Richard Graham, superintendent of the Joseph School District for the past three years, will be leaving Joseph to assume a half-time superintendent's position in the Ritzville School District in Washington state.

"It's a lot closer to my family," said Graham, who was head of the school district in Grand Coulee, Wash., before coming to Joseph. Graham said it's not only near his father, who is ailing, but all three of his children and seven grandchildren live within a couple hours drive of Ritzville.

Graham said that he found out for sure the Ritzville job would come open just a month ago. He made the decision to accept the half-time position, which pays about the same as Joseph's full-time post, last week.

"It's been a good, productive three years," said Graham of his stint at the helm of the Joseph district. "It's been most enjoyable."

A special Joseph School Board meeting will be held Tuesday, May 4, so the board can accept Graham's resignation and make plans to find a successor. An executive session is also scheduled, and another item on the agenda is to hire a new music instructor to replace first year teacher Mikiko Aoyi who is reportedly leaving Joseph to get married.

Graham's three years at the helm of the Joseph School District have been challenging ones, with budget cuts at the state level accompanied by a declining enrollment, though that was stemmed somewhat this school year.

In spite of the difficulties, Graham was instrumental in increasing the general fund carryover balance from zero in 2001 to $296,752 in 2003 to over $500,000 in 2004-05 out of a $2.6 million general fund. He executed cost saving measures, including staff reduction, to establish financial stability.

As superintendent Graham orchestrated the change to the four-day school week, established five-year financial goals for the district, implemented the popular Sustained Silent Reading program and arbitrated community meetings on drug and alcohol prevention to develop the district's policy.

He also oversaw the passage of a local option levy to insure stable funding for three years and avoid the cutting of programs, and obtained a Quality Zone Academy Bond, which helped update the school's computer technology.

During his tenure, Graham has also seen the Joseph School District excel on the state-wide school report card.

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