SAUK RAPIDS -- After 7 years as their superintendent, Dr. Daniel Bittman is saying goodbye to the Sauk Rapids-Rice School District.

At an open house Monday night the district sent Bittman off with kind words and a lot of hugging.

He says, he's going to look back fondly on the relationships he built in the district.

"I've just enjoyed the people, internally within the district and in the community. People took a chance on me when they hired me as superintendent, and I so appreciate their faith and commitment and support along the way, and I've continued to learn from them each and every day."

School Board Chair Mark Hauck says, they're losing an important figure.

"What we have found in Dan's tenure here is that he's been so supportive, thoughtful and wise in his role, and the role of the school board in delivering quality education to the students and community."

The district also presented Bittman with a certificate of appreciation at the school board meeting later Monday night.

Bittman will be taking over the Elk River School District, having beat two other candidates in February.

Bittman had some simple advice for his eventual successor.

"Listen and learn, have faith in the people around you... the people here in Sauk Rapids-Rice are great people, who want to do great things for kids and community."

Bittman's interim replacement is former St. Cloud Area School District Superintendent Bruce Watkins.

The district hopes to start the search for a permanent replacement in the fall.

Photo: Richard Leguil, WJON
Photo: Richard Leguil, WJON