BETHEL -- Bethel High School Principal Pat Cosentino will be the new superintendent of the Region 12 school district, which serves 886 students from the towns of Washington, Bridgewater and Roxbury.

The Region 12 Board of Education voted 10-2 on Monday to hire the 52-year-old Bethel resident over six other candidates. She'll begin the job July 1.

"I'm very excited about the new challenges and meeting the new students and their families," Cosentino said.

But, she added, the change is bittersweet.

"I love it here,'' she said Wednesday. "I think the Bethel schools are in a very good place."

Region 12 Board of Education chairman James Hirschfield voted for Cosentino, who is in her sixth year as principal of 1,000-student Bethel High School, where she led the re-accreditation process and a $26 million renovation.

She also spent five years as principal of Bethel's Berry Elementary School.

Hirschfield said he liked that Cosentino was direct and forthright.

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Patricia Cosentino Age 52 Bethel resident New Region 12 superintendent Has been principal of Bethel High School for five and a half years Holds doctorate from Western Connecticut State University

"She has broad teaching and administrative experience, works together well with administrators, and will be able to make what may be hard decisions for Region 12," he said.

"She's down-to-earth, pragmatic and has a good head on her shoulders."

Hirschfield admitted the district has challenges ahead.

"We do have a declining population, and we have a long-range planning committee that will submit a report sometime in April about ideas for our future," he said.

Cosentino earns $151,000 as Bethel High principal. Her Region 12 contract has not yet been finalized. She replaces Bruce Storm, who earned $182,00 after five years of leading the district.

Bethel Associate Superintendent Janice Jordan said Cosentino transformed the culture at Bethel High and Berry School.

"She not only transformed the physical space at the high school with the renovation, but she changed the morale," Jordan said. "She brought academic rigor to the school by increasing advanced placement courses and expanding curriculum offerings."

Cosentino was instrumental in connecting the high school to Western Connecticut State University and Naugatuck Valley Community College, so high school students could receive college credits, Jordan said.

"At the high school, it's not just the way the building operates -- it's impeccably clean -- but there is a lot of joy there. Her faculty will miss her very much," Jordan said. "Her gifts are in organizing and making sure that the focus is on what children need."

Sue Weinkauf, Cosentino's secretary, said people at the high school were happy for her, but sad for themselves.

"She's a wonderful leader, and she has done so much for Bethel," Weinkauf said. "It's a wonderful opportunity. I have every confidence she will do great."

Cosentino has a master's degree from the City College of New York and a doctorate in instructional education from Western Connecticut State University.

"We're very pleased. She's someone who will be a good match for the region," Region 12 board member Valerie Andersen said. "I'm going to miss Dr. Storm, but I welcome Dr. Cosentino and look forward to working with her."; 203-731-3333