Supt. Robert L. French, who has seen the Orange Unified School District through some high-profile controversies, has announced that he will retire at the end of the school year.
French, 68, said he wants to be able to pursue other education issues and indulge his passion for fishing.
But, he said, his years with Orange Unified have been some of the most interesting of his career.
French started in Orange Unified in 1994, capping an education career that spanned more than 40 years.
He had served as an assistant dean at USC, his alma mater, after working as superintendent of the Piedmont Unified School District in the Bay Area and the Beverly Hills Unified School District.
While at Orange Unified, he presided over a number of controversies. Early in his tenure in Orange, the conservative school board began questioning grants and services that touched on social issues. The district was among the first in the state to drop bilingual education and install English immersion programs.
French said the district has since become a model for other schools coping with the transition to English proficiency.
"OUSD delivers a superb instructional program and I genuinely enjoy working with such a dedicated, highly trained and effective group of teachers, administrators and support staff," he said.
His tenure will end June 30.