WEST BURLINGTON — The West Burlington School Board on Wednesday approved the hiring of a new superintendent.

Beginning July 1, Lisa Beames will oversee operations of the school district at an annual salary of $135,000.

Beames, who has worked in education for more than 30 years, came out ahead of 15 other candidates for the position following a months-long search to replace David Schmitt, who unexpectedly retired from the position in March due to health issues. Following Schmitt's retirement, the district entered into a contract with McPherson and Jacobson for its consultation services on the superintendent search for a cost of no more than $9,300 to the district. In the meantime, the board appointed Ken Marang, a former superintendent of Fort Madison schools, to serve as the district's interim superintendent.

School board members met in closed sessions last week to interview six of those candidates and winnowed it down to three from there, a task board president Andy Crowner said was not easy.

"We felt we had probably five that were really top candidates," Crowner said. "It was hard to get down to three."

Each of the top three candidates then attended meetings with school staff, community members and board members before the board made the final decision. Crowner said Beames interviewed well for the position and didn't hesitate to point out areas the board needs to catch up on, such as putting in place a policy for teacher training on suicide prevention. The district has procedures in place for such training, but not a policy.

She had done other research on the district.

"Her complete knowledge was just very impressive," Crowner said of Beames. "She knew every number about our district top to bottom as well as I know them."

Beames' educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Education from the University of Iowa, a Master of Arts in Educational Technology from the University of Northern Iowa, and certificate in Educational Administration and Education Specialist in Educational Leadership from Drake University.

Beames most recently was the superintendent of the Anamosa School District, a position she held from 2013 through 2018, at which point she briefly retired before deciding to apply for the West Burlington position. Prior to her stint in Anamosa, she was the superintendent of the Van Buren School District in Keosaqua. She also spent many years with the New London School District.

"She seems like someone who will bring a real kids-first attitude to the position and definitely has the financial background to lead the district, and we also felt that she would help encourage a positive workplace environment for our employees," Crowner said.