Ashland High School Principal Jeff Schlecht will retire at the end of this month, but will continue working as a contracted employee through the end of this school year, he announced Monday.

Ashland High School Principal Jeff Schlecht will retire at the end of this month, but will continue working as a contracted employee through the end of this school year, he announced Monday.

"It's the toughest decision that I've ever made, because the staff is so hard-working and passionate about what they do and it's been my privilege to serve with them," he said this morning.

On Monday the School Board approved Schlecht's request to retire Nov. 30 and continue serving as principal through the end of the school year on a 1039 contract, which enables retired government employees to continue to work as many as 1,039 hours in a calendar year.

Schlecht, 58, opted to officially retire this month in order to avoid potential changes to his retirement benefits in January, he said.

This is his eighth year as principal at the high school. Previously he was an associate principal at the high school and principal at Bellview Elementary School.

He has been an educator for 30 years. In 1970, he began his career as a teacher at Scio High School, located in the Willamette Valley.

At their Monday night meeting, several School Board members praised Schlecht's work at the high school.

"I think he'll be missed and he'll be hard to replace," Board Chairman Keith Massie said.

Board member Ruth Alexander commended Schlecht for his leadership ability.

"He is loved by the high school, and especially by the high school faculty," she said. "We will sorely miss him."

Under Schlecht the high school has won numerous awards, including one this year that recognizes the school as among the best in the state.

After he finishes this school year, Schlecht plans to continue living in Ashland and to stay involved in district happenings, he said.

"I hope to support Ashland School District in whatever way the superintendent or teachers would like to use my expertise," he said.

Until then, Schlecht plans to put in at least 1,039 hours at the high school, he said.

"I'm going to keep on giving 150 percent until my final day in June," he said. "I have been the luckiest man in the world because I have been honored to be Ashland High's principal."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.