WESTPORT — After a five-month national search, the Board of Education has found its new superintendent to lead the district.

At a virtual meeting Thursday night, the education board unanimously voted to appoint Thomas Scarice as the next schools chief of Westport Public Schools. His term will start in July.

Scarice currently serves as superintendent in Madison, a position he has held since 2012. He will replace Interim Superintendent David Abbey, who took over after Colleen Palmer’s abrupt departure from the district last April.

“This is incredibly humbling to have this opportunity to come to Westport,” Scarice said of his new appointment, adding he understood the challenging time the nation faces due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Scarice said he was excited to meet the faculty and begin working with the community.

Prior to his his role as Madison’s superintendent, Scarice served as assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction in Weston. The North Haven native attended University of Connecticut and Southern Connecticut State University.

Joseph Erardi, of JE Consulting, noted the search drew candidates recognized as superintendent of the year, a university president, and one named national superintendent of the year.

“Your new school leader has a quiet confidence that folks are going to love to follow,” Erardi said of Scarice, adding he had a moral compass that fit the community.

BOE member Youn Su Chao admired several of Scarice’s qualities, including his ability to be exciting and safe.

“He’s really been committed to creating a professional culture built on empathy and trust,” she said. “That really made me feel that our district was in reliable hands.”

BOE Vice Chair Jeanne Smith said Scarice’s excellent qualities placed him at the top of a pool of excellent candidates.

“He did that because he possesses the educational leadership excellence we need right now to take us into the future,” Smith said.

Abbey described Scarice as a thought leader in the field of superintendents.

“He also has broad-base support for acting on his convictions,” he said. “I’ll do anything I can to help Tom in the transition. I really couldn’t be happier for the Westport schools, faculty and staff, and most importantly our students.”

“Tom Scarice is a highly regarded educational leader. He brings a wealth of experience and a strong legacy of accomplishment to Westport.,” BOE Chair Candice Savin said in a statement. “Tom is a strategic thinker who recognizes the excellence of Westport Public Schools and embraces the challenge of guiding our district to an even brighter future. His warmth and energy will serve him well as he focuses on our mission of reaching the potential of every child.”

dj.simmons@hearstmediact.com