The longtime principal of Southwest High School is retiring in December, Minneapolis Public Schools announced.

Bill Smith has headed up Minneapolis’ largest high school since 2003. Southwest has been lauded for its academics and extracurriculars, including theater and sports programs. It’s also an International Baccalaureate World School.

The search for Smith’s replacement will kick off in early 2018, the school said on its website, adding that the process will include interested staff and community members. Smith will be doing special projects until his official retirement, said district spokesman Dirk Tedmon.

In the meantime, Karen Wells will serve as interim principal for the 2017-18 school year to sidestep midyear staffing changes, said Cecilia Saddler, the district’s deputy academic leadership and learning chief, in a letter to the school community. Wells has worked with the district for more than two decades, according to Southwest’s website.

Wells is a retired building principal and “will provide the strong, stable leadership Southwest needs until the community’s new principal is named for the 2018-2019 school year,” Saddler’s letter said.