EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — The Board of Education approved a familiar face as head of Atlantic County’s largest school district Tuesday, hiring Kimberly Gruccio as the district’s permanent superintendent.

Gruccio, 51, has served as one of the district’s two assistant superintendents for the past 10 years. Her 3-year superintendent contract was approved by the county and calls for an annual salary of $175,000. The contract does not include merit pay.

She takes over from Interim Superintendent Fred Nickles, who was hired as a temporary replacement for Scott McCartney through June 30. McCartney resigned at the end of the 2016 school year to take a similar position in Moorestown.

The mission to find a permanent superintendent began in January, when the board authorized a $15,000 contract with the New Jersey School Boards Association to conduct the search and complete a strategic plan in late summer or early fall. The formal process began in March and included public input and surveys, with the goal of a July 1 start date.

Gruccio has worked in the district in various capacities since 2001.

“I love Egg Harbor Township. After 17 years as an administrator in the school district, I have developed many special relationships. Some of my former students are parents of our students, some are teachers or staff in our schools, while others are public servants to the community,” said Gruccio, who will be the district’s first female superintendent. “This is all very special to me, as I feel I have watched these folks grow over the years, and the best part is they choose Egg Harbor Township to raise their families or work in our school district or community.”

Board President Lou Della Barca said the board cast a wide net to find the best candidate, adding that about 20 people applied for the job, with nine candidates interviewed.

“While our search led us back to EHT, it was important to our children, staff and community that we conduct a full search process,” Della Barca said. “We can be confident we are appointing the best candidate for our district and happy that our search confirmed what we already suspected, that EHT hires the best.”

Della Barca said Gruccio is a well-qualified candidate. She holds a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Springfield College, a master’s degree in educational administration from Wilmington University and a doctorate from Walden University with a concentration in educational leadership and administration. Her dissertation was on Egg Harbor Township High School’s Freshman Academy and how teachers collaborate to raise student achievement.

Gruccio started in the district as an assistant principal at the high school after spending 14 years in other schools and working for a time as an interim athletic director. In January 2004, she was named principal of Egg Harbor Township High School and served in that role until July 2008, when she was named as an assistant superintendent.

“As you can see I have climbed the educational ladder step-by-step: 31 years in education and 17 years here in EHT,” she said, adding she looks forward to continuing to build relationships with students, parents, teachers and community members to learn more about both student and parental needs.

Gruccio lives in Landisville with her husband, Bob. They have two grown children, Jared, 28, and Karlie, 24.