The Garland school board named Mansfield Superintendent Bob Morrison the sole finalist Thursday to replace its retired superintendent.
The board's 6-0 vote followed a brief closed session and concluded a four-month search that was kept under wraps until the announcement.
Morrison will fill the vacancy left by Curtis Culwell, who retired Dec. 21 after 14 years as Garland's superintendent and a 37-year career in public education. Morrison couldn't be reached for comment.
Now that the board has announced its choice, it must wait at least 21 days before offering Morrison a contract, according to state law.
News that Morrison would be leaving the district apparently caught most by surprise.
"I got it late this afternoon, and my job at this point is to communicate it," Mansfield district spokesman Richie Escovedo said.
Garland district spokesman Chris Moore said the trustees "have really done an excellent job to maintain anonymity for those folks who applied," who he said included about 30 people. The board hired a consulting firm to interview candidates and help trustees narrow the choices.
"I'm not quite sure how they managed that number down," Moore said. "They did have one round of interviews, then narrowed it down to one finalist."
The Garland district has 58,000 students, compared with about 32,000 in Mansfield.
Morrison came to Mansfield in 2003 as director of student services.
He was deputy superintendent when he was appointed to replace Superintendent Vernon Newsom in January 2009, as Newsom was planning to retire in June that year. He was killed in a motorcycle accident a month into his retirement.
Mansfield school board President Beth Light praised Morrison's leadership.
"He followed a very popular superintendent who had been there a long time," Light said. But the district never skipped a beat, she said. "Bob had a great vision for our district and implemented many innovative programs. His ability to recruit great talent is amazing."
Light said the board will discuss the district's next steps at its Feb. 5 meeting.
Moore said no contract details were available because of the waiting period.
He said Culwell's final base salary was $284,000.
Light said Morrison's base salary was $227,000. Newsom's base pay was $238,500 when he retired, according to a Star-Telegram report in January 2009.
"Since we promoted him, he didn't make what Vernon Newsom was making," Light said. "And Bob had never been a superintendent before."
Morrison leaves just as the school district is beginning to implement its $6.5 million integration of iPads and digital-based learning strategies at the high schools.
Mansfield also this school year opened its fifth high school, Lake Ridge, and a $41.5 million Mansfield ISD Center for the Performing Arts. Morrison also led the district's development of a $198.5 million bond program that was overwhelmingly approved in November 2011.
Morrison also made some difficult cuts to compensate for drastic reductions in state funding over the past couple of years. One measure changed the district's block scheduling, switching from an alternating-day schedule to a traditional daily class schedule.
Morrison was previously principal at Edmond Memorial High School in Edmond, Okla. He has a doctorate in educational leadership and a master's in education.