WESTPORT — In a unanimous decision, the Board of Education approved Stafford W. Thomas Jr. as the new Staples High School principal at its meeting Thursday night.

Thomas was met with applause by Staples staff and parents who attended the meeting to hear the news. He replaces James D’Amico, who has helmed the school since 2016 and announced earlier this year he would be resigning to take a job as principal at New Fairfield High School — his alma mater.

Thomas previously served as principal at Hillcrest Middle School in Trumbull, which was named the 2018-19 Connecticut Association of Schools’ Middle School of the Year.

“I’m obviously very excited. This is both a great privilege and an honor to be named principal of Staples High School,” Thomas told the board. “In the world of K-12 administration there simply is no better position than this one.”

While recommending Thomas, Interim Superintendent of Schools David Abbey said he reflected on the decision during the Staples graduation ceremony.

“In particular, I thought what an awesome responsibility the next principal of Staples High School will have,” Abbey said. “I was happy about that because I knew who was coming forward today.”

Abbey said 40 applications were received for the position, which was eventually narrowed to six top candidates. A 16-person team including parents, high school administrators, one student and two BOE members unanimously recommended Thomas.

Thomas said a main part of his role would be augmenting the already legendary status of Staples High School.

“Most importantly, however, is just to continue the work that has already started cultivating the culture for our students and families, our 200 plus faculty members, the Board of (Education), and anyone involved with the Staples High School,” Thomas said.

Prior to his time in Trumbull, Thomas served as an administrator in Mystic and Barrington, R.I.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Georgetown University with a master’s in teaching social studies from Brown University. Thomas also holds a dual degree in law (Juris Dictor) and Educational Administration (M.E.d.) from Boston College.

His career began as a social studies teacher at South Side High School in Rockville Centre, N.Y. Thomas has also served as the associate director of policy for the city of Providence, R.I.

He currently serves as an adjunct professor in the graduate school of education at Sacred Heart University, where he teaches courses in education law and finance and advanced curriculum.

Thomas has active membership in the Tri-State Consortium, an organization devoted to evaluating high performing school districts in the tri-state area. This coming school year, he will also serve as a member of the board of directors with CAS.

Following the announcement, Thomas briefly met with more than a dozen Staples staff who came to hear the decision.

“I’ll just let you know I have an open-door policy,” Thomas said. “My door is always open.”

dj.simmons@hearstmediact.com