YORKTOWN, N.Y. – For the first time in almost two decades, Ben Franklin Elementary School has a new leader.

Kenneth Craft, a 52-year-old from Northport, L.I., was appointed the school’s principal by the Lakeland Board of Education on Thursday, July 11. The job had been held for 18 years by Patricia McIlvenny-Moore, who stepped down in June.

Craft has spent more than two decades working in Long Island schools, the last eight as an administrator. Most recently, he was principal of Manor Oaks School in New Hyde Park.

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Long an admirer of the Hudson Valley, Craft jumped at the opportunity to put down roots here when McIlvenny-Moore retired.

“Lakeland has a great reputation and I put my hat in the ring,” Craft said.

Having worked in Lakeland only since last Wednesday, Craft is still acclimating himself with the district and its staff. However, things are off to a good start.

“Right from the beginning, everyone that I’ve met, everyone I’ve ever been introduced to—staff and some of the students—it’s really just a positive culture,” Craft said. “That really stands out to me the most.”

The foundation laid down by his predecessor meshes well with Craft’s beliefs as an educator.

“I’m a big believer in the whole-child philosophy with students and the necessity to support their social and emotional growth and development,” Craft said.

Focusing on character and making school a positive environment, he said, will help students “succeed academically and really reach their potential.”

Craft will earn $150,000 a year, according to the resolution approved by the school board.