Cyndy Taymore, assistant superintendent of the Bedford Public Schools, will be the new schools chief in Melrose, where the School Committee voted 6-1 on Thursday to choose her as the successor to retiring superintendent Joseph Casey.
Committee members praised Taymore's breadth of experience. She has worked as a teacher in Woburn and Boston, where she headed an alternative education program at East Boston High School.
Taymore, 63, of Salem, is a former member of the Swampscott School Committee. She also worked as a special education program manager in the Malden Public Schools.
Taymore said becoming a school superintendent has long been a professional goal. “"When you come up the ladder, and you're making decisions that have a positive impact on a school district, you want to be a superintendent. You can help shape the vision of a school district," Taymore said in an interview on Friday.
"What excites me about Melrose is the community. They're very committed to their schools," she said. "They have a philosophy that the schools should be for all types of learners. That's my philosophy, too."
She said increasing the rigor of the curriculum and teaching strategies will be priorities "So that we can help all people learn."
"Ms. Taymore has an incredible depth that I have never seen before," said Mayor Robert J. Dolan, a member of the School Committee.
In Bedford, she was the special education director, and later named assistant superintendent. She is responsible for curriculum, instruction, and special education. Her skills are a good match for the diverse needs of the 3,775-student Melrose school district, Dolan said.
"We have upper middle class and middle class, and kids who live in poverty," Dolan said. "Melrose, for a small community, is a melting pot."
In public forums held over the last six months, Melrose parents stated they wanted a school leader who would focus on curriculum development, academic standards, and communication with the public. Many residents called or sent e-mails to committee members, citing Taymore as one of their top picks for a new school leader.
"I put a lot of stock into that," said School Committeeman Donald Constantine. "She seems to be very abreast of what's going on in the world of education."
Taymore was chosen over four other finalists: William Hart, assistant superintendent, Pentucket regional schools; Steven Hiersche, superintendent, Framingham public schools; James Kelleher, interim superintendent, Scituate Public Schools, and Kristan Rodriguez, assistant superintendent, Chelmsford public schools.
Taymore was selected on a roll call vote. School Committeewoman Carrie Kourkoumelis voted for Kelleher. She later voted with her colleagues in a unanimous, 7-0 vote, to enter contract negotiations with Taymore. The job was advertised at a rate of $140,000 to $190,000.
After the vote, the School Committee went into executive session to discuss negotiations for Taymore's contract. The next session will be held on April 10, said School Committee Chairwoman Kristin Thorp.
Casey, the superintendent for six years, will retire in June. He earns about $147,000.
Taymore has a bachelor's degree from American University in Washington, a master's degree from Emerson College in Boston, and has done graduate work at Salem State University and UMass-Boston. She was the only finalist for the Melrose job not to have a doctorate.
But School Committeewoman Christine Casatelli said Taymore is well-suited for the job. "She has more than earned her stripes in Boston and Malden, two extremely challenging school districts," she said.
Other members cited Taymore's experience as a teacher, a department head, and an administrator. "She's been in urban schools and suburban schools, " said School Committeeman Donald Lehman. "She has great life experience and great depth and experience in a lot of different areas."
Thorp agreed Taymore is ready to lead Melrose schools. "Ms. Taymore has a proven track record and more experience," than the other candidates, she said. "I feel that's a better fit for Melrose at this time."
School Committeewoman Margaret Driscoll cited a Harvard Business Review article about the 10 qualities of a successful leader -- such as integrity, high energy, and productive relationships -- which she said should apply to Melrose's new school leader.
"I believe [Taymore] embodies these criteria in a consistent way," said Driscoll, who led the search committee. "It's clear that she is not only qualified to be superintendent in Melrose, she very much wants to be."