Norwalk public schools' chief operating officer, Elio Longo, will succeed outgoing Assistant Superintendent for Business Nancy Harris, after the Board of Education unanimously approved his appointment Monday night.

"I'm very excited about this opportunity," Longo told the board during its Monday meeting. "I'm looking forward to building on the structures that Nancy has built during the last 13 years."

He will start on July 1. Harris announced in February that she would retire at the end of the current school year after 13 years as assistant superintendent for business.

Longo oversees an operating budget of approximately $156 million in Norwalk. He has saved that district $4 million through "good business practices," an additional $2.8 million by restructuring employee health-care benefits with "no negative impact" to employees and more than $1 million through competitive-bidding service contracts, according to Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon.

Longo also works as an associate faculty member at Post University in Waterbury, where he teaches accounting, finance, economics, mathematics, management practices and deals with information systems.

Before his stint in Norwalk, Longo served 10 years in the Danbury school district, where he oversaw a "large" budget and established business relations and partnerships with several city departments, according to Landon.

"He has a track record of working very effectively, not only with school district employees, but also with municipal employees in places that he has worked," Landon said.

Longo has also served as director of economic and community development in Waterbury.

The board approved a three-year deal for Longo, which will run until June 2016. He will receive a starting annual salary of $185,000. Harris was paid approximately $205,000 last year.

Board members interviewed Longo Monday during a closed-door "executive session" before their public meeting, said Chairwoman Elaine Whitney. She did not disclose whether they interviewed other candidates.

"We were very, very impressed by his capabilities and we're very excited to work with him," Whitney said.

Michael McGovern, the board's vice chairman, also backed Longo's appointment.

"Mr. Longo expressed a view and philosophy that's very much in sync with that of Westport, which is maximizing the dollars that get spent in the classroom teaching our kids," he said. "He has demonstrated that in his prior work, where he's been able to make significant changes to save his school districts money. I think there's a great match here."; 203-255-4561, ext. 118;