Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon, the town's top education administrator for 16 years, plans to step down from the post at the end of the next academic year.

Landon, 75, who not only holds the distinction of being one of the longest-serving school chiefs in the state, is also the highest paid, with a $293,000 salary last year.

"I have had the honor and the privilege of working on behalf of the students, their parents and the staff of Westport public schools for the past 16 years," Landon said in an announcement this week.

Reacting to Landon's retirement, the Board of Education issued a joint statement saying, "We would like to thank Dr. Landon for leading our schools to tremendous heights during his 16-year tenure. Westport is widely regarded as one of the top school districts in the state and in the nation, and Dr. Landon has been integral to our collective success."

The school board said it plans to launch a national search to find a new superintendent, and will hire "a search firm with a national scope that has worked with high-performing districts such as ours."

The board said it will issue periodic updates on the progress of its search, adding that the seven board members can be contacted by the public with questions and comments at the email address:

Landon, explaining his decision to step down in 2016, said, "There comes a time in the life of every successful superintendent of schools when one must conclude that it is time to let someone else take the reins of leadership and that time has come for me."

He said he decided to make a public announcement of his retirement plan "a little more than a year" before his contract with the school district expires. "I am doing so in order to give the Board of Education a full year to select my successor," he said.

"I will work on behalf of our students without pause throughout the next 13 months of my superintendency and work equally to make the transition to new leadership as seamless as possible," he said in the statement.

In 2013, the school board had granted Landon a two-year contract extension and a 1.75 percent pay increase. At the time, his contract was scheduled to expire last June 30. In extending the pact last year, however, the board decided not to approve a raise for Landon.

First Selectman Jim Marpe, a former school board member and chairman, said in a statement, "I have had the honor and privilege of working alongside Dr. Landon for a number of years including my eight-year tenure as a member and chairman of the Board of Education. Since taking office as first selectman, he and I have remained steadfast in our commitment to collaborating and forging a positive relationship with the town and Board of Education. I look forward to continuing this precedent during the remainder of Dr. Landon's tenure and with his eventual successor."

Marpe credited Landon for "his dedication to the town, its schools and, most particularly, the multitude of children for whom he advocated. Through his 16-year career as Westport's superintendent, he consistently raised the bar of excellence and has made the schools in Westport some of the most successful in the country."