BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The board of education approved Tuesday the hiring of Charles Ezell as the new Bridgewater-Raritan High School principal, effective July 1.

Ezell, who was hired at a salary of about $152,000, will replace current principal Mark Morrell, who is retiring at the end of this school year.

Ezell is currently vice principal at Columbia High School in the South Orange-Maplewood School District.

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"First, I would like to say thank you," he said. "It is difficult to convey how deeply honored I feel."

The process to hire a new principal for the school was a rigorous one, including five rounds of interviews to whittle down the about 40 candidates who applied for the position. The third round of interviews included four different panels with students, faculty, administrators and parents.

"This is an incredibly important task that has taken us months because the person must have the skill to manage one of the largest schools in New Jersey," said Superintendent Russell Lazovick.

Lazovick said that one of the references for Ezell said that with him as the voice of the building, the building will be stronger.

Ezell said that every conversation he had with people throughout the course of the interview process reaffirmed for him the excellence of the Bridgewater-Raritan community.

"The last group I met with was students, and they were smart, asked good questions and were funny," he said. "You have a skilled and caring faculty and staff, and a knowledgeable group of administrators and amazing young people."

"I love what I do and am eager to do it in this community," he added. "We are going to have a terrific year next year."