Dr. Laura Nelson

DERRY — The school district has a new leader.

The School Board Monday evening named Dr. Laura Nelson as the new superintendent.

The announcement followed months of search committee work, focus group input and visitations to candidates' schools.

Nelson will replace Superintendent Mary Ellen Hannon at the end of this school year. Hannon announced earlier she would not be renewing her contract at the end of the year.

Nelson was one of three finalists in the running to lead Derry's schools, along with Dr. Marie Ross, and Dr. John Bacon.

She will come to Derry after serving as assistant superintendent of the Exeter Regional Cooperative School District.

Prior to that, she was assistant superintendent of the Kearsarge School District.

The public had a chance to meet the top three choices at a reception last week.

Nelson said she was impressed with Derry schools. She said her mission would be to make sure all children can learn and grow.

"I'm up for challenges," she said, "and I am honored to have the opportunity to serve as the next superintendent."

Nelsons said when she first heard Derry needed a new leader, she felt it would be a good move after serving in other New Hampshire schools for 26 years as a teacher, parent, principal and assistant superintendent.

School Board members said they were very happy with the choice and the search process.

"We welcome you to Derry and we are happy you are the choice for the Derry School District," Board Chairman Kevin Gordon said.

Meg Morse-Barry, president of the Derry Education Association, said the process of finding a new superintendent gave everyone involved a chance to work well together for a common goal.

"It's been a whirlwind the last three weeks," she said. "We appreciate the work of everyone."

Board member Ken Linehan said Nelson was the perfect match for Derry.

"I really think we came up with the best person for the job," he said.

When Hannon's contract expires in June 2012, Morse-Barry said the district would be sad to see her go. "All of us are going to miss Mary Ellen," she said. "But I think you are turning the helm over to someone quite capable. It's going to be a good ride."

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