This story has been updated

The Northside Independent School District’s school board named John Craft of the Killeen ISD on Monday as its lone finalist for superintendent.

Craft, who was unanimously selected by trustees in a special meeting, called the district, which is more than twice the size of Killeen, a “destination district.” He added that he had his eye out for the application as soon as outgoing Superintendent Brian Woods announced his retirement.

Board members said that Craft’s interest in the whole child are among the reasons he was selected.

According to Killeen ISD’s biography page, Craft began his career in education as a biology teacher and football and baseball coach in Carroll ISD in 1999. He also served as an assistant principal for Carroll High School.

After nine years with Carroll ISD, he became principal of Timberview High School in the Mansfield Independent School District.

Craft later served as the superintendent for the Hamilton Independent School District before becoming Killeen ISD’s deputy superintendent in 2012. In the 2014-15 school year, he assumed the role of superintendent for the Killeen district that serves approximately 45,000 students and 6,100 employees.

Craft said there would be an adjustment period moving from Killeen to NISD.

“Killeen ISD is fast-growing. We are kind of the hub in Central Texas,” he said. “I feel like there are a lot of experiences that are absolutely going to translate to Northside ISD, but at the same time, I’ve got a lot to learn.”

In addition to being excited about leading the district, Craft said he is also excited for his daughters, who are both in high school.

“San Antonio is wonderful, don’t get me wrong,” he said. “But … it is really the learning opportunities that the school district provides, that’s what’s most exciting to me.”

If Craft is hired after the state-mandated 21-day waiting period, he would replace Woods, one of the longest-serving education leaders in the region.

Woods reflected in a recent interview with the San Antonio Report on the growth of programs across the district, the largest in San Antonio, under his leadership.

“Things like STEM labs in every elementary school, we didn’t even think about that 10 years ago,” he said. “Things like middle school schools of choice.”

Other accomplishments include increasing so-called wrap-around services, which aim to serve more than just the educational needs of students.

“Trying to lift families up so that kids are better able to be successful at school, whether that’s community health clinics, or more awareness of social and emotional needs of kids, especially post-COVID,” he said. “I think we’re a lot better at that than we were just a few years ago.”

Woods was the highest paid superintendent in the county, and among the top in the state, making $350,535 a year under his most recent contract, which was set to last through 2026.

Woods said the disruption to the education system amid COVID-19 played into his decision to step down.

“I don’t know any superintendent who probably didn’t consider stepping down during that two years of COVID,” he said. “It is pretty challenging, not just for superintendents, but for anybody working in a school. Just the ongoing ambiguity … not knowing from day to day … what the rules were, what you were going to do to incorporate the rules and what was best for kids and teachers.”

But despite that, Woods said the system has mostly recovered.

“I want to get this done while that’s still the case,” he added.

Four of NISD’s seven school board seats are up for election in May, with multiple candidates filing for each seat, including seven candidates for District 4.