JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

The search for a new Duval County School Superintendent will move forward next week.

Duval County School Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals will leave in December when his current contract expires.

School Board Chairwoman Betty Burney released a letter late Friday signed by all seven School Board members to Pratt-Dannals saying: "Based on conversations you have conducted with the Board Chair it appears that we mutually agree not to continue your contract after December 2012."

INTERVIEW: Channel 4 interviews Betty Burney

Board member W.C. Gentry said Pratt-Dannals was already considering retiring.

"Ed's done a great job of leading the district and really creating a great foundation for us," said Gentry. "But we really felt like, at this point, we really needed to look for a leader that would hopefully transform the district and move us to a different level."

Pratt-Dannals will leave the post after five turbulent years that included deep budget cuts due to falling tax and state revenue and failing to turn around several schools that fail state academic standards.

In a letter released to the media four minutes after the School Board's email, Pratt-Dannals said he had hoped to wait until after FCATs were administered next week before making the announcement so it would not be a distraction.

"I am looking forward to spending more time with my family, completing my doctorate and exploring other opportunities, including teaching and consulting," he wrote. "Education has been a lifelong passion for me that has amounted to more than a career choice, it is a way of life."

DOCUMENTS:  Pratt-Dannals' letter |  School Board's letter to the superintendent

"He's gotten pretty burned out the last couple of years. It's been 24/7 for him and so we really felt like, to take the next leap forward, we needed to as much as possible find a dynamic transformation," said Gentry.

Gentry said the board's decision to not renew Pratt-Dannals contract had nothing to do with the discovery of $100 million in the school system's reserve fund, unknown to the public.

"That's an important issue. And, Ed, his response was, 'You're right. We could have done it better,' and going forward, we will do it better," said Gentry.

Many parents and teachers were upset to learn about the hefty reserve fund after the district made cuts to jobs, sports programs, and magnet school transportation.

Gentry said he and the other board members were in the dark about the fund.

"There's no impropriety and I don't question the superintendent and his staff's beliefs that it was imperative to reserve these funds, there's no question about that," said Gentry. "The question is process, transparency, we weren't transparent. We weren't transparent to the board, we weren't transparent to the public. The public has a right to be unhappy about that and we're fixing the problem."

The School Board's letter says it will immediately begin a national search for a new superintendent and possible other leadership individuals.

Pratt-Dannals began with Duval County schools in 1976 as a math teacher.  In November 2007, he was named superintendent, running the nation's 21st largest school district, with 177 schools, about 125,000 students and 14,000 employees.