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Originally published Friday, March 28, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Interim chief gets top schools post in Mercer Island

The Mercer Island School Board Thursday night named its interim superintendent, Gary Plano, to take over leadership of the 4,000-student...

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

The Mercer Island School Board Thursday night named its interim superintendent, Gary Plano, to take over leadership of the 4,000-student district.

Plano stepped into the interim role in October after just two years in the district when the previous superintendent, Cyndy Simms, unexpectedly announced she was returning to California after four years. A veteran educator, Plano, 55, said he was honored to be chosen.

"I'm delighted, filled with excitement and humility," he said.

His appointment becomes effective immediately.

Plano was chosen from three finalists, including Teresa Baldwin, a superintendent from Washougal, Clark County, and Richard Canfield, an assistant superintendent in Monroe, Conn.

About 250 Mercer Island teachers, staff and community members took part in conversations with the candidates over three days last week. School Board members also held interviews with each finalist.

Plano came to Mercer Island in 2005 as associate superintendent for instruction. He previously worked for five years as the Kent School District's executive director for school improvement and executive director for instructional services, a role in which he supervised seven elementary principals.

A Connecticut native, Plano started his career as a special-education teacher in Mukilteo in 1980 and went on to teach high-school English until 1997. He served as Mukilteo's curriculum director from 1997-2000.

Plano earned his doctorate in educational leadership and policy from Seton Hall University, a master of arts degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and a bachelor's degree in English education from C.W. Post College of Long Island University.

Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or lthompson@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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