FAIRFIELD — Michael Cummings will serve as the next Superintendent of Schools.

At a special Board of Education meeting Wednesday evening, the board voted to elect Cummings, who currently serves as chief academic officer for Fairfield Public Schools. Cummings will begin serving as superintendent on Aug. 12, replacing current Interim Superintendent Stephen Tracy, who has been in the role since July 1.

Before joining Fairfield as Director of Elementary Education in 2015, Cummings moved up through the ranks of Milford Public Schools, serving as a teacher, principal, Assistant Superintendent and Interim Superintendent. His leadership and commitment to education in Milford was demonstrated in the “Michael Cummings Above and Beyond Award,” which is presented each year to the Milford Public Schools employee who shows exceptional contributions to the district in the model Cummings set forth.

Cummings was chosen from 23 candidates for the Fairfield position. The consulting firm Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates began the search process in March, conducting focus groups, interviews with key stakeholders and an online community survey. 1,097 people filled out the survey, and 154 students, teachers and administrators participated in focus groups.

Based on this community feedback, the school board determined that it should seek out a Superintendent who would create a climate of mutual trust, have a broad understanding of educational best practices, set high expectations for all students and staff and manage the long-term financial health of the district.

The board narrowed the applicant pool to six candidates for initial interviews in the beginning of June. After spending hours with each candidate, it brought back three candidates for a final round of interviews, ultimately choosing Cummings.

Board of Education chair Christine Vitale was thrilled to sign Cummings’ contract at Wednesday’s meeting after a unanimous vote to appoint him.

“After meeting with each of the candidates, it became clear who our next Superintendent should be,” Vitale said. “Mike Cummings articulated an excitement and vision for our school district which was unequalled. Mike is passionate about education, committed to Fairfield and understands the financial challenges we in Connecticut are facing. His thoughtful leadership will be integral in fostering the environment of trust and collaboration needed to advance our district. The board is excited for him to move into his new role and eager to build upon the strong foundation already set in place by past Superintendents.”

Other board members spoke to Cummings’ understanding of Fairfield and its educational needs.

“You can’t walk away from a conversation with Mr. Cummings without being impressed with his extraordinary depth of knowledge of educational pedagogy, but also his very practical understanding of kids,” said board member Jennifer Leeper. “His passion for students and learning came to life through the interview process.”

Vice-Chair of the board Nick Aysseh noted that Cummings was not given preferential treatment as an internal candidate, but he stood out in the interviews.

“Throughout the process, Mr. Cummings continually rose to the top of the pack,” Aysseh said.

Cummings accepted his appointment to a room of loud applause, thanking the board and everyone who participated in the process.

“It is a great honor to be appointed Superintendent of Schools in such a wonderful community,” Cummings said. “I look forward to building on the good work of those caring and committed educators, board members and community members who have come before me, and to serving the students and staff of the Fairfield Public Schools.”

He acknowledged the challenges that lie ahead and said that he’s excited to work with the entire Fairfield community.

“We have the resources and capacity to address the challenges ahead as we continue to improve learning for all students,” Cummings said. “With the town, we will engage in thoughtful planning, responsible budgeting and transparent action that is mindful of what students require to achieve at the highest levels.”

rscharf@hearstmediact.com