also own a lake house in Minnesota.

Until her resignation date, Uselman said there’s still work that she would like to get done, particularly on safe learning environments. In addition, she said the school board has important work ahead of it in terms of addressing growth at the elementary schools. She also would like to see continued focus on innovating schools.

“I would like to say a thank you. This community is really a truly rare, special place, and they have taken care of their kids and provided space and supported advancements in education,” Uselman said. “I’ve loved working here. It has been joyful.”

(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)

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Education and Health Reporter