By Lisa P. White

MARTINEZ — Schools superintendent John Triolo is retiring at the end of the month, after a little more than two years at the helm of the small district.

Triolo, 61, said he had been considering retirement since the spring, and made the decision to leave a couple of months ago.

With schools likely to take another hit due to the deepening state budget crisis, Triolo said the Martinez Unified School District faces tough decisions and deserves a leader who will be around to guide the schools through the next few years.

"When the year started, I was pretty sure I was not going to go more than one more year ... but then as I looked at a number of things I thought it would be best to step away now, to have someone be here for the (district) planning process," he said. "It's time to retire and get on with the other part of my life."

Triolo's announcement was unexpected.

"The board has been very happy with him, he's very communicative, very open, very easy to work with and kind of a no-nonsense superintendent, so we're very surprised and sad to see him go," school board president Ron Skrehot said.

Skrehot said the board will name an interim superintendent Monday, and the trustees plan to promote a permanent replacement from within the district by the end of December. Skrehot said the board is looking for someone who has a clear vision for the district and a strategy for dealing with budget cuts, which are likely to continue.

During his short tenure, Triolo oversaw construction of the new district office and installation of the all-weather athletic field at Alhambra High School. But he described the approval last week of a five-year school parcel tax as the "crowning piece" of his time in Martinez.

"I thought we had to try and get some revenue we could count on that Sacramento wouldn't be able to touch," he said.

Kathi McLaughlin, who was school board president when Triolo was hired, said parents, students and teachers like and respect him.

"He's a very 'Martinez' kind of person. He's very down home, he's very down to earth, he's visible, he visits the schools all the time, he's always available to listen," McLaughlin said.

Triolo, who earns $144,000 per year, joined the school district in July 2006 after serving as superintendent of Big Oak-Flat Groveland Unified School District near Yosemite for more than four years. He began his career as a high school teacher and eventually became a principal before ascending to the superintendent's office in 1997.

Triolo, a Chico native, is moving to Montana. He isn't sure what he is going to do, but after 37 years in education, he said it's unlikely he will ever hold another full-time job.

Triolo said he has enjoyed a good relationship with the school board and the staff. And he praised the community for its tremendous support of the school.

"This was a really positive way to end your career," he said. "(Martinez) will always bring a smile to my face, it's a great place."

Lisa P. White covers Pleasant Hill and Martinez. Reach her at 925-943-8011 or lwhite@bayareanewsgroup.com.