WESTFIELD, NJ — The Board of Education has decided on a new principal for Westfield High School, and she has some large shoes to fill.

Mary Asfendis, the principal at Roosevelt Intermediate School since May 2017, will fill the position left vacant when Dr. Derrick Nelson died earlier this year from complications following a bone marrow donation — a death that produced an outpouring of community support.

During an 8 a.m. meeting Tuesday, the school board approved her appointment by a unanimous vote. Board member Robert Garrison was not present for the morning meeting.

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“Mrs. Asfendis brings 15 years of educational leadership to the role of principal at Westfield High School,” said Superintendent Margaret Dolan as family and friends looked on. “And as a former Westfield High School assistant principal, she knows the school well.”

Asfendis will oversee more than 1,800 students at Westfield High School along with the school’s staff, Dolan noted. Her career in the Westfield schools began as a middle school Spanish teacher in 1999, a position she held until 2004, according to the school district.

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From 2004-2012, Asfendis served as the world languages supervisor in the Bernards Township School District before returning to Westfield as an assistant principal at the high school from 2012-2016 and then assistant principal at Edison Intermediate School for the 2016-17 academic year.

Asfendis said Tuesday morning that from the outset of her career in the local schools, she found Westfield’s to be unique.

“I could tell that Westfield was a special place. I felt welcomed. I felt valued. I felt proud,” Asfendis told the school board. “It wasn’t my first teaching position so I knew there was something different about and it was a place where I could grow as an educator.”

Asfendis holds a Master’s Degree in Teaching Spanish from Rutgers and a Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish Education from Messiah College in Pennsylvania, the district stated.

The district will pay Asfendis an annual salary of $164,000 starting Aug. 1, under the board's approval. The district has started a search to replace her position at Roosevelt Intermediate School, officials said.

In addition to Dolan and Human Resources Specialist Barbara Ball, the interview committee for the Westfield High School principal position included a high school assistant principal, two high school teachers, a high school parent, two district supervisors and one board member, the district stated.

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Before the interviews, the process also included conversations with Westfield High School students, teachers, counselors, the school’s head custodian and the principal’s executive secretary, school officials said.

From 2004-2012, Asfendis served as the Supervisor of World Languages in the Bernards Township School District before returning to Westfield as an assistant principal at Westfield High School from 2012-2016 and assistant principal at Edison Intermediate School for the 2016-17 academic year, the school district said in a release.

“Westfield Public Schools cemented my philosophy of education cemented the value of community and pushed me to be the best professional I could be,” Asfendis said. “Fast forward 20 years later, and I am so proud to represent this district which has given me so much.”

Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh