Amityville schools Superintendent John Williams, who led the district as it brought all its schools off state "needs improvement" lists for the first time in more than seven years, will retire at the end of the academic year.

In a letter on the district website, board of education president Lisa M. Johnson said Williams' leadership was key in navigating "tough economic times and burdensome mandates from both state and federal governments."

After seven years at the district and 47 years in education, Williams, 68, of Long Beach, said in an interview that "it's time."

Since 2011, he said, he'd been working while undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer, driving into Manhattan for early-morning chemotherapy before starting his workday.

Treatment has apparently been successful but the 2011 diagnosis prompted him to reassess his life: "I thought that was it for me," he said. "I lost 50 pounds in five weeks."

Retirement will allow him to spend more time with family in Scranton, Pa., and at a house in Florida he's so far visited just once, he said.

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The Amityville district, with a $60 million budget and 2,790 students, draws students from relatively affluent Amityville Village as well as North Amityville and East Massapequa.

In the 2011-2012 school year, almost two-thirds of students received free or reduced lunches, an indicator of poverty. Fourteen percent of students were judged to have limited English proficiency.

Northwest Elementary and Miles Middle School are listed by the state Education Department as "local assistance plan" schools, a new category for 2013-2014 that functions as a watch list.

"That kind of demographic condition definitely increases the difficulty of the educational task," Williams said. "But we kind of vowed when I came here that we were going to keep expectations high.

The district has begun a search for Williams' successor.