The first head of Bridges Preparatory School has experience as a teacher, as a principal and as a school-district administrator.
The charter school's board on Monday unanimously selected former Florence County educator Melesia Walden to lead the school.
Walden, who most recently worked in human resources for Florence School District 3, was principal of two elementary schools and has taught kindergarten through fifth grade during her 30-year career.
Walden and two other finalists -- Barbara Baxter, a former administrator at schools in Beaufort and Jasper counties, and former Beaufort Academy headmaster Emeriel Hubbard -- on Monday gave short presentations to their board about their backgrounds and goals for the school on Monday. "(Walden) was extremely personable and lively, and her passion for education was clear," said Joel Iacopelli, the board's business committee chairman.
Iacopelli said Walden will begin work with the school as a consultant before her contract begins July 1. That way, she can hire teachers and other staff members, and work with the board to open the school this fall.
Walden said she is looking for passionate teachers.
"That's the key," she said. "That passion for teaching, for children, and for learning ... because we will be using new approaches."
Walden, who lives on Folly Beach, will move to Beaufort soon, she said, to help get the word out about the school and talk to prospective families.
Iacopelli said the hire brings relief to the board.
"It's a significant milestone to identify this person," he said. "We're one step closer, and we think it will help build a lot more confidence with the public that this is really going to happen."
The next big step will be finding a location for the school. Charlie Calvert, who is on the facilities committee, has said the school will be in or around the city of Beaufort.
The school plans to enroll 360 students from kindergarten through sixth grade in its first year. The student body will grow as grades are added each year.
Applications for enrollment will be accepted through Tuesday, and a lottery will be held if there are more applicants than spots available.