BERNARDS TWP., NJ - Five finalist applicants for the position of the next principal at Ridge High School are due to be interviewed next week by a committee made up of school officials, teachers, school administrators, and parent representatives, the Bernards Board of Education was told on Monday night.

Two of the five candidates are already employed within the Bernards Township school system, Board Member Robin McKeon reported to the board. The other three candidates are from outside the school district, she said.

A new principal is being sought to replace Ridge's current principal, Frank Howlett, Jr., who already announced in late November that he will retire at the end of the current school year.

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The starting date for the next principal at the high school may depend on whether the new top administrator at the high school has commitments to fulfill in another school district, McKeon added after the Monday board meeting.

McKeon said the committee that will interview the candidates will be made up of members of the Board of Education, with representatives from the school's association of administrators, the teachers association, and the Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO). Schools Superintendent Nick Markarian and Assistant Superintendent Sean Siet will also be part of the interviewing committee, she added.

The entire school board will later vote on approval for the top candidate recommended by the committee, or may possibly consider more than one candidate, McKeon said.

The school district began advertising in December for a replacement for Howlett. "We hope to hire  a replacement before the end of this school year," Schools Superintendent Nick Markarian said at that time.

Howlett has been principal at Ridge since 2006, replacing the previous principal Richard Stotler.