NEW MILFORD — Superintendent of Schools Joshua Smith will be leaving to take over as Region 15’s superintendent.

The timeline is still being worked out between the New Milford and Region 15 school boards and Smith, but the change could happen at some point in late September or early October. Smith has been with New Milford for seven years, serving as the full-time superintendent since 2016.

Smith said the decision to leave was a combination of factors, including that it’s a return to the district he grew up in — and it’s about 40 minutes closer to his home in Southington.

“I wasn’t looking to leave New Milford,” he said, adding there are very few districts he would leave for.

He will replace Regina Lemerich Botsford, who retired June 30, after serving as Region 15’s superintendent for about five years. Ralph Iassogna is now serving as the interim superintendent of Region 15 and will remain in that position until Smith begins, according to a news release from Region 15.

Jennifer Connelly, Region 15 Board Chairwoman, welcomed Smith to the district after a special meeting Thursday.

“The board was impressed with his demonstrated accomplishments, leadership skills, ability to document and foster student growth and his outlook for the future of Region 15,” she said in a press release. “He will be a valuable asset to our leadership team and we are confident that his energy, passion and vision will guide Region 15 forward to new levels of excellence for our students, staff and community.”

Smith was selected following a months-long search, led by the school board with the assistance of Cooperative Educational Services.

A leadership profile was developed from focus groups and an online survey, which provided input from more than 1,150 students, staff, parents, public officials and residents in Southbury and Middlebury.

Musical chairs for educators

Smith is the fifth superintendent to leave a district in the Danbury area this year.

Region 12, New Fairfield, Ridgefield and Region 15 superintendents all officially finished their terms on June 30. With Smith’s appointment, all, except Ridgefield, have now been filled permanently.

Smith, who is from Southbury and whose wife is from Middlebury, said he wanted the chance to give back to the district that gave him so much and pay it forward to the students there now.

“Being able to return home and make a contribution to that community is important to me,” he said.

He said it’s a special opportunity that doesn’t present itself to everyone.

Smith’s educational career began as a student teacher at Region 15’s Rochambeau Middle School in 1996, followed by a teaching position at Schaghticoke Middle School in New Milford.

The job of superintendent also takes a lot of time and Smith said it’s helpful to live near the district to be able to do that.

The Region 15 superintendent position was last posted five years ago, but Smith felt he wasn’t ready yet. When the opportunity presented itself this time though, Smith knew he couldn’t pass it up.

“You have to take opportunities when they’re available,” he said. “If I pass on it now, I don’t know if the stars will align again.”

Quality school district

Smith said he still had things he wanted to do in New Milford and he values the community there. He sent emails to the parents and staff Thursday night, commending the people he worked with and applauding the quality of the district they are building together.

“You are a talented, dedicated group of people who care deeply about children and have made this decision very hard,” he wrote to the teachers, adding a similar note to the parents, “It has always been my goal to balance progress with compassion and policy with empathy. I hope that I have served you well in my time here and wish you all the very best on whatever your path has in store for you.”

New Milford Board of Education Chairman David Lawson said he expects it to be a smooth transition, and said the board will discuss options in executive session at Tuesday’s meeting.

He said he understands why Smith is leaving and appreciates all of Smith’s initiatives, including new staff developments and keeping the board apprised.

“We’re going to miss him,” Lawson said. “These things happen and we’ll move forward.”