WOODBRIDGE — The man many believe single-handedly changed the direction of the Amity school system will be retiring at the end of the school year.

Prior to Superintendent of Schools John J. Brady’s arrival, Amity incurred budget deficits and air quality concerns in its schools.

The three district towns of Bethany, Orange and Woodbridge voted down 17 school budgets.

For the past nine years, Brady has worked tirelessly to bring Amity back from the brink of collapse and make it the well-respected institution it is today.

When asked why he was retiring, he referenced his wife’s recent passing.

“I have a place on Cape Cod. I had hoped to spend our first summer there with my wife. We’ve never been able to spend a complete summer there” because of his work, Brady said.

Brady said since she died, he has been reflecting on the so called golden years.

He said he was planning to sell his Connecticut home and move back to Massachusetts.

Brady grew up in Springfield. He moved his family to Connecticut in 1994.

In his letter of resignation, Brady said he had reached a point in his life where he craved the freedom to travel and time to spend with family and friends.

He also said he couldn’t think of a “finer school district to have served as superintendent.”

He said he plans to spend a good deal of time getting to know his 2-year-old granddaughter in Philadelphia.

He also has plans for a trip to England in September with friends.

Brady, who before coming to Amity was the principal at Staples High School in Westport, said he wasn’t looking for a new job but was asked by a superintendent consultant to apply for the Amity position.

“It has been a good fit,” Brady said.

“People thought I was crazy coming here,” Brady reminisced.

“But once I saw the quality of the faculty and the commitment of the students, I thought it would be a good opportunity,” Brady said.

Brady, who will be 61 when he retires, said he has been in education for 35 years. His last day will be June 30.

Brady credits the Amity Board of Education for the progress the school system has made.

“I give a lot of credit to the board for its focus on the students,” he said.

“They want our students to have an excellent experience at Amity and to be the best prepared for whatever their path is. That’s what we’ve tried to do and I think we’ve done a good job at it,” Brady said.

Board of Education Chairman William Blake credits Brady’s ability to be a leader.

“John Brady came to Amity when it desperately needed a strong, principled superintendent. After financial problems arose in the district in 2002, a cascade of questions and doubts arose that resulted in 17 failed referenda,” Blake said.

Blake said thanks to Brady’s leadership, the school system survived and is thriving today.

“Over the last nine years, John Brady has restored that confidence through his talent, vision, and commitment to educational excellence. He restored the integrity and rigor of the financial operations at Amity. He advocated for and led a building project that came in on time and on budget,” Blake said.

Brady believed the arts at Amity should be celebrated as much as athletics.

During building renovations Brady advocated for a performing arts center that would become home to a variety of student performances.

He also advocated for a theater director who shared his vision.

Amity Theater Director Robert Kennedy praised Brady’s leadership.

“His educational vision led to a renewed emphasis upon the place of the arts in a liberal education, and the performing arts have flourished at Amity as a result,” Kennedy said.

In May the performing arts theater was renamed The John J. Brady Center for the Performing Arts.

“It was our theater students who asked for the auditorium to be named in his honor. They all understand the impact he has had. Our school plays and musicals have hundreds of student participants and the shows are attended by thousands from around the BOW community. We all have Dr. Brady to thank for that,” Kennedy said.

Amity High School Principal Charles Britton said Brady has been there for him through thick and thin.

Brady hired Britton six years ago.

“He’s been there for me right along. I can think of no better superintendent. He has all the skill sets to be successful. He is the quintessential educational leader. Education leaders aspire to be like him,” Britton said.

“He is going to be sorely missed. No one in life is irreplaceable but he is as close as it comes.”

When asked to recall a standout moment, Britton said it wasn’t easy to choose just one.

“We’ve had some difficult moments. We’ve lost students and also had many positive successes. In every instance he’s been a rock. He sets a high bar for everyone,” Britton said.

Britton said without the right leader problems can arise quickly.

“The superintendent sets the standard. If you don’t have the right person things can go bad quickly. I’ve learned so much from him,” Britton said.

Administrative Assistant Paula Cofrancesco said Brady is a true leader.

“Dr. Brady has been the best to work for. I have learned a lot from him and thank him for his leadership, guidance and dedication to the Amity District. Amity will miss him terribly,” she said.

Orange First Selectman Jim Zeoli, who has been a critic of the school board’s budgets, praised Brady.

“John has done a good job improving the educational programs at Amity over his tenure. He has advocated for more advanced classes which has been beneficial to the students. I hope he has a long and healthy retirement,” Zeoli said.

Bethany First Selectwoman Derrylyn Gorski also commended Brady’s leadership.

“He has certainly restored confidence in the school system. They budget conservatively. If there is a surplus always he always sends funds back to towns,” Gorski said.

She also weighed in on his support for the performing arts.

“He has been wonderful especially for the arts. Amity had always focused on sports. John Brady opened new opportunities for many students,” Gorski said.

Brady said he will miss spending time with the students and staff.

He served as student adviser for the Model United Nations Club.

“It was one of the best experiences I have had had here. I got to interact with wonderful kids and we would go to the UN conference every year,” he said.

“I have loved working with the faculty. They are dedicated, hardworking and cooperative. They are interested in bringing new ideas,” he said.

He also thanked the school board.

“I have had a tremendously supportive board.”

Brady said he wasn’t sure what the future held in store for him

My instinct is to fully retire but my colleagues tell me that will last about six months. I am not opposed to being an interim,” he said.

All agree that replacing Brady will be difficult to accomplish. The board will soon begin the task of conducting a search to have someone in place.

“Whoever replaces him will have big shoes to fill to keep Amity at the level of excellence that we have attained under Dr. Brady,” Cofrancesco said.