The Hays USD 489 school district’s search for a new principal at Roosevelt Elementary School was finalized Monday night with the hiring Hutchinson High School Assistant Principal Paula Rice.

The board of education approved the hire as part of the personnel transactions by a vote of 7-0. Rice will begin her responsibilities as the Roosevelt principal July 1. She will step into the position following Lee Keffer, who announced in the fall he will retire at the end of the school year after 25 years working in the district.

The applicant search started in early January.

“She really is a lifetime learner and is really excited with the challenge,” USD 489 Superintendent John Thissen said. “She’s one of those individuals who is very smart, who would end up working to really try to make this a good transition.”

One of six to be interviewed for the position out of 17 applicants, Rice received a bachelor’s degree in english education a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Friends University in Wichita. She also has a master’s in building leadership from Baker University in Baldwin City.

Of the 17 applicants, Thissen said there were a few from Hays who applied.

“The welcome to Hays has been overwhelming so far,” Rice said in a release from USD 489. “Hays has a small-town feel, and it’s obvious how much the community values the education of its children. I’m excited to become a part of that.”

A committee of seven, including some USD 489 personnel, made up of the interview and selection group. Thissen said Rice’s background of working as a teacher and a disciplinarian in administration were a few of the reasons she appealed to the committee in the selection process.

“With her assistant position, her duties are very involved with special education,” Thissen said. “She is very involved with discipline as well. She has a great interest of having a full principal position. She had been looking at other elementaries, not just here.”