By Erica Noonan and Rachana Rathi, Globe Staff
Newton School Superintendent Jeffrey Young is one of three finalists for the superintendent of schools position in Cambridge.
Along with Young, an 11-year veteran of Newton's schools, the city also chose Mary Nash, academic superintendent for the Boston Public Schools and Carolyn Turk, Cambridge's interim superintendent.
The candidate will replace the position vacated by Thomas Fowler-Finn who retired in February.
In an interview Tuesday morning, Young, 56, said he was intrigued by the Cambridge post because of the "challenges and opportunity" within the urban system, which serves a much more varied socio-economic and cultural mix of youngsters.
"I'm not ready to retire," he said. "And money is not a driver for me. I was attracted to the proessional challeges and growth opporutunity and the chance to make a difference. Each school system deserves the chance to be as good as it can be."
The Globe reported in February that Young's contract expires in 2010 and School Committee members were not committing to renewing it by the June 30 deadline. At $247,870, he is one of the highest paid school superintendents in the region.
(See the Globe's searchable database of 2006-07 area superintendent salaries here.)
Reaction to the news that Young was considering leaving Newton was mixed.
"Initially I was surprised. When I thought about it, I realized that Cambridge is very different from Newton and it's a unique and different challenge," said Newton school committee member Susan Heyman.
"I can understand why he would see this as an interesting thing to do at this point in his career," she said.
Geoff Epstein, another Newton school committee member, said he wasn't "at all surprised" Young was interested in the Cambridge job.
"It's clear that he's figured 10 years here is a good solid time," said Epstein. "It could work out as one of those win-win situations...We need a different style here. He will be a great fit in Cambridge where he won't face the same budget problems."
A Cambridge school committee member said Young's performance in Newton prompted the city to recruit him as a superintendent finalist.
"Many of us believe Cambridge should be more like Newton. We are a district that should be closer to the top of the state than we are," the member said. The committee planned to issue a full statement on its search process later Tuesday.
Young said that if he is not selected as Cambridge superintendent, he will "continue to do my job in Newton the way I have been -- I work hard and bring as much integrity as I can."
He said he was "very" emotionally attached to Newton.
"I have lived here for 30 years and this is far more than a job to me. The thing that makes this such a terrific place is all the people who try to do right by the kids," he said. "That is not an easy thing to walk away from."