Kathleen "Candy" Lubansky of Missoula on Thursday accepted the Belgrade school superintendent's job, saying she is excited about leading a district that's progressive and focused on student learning.

"I am thrilled and very honored to be offered this position," Lubansky, 58, said in a phone interview. "I did a lot of research (on the Belgrade district). I am so impressed with its focus on student learning and its investment with the community."

Belgrade School Board Chairman Lance Voegele said Lubansky will start on Aug. 1. The board voted 3-2 Wednesday to offer the job to Lubansky at a salary of $105,000, choosing her from four finalists.

She will replace Herb Benz, who will retire after nine years leading the 2,700-student district, which has been one of the fastest growing in the state.

Although Voegele was one of two trustees who didn't choose Lubansky originally, on Thursday he said, "I'm now thoroughly excited. I can't wait to get going."

Voegele said he wasn't sure if Lubansky will be Belgrade's first woman superintendent, but added that all the school district's leaders in the past 20 years have been men.

Lubansky worked for six years in the Missoula County Schools central office, first as special-education director, then student-services director and most recently as an executive regional director. She said she resigned from that job in November for "personal and professional reasons," declining to elaborate.

Since leaving that job, she has been working on a doctorate in education at the University of Montana. She already has an education specialist's degree from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., a master's in education from Lewis & Clark College in Oregon and an undergraduate degree in elementary education from the University of Washington.

She worked as a high school and middle school teacher for 10 years, a staff development coordinator, educational consultant and principal -- all in Minnesota. While principal, her school created a farm program where students with severe emotional disturbances could learn and have animal-assisted therapy, according to the Montana School Boards Association, which assisted Belgrade in its superintendent search.

In 2000, Lubansky became executive director of student services for the Bloomington, Minn., Public Schools, with special responsibility for students with disabilities.

When she starts her new job, Lubansky said she plans to "learn, learn, learn." She said she wants to understand the district's priorities, and get to know the community, teachers and administrators and their "progressive" schools.

"I want to support that movement forward," she said.

Lubansky said she and her husband, Rick, a retired school administrator, now plan to move to Belgrade. They have three grown children who live in Washington, Colorado and South Carolina.

Gail Schontzler can be reached at gails@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.