There will be a new face in the superintendent's seat at Region 12 come July.

Pat Cosentino, 52, presently the principal at Bethel High School, was offered the job March 19 after a 10-2 vote by the Region 12 Board of Education.

She will start July 1.

Dr. Cosentino will replace Dr. Bruce Storm, who will leave Region 12 in June after five years leading the district.

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

She said she was attracted to the region because "when I did my research, I discovered the towns are very supportive of their schools and the region."

"When I read the leadership profile for the position," Dr. Cosentino said, "it addressed all the qualities I possess: dynamic leadership, visible, can say no when necessary, fiscally responsible and forward thinking."

While in Bethel, she led the re-accreditation process and a $26 million high school renovation. She previously was principal for five years at Bethel's Berry Elementary School.

James Hirschfield, the chairman of the Region 12 Board of Education, voted for Dr. Cosentino, who is in her sixth year as principal of the 1,000-student Bethel High School.

Mr. Hirschfield said he likes Dr. Cosentino is direct and forthright.

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

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

Mr. Hirschfield admitted the district has challenges ahead with declining student population. The report from the long-range planning committee is due in April.

The district presently serves 886 students from the towns of Bridgewater, Roxbury and Washington. By 2020, it is projected there will be just 639 students in the system.

Talks of consolidating grades in the three elementary schools or consolidating the three elementary school populations into one regional elementary school have met with resistance from parents and town officials.

Dr. Cosentino said while this issue is still new to her, she has a plan of action in mind to address it.

"First, I will work very hard to make the schools desirable to prospective homeowners and for Sherman students," she said. "Secondly, I will look at ways to make the region more fiscally efficient while providing excellent programs for the students."

Dr. Cosentino said she wants to go on a "listening tour" to hear from "stakeholders in the region," including parents, town officials and educators. By getting their perspectives, she said, "We can devise a plan that is beneficial."

Dr. Cosentino earns $151,000 as Bethel High principal, but her Region 12 contract has not been finalized. Dr. Storm earns $182,000 annually after five years on the job.

Janice Jordan, Bethel's associate superintendent, said Dr. Cosentino transformed the culture at Bethel High and Berry School.

"She not only transformed the physical space at the high school with renovations, but she changed the morale... there's a lot of joy there," Dr. Jordan said. "She brought academic rigor to the school by increasing advanced placement courses and expanding curriculum offerings."

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

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

She is a Bethel resident with a 24-year-old son, Vincent, who attends Naugatuck Valley Community College. She grew up in Queens, N.Y.

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

James Hirschfield

Chairman of the Region 12 Board of Education