Akron Public Schools Superintendent David James is staying put.

James, who has been head of the Akron district since 2008, said Wednesday in a letter to the community that he has dropped out of the running for the top job in the Columbus City Schools system.

“I want to thank the people at the Columbus schools for their kind consideration, but my heart and I will remain in Akron,” James said in his letter posted Wednesday to the district website.

James, in Maryland for a gathering on K-12 education issues, was not available late Wednesday afternoon for comment beyond the letter.

“He wants this letter to speak for itself,” said Mark Williamson, spokesman for Akron Public Schools.

Williamson said James was at the conference at the invitation of Paolo DeMaria, Ohio’s state schools superintendent.

James was one of two finalists to lead the Columbus district, which boasts 50,000 students and is the largest public school system in the state.

He had been scheduled to appear at a series of community forums in Columbus in early March ahead of the district’s final decision.

That leaves John Stanford, current interim superintendent for Columbus City Schools, as the sole candidate for the post.

Before James’ letter was posted, he called each of the Akron school board members Wednesday to inform them of his decision.

Board President Patrick Bravo said he had a private conversation Monday in which James “indicated he was considering withdrawing” from consideration for the Columbus job.

“We’re really excited about the opportunity to continue our momentum,” Bravo said Wednesday. “There are too many important things going on right now for us to consider a leadership change. This is a real win for the city and for the children and families of Akron Public Schools.”

Members of the board have previously expressed their support for James and have encouraged him to stay on as Akron superintendent, Bravo noted.

Supporters have said that James has brought stability to the 21,500-student Akron district, which faces declining enrollment as well as competition from charter schools and open enrollment.

Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan said Wednesday in a prepared statement, “While I’m confident David would have led the Columbus school district with distinction, I’m ecstatic to see another Akron leader choose to continue his service to this community.”

In his letter, James said, “Many of our wonderful families, employees, stakeholders, business partners and my senior staff graciously told me they value my leadership.”

James joined the Akron district in 1992 and served as executive of business affairs before becoming superintendent in 2008. His current, three-year contract expires in August 2019. His annual salary is $195,011.

In his letter, James noted the district’s College & Career Academies of Akron program, and said, “I don’t want to miss out on seeing and being part of what has become a total community effort to ensure spectacular futures for our children.”

Under James, the Akron Public Schools launched the College & Career Academies plan to transform all city high schools into college and career-themed academies, in which academic subjects are linked to career themes.

Starting next school year, Akron Public Schools ninth-graders will decide on one of 57 pathways to focus their education. Then, in the 2019-2020 school year, students will embark on the path they chose as all the high schools become full four-year academies.

North High School served as a pilot for the project in 2016.

Just last week, Kent State University revealed that it will create three academies in Akron’s Firestone High School. Kent State officials said last year that the university planned to team up with the district, but did not provide details.

Last month, the school board approved the creation of the Akron Children’s Hospital Academy of Health and Human Services at North High School.

Horrigan said in his prepared statement that he looked forward to continuing to work with James and the Akron school board on initiatives including the College & Career Academies plan.

In November, James told the Beacon Journal that he had hoped to stay in his Akron post until 2021, but then he heard about the opening in Columbus.

The Columbus district “has always kind of been on my radar screen,” James told the Beacon Journal. James, a Cleveland native, noted that he worked in the private sector in Columbus before joining the Akron district in 1992.

The Akron district has 3,000 employees and 45 school buildings.

Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com. You can follow her @KatieByardABJ on Twitter or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com.