FAIRFIELD — Molly Farrell has been a Holland Hill Elementary School teacher and parent, but this August she’ll take over as the school’s new principal.

Farrell, a two-year assistant principal at Long Lots Elementary School in Westport, is returning to her native Fairfield for the post, vacated by former Principal Laura Cretella’s departure for Trumbull in June.

“I just had such a great love of the school and it’s a special place,” said Farrell, a 45-year-old Fairfield resident, “and I just wanted to have my first job as a principal be back somewhere that felt like home.”

It was a unique chance too, she added, to return to a lead a school where she had taught; Farrell taught third grade at Holland Hill for five years, until 2006. She has also taught for the Byram Hills School District in New York and at Fairfield’s Roger Sherman Elementary School as an instructional improvement and gifted resource teacher.

“I felt like she brings a strength because she has a love for Fairfield,” said Fairfield Public Schools Superintendent Toni Jones. “It shines through when she talks about Fairfield. That she lived here when she was young, a bulk of her career has been here. She is very vested in this district and she is very excited to be coming back home to her family. I think that’s how it feels to her — that it’s her family.”

Jones noted Farrell’s enthusiasm for teaching and learning, passion for elementary school education and energy. She called her a “culture builder” who can weather the school’s upcoming construction project with calm and good communication — the right fit for Holland Hill specifically.

“She’s the overall package we were looking for,” Jones said.

Farrell noted Holland Hill as a “nice neighborhood school” with close families, excellent teachers and strong traditions. She has experienced the school as a parent herself. Her elder daughter, 14, graduated from Holland Hill and her 11-year-old daughter attended for several years; both of her children remain enrolled in the town’s public schools.

“I’m really excited to be back at Holland Hill and get everyone ready for the construction project that’s coming up and really just build on the strong community that’s already there,” Farrell said. “It’s a really great place.”

Still, Farrell reflected positively on her two years at Westport’s Long Lots and all she learned in the neighboring town about new forms of leadership, curriculum methods and more.

“I can’t say enough about the amazing community at Long Lots: excellent staff, really wonderful families,” she said. “The kids are awesome. It’s breaking my heart to leave the kids there.”

The school district announced Long Lots’ new principal, Debra Dunn, in June. The former principal, Jeffrey Golubchick, was removed as principal and placed on administrative leave in February before being replaced by an interim principal. A standard search to fill Farrell’s vacancy will be conducted and the district is confident the result will be a strong administrative team at Long Lots despite the several leadership changes, said John Bayers, Westport Public Schools Director of Human Resources.

“Molly’s a great administrator and she had a wonderful two years at Long Lots, did a great job working with the families and students and the staff,” Bayers said. “We want to wish her all the best.”

LWeiss@hearstmediact.com; @LauraEWeiss16