Former Executive Director Michael Orr has left the Foundation for Pool & Spa Industry Education.

Neither Orr nor FPSIE representatives would go into specifics, but Orr indicated philosophical differences between him and the Board of Directors and the new president/CEO.

“There were a number of items we disagreed on that seemed unresolvable at the time,” Orr said.

FPSIE’s chairman of the board said the situation is part of the educational institution’s growth cycle. “In a business, you have the visionary stage, then it transitions into a business stage,” Phil Gelhaus said. “When that happens, the visionaries have done their jobs. I think that’s really what has happened here. Michael Orr is a great instructor. All of us at FPSIE still believe that, and we wish him the best.”

For nearly three years, Orr shepherded construction of FPSIE’s physical facility in Sacramento, Calif.; played a key role in establishing the educational program; and began the work of collaborating with colleges and offering Internet classes. The foundation opened its doors in 2006.

“We all wish to personally thank Michael Orr for his hard work that helped us reach the goals we set back in 2004,” Gelhaus said in a statement.

Orr served as FPSIE’s executive director until July 21, when Tema Abend stepped into the newly created position of president/CEO. Abend, former owner of a firm that consulted and instructed on pool operation and management, would handle the fund-raising, and administrative and business issues for FPSIE. This would leave Orr free to narrow his focus as director of education.

But Orr departed in September after differences couldn’t be resolved.

Now Abend will handle the education program. Gelhaus said FPSIE still plans to fill the director of education position, but doesn’t know when in light of the current economy. “We now have a staff of three full-time employees, and we’re trying to raise enough funds to bring that next position into FPSIE,” he said.

Gelhaus said Orr’s departure does not signal changes in FPSIE’s direction or its educational program.

For his part, Orr will continue as an instructor for organizations such as APSP and NSPF. “I’m a positive person, and I want to think that there’s an avenue where we can keep this dream alive and make education a centerpiece of the pool and spa industry,” he said. “And I think FPSIE has a great part to play in this.”