PEABODY — A former commander in the U.S. Coast Guard has been selected to keep McCarthy Elementary School on the proper course.

Raymond Smoyer is McCarthy's new principal, succeeding Amy Sullivan, who left for a job in Newburyport. Smoyer was chosen from a 33-applicant field.

"He demonstrated a very keen, very impressive ability to take student data and turn it into instructional improvement," said Superintendent C. Milton Burnett, who conducted public interviews of the three finalists for the position.

Smoyer graduated from the United States Coast Guard Academy in 1976. During a Coast Guard career that spanned until 1998, he served for three years as commanding officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Woodrush, overseeing a 67-person crew. He ended his tenure as a hearing officer at the Coast Guard's Boston headquarters.

After receiving a master of education at the University of New Hampshire, he worked until coming to Peabody as a fourth/fifth-grade teacher at Newbury Elementary School. He also assumed multiple roles for the Triton Regional School District, including history and social studies content specialist, math facilitator and Title IX coordinator.

Smoyer, 56, said he was drawn to the Peabody opportunity because of the city's diverse population and "the really caring about kids that you have here, especially at the McCarthy School."

"The parents are very supportive of the school along with the community," he said. "That was a real attraction to me."

In addition to his classroom experience, Smoyer worked with young people as a swim coach and a Cub and Scout master.

Salary information for Smoyer was not available. His predecessor earned about $88,000 in the post.

During the formation of this year's school budget, the closing of McCarthy School was considered by school officials.

"I discussed that with him," Burnett said. "He's aware of it. There's no hiding it." Smoyer said he is confident in the strong parental and community support for the school.

He is one of three new elementary school principals in Peabody. Thomas Cornacchio has just started at West School, and Katherine St. Peter has begun at Center School.

Parents will have an opportunity to meet Smoyer this afternoon from 3:15 to 4:30 p.m. in the McCarthy School lobby.

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