The Central Community School Board promoted from within Monday night, unanimously naming top administrator Jason Fountain to serve as its new superintendent, only the second person to lead Louisiana’s second-ranked public school district.

After the vote, Fountain got a standing ovation from an audience of more than 150 people who gathered in the cafeteria at Central Middle School.

“This is the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced. Who knows how it will go? I will do my best,” Fountain said. “But we’re not going to live on our laurels of the past. Working side by side, we can create a world class school system.”

Fountain was the odds-on favorite and Monday’s decision was not surprising. He’s worked in Central for almost nine years, starting as assistant principal at Tanglewood Elementary, then becoming principal of Central Middle in 2012 before moving last year to the main office to serve as director of secondary curriculum and instruction. Fountain also spent six years in higher education, working with student athletes at four universities, including LSU.

Fountain will move down the hall on Jan. 1 to occupy the superintendent’s office. He is replacing the only person who has ever held it, Michael Faulk. Faulk is leaving Dec. 31 to serve in the new position as executive director of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents.

Faulk became Central’s first superintendent in 2007, the same year Central broke away from the East Baton Rouge Parish school system to form its own school district. During the time, Central joined the top academic rankings of school districts across the state, rising to second place, behind only Zachary.

Central’s seven-member School Board moved quickly Monday night in selecting Fountain. Every board member, without discussion, silently wrote Fountain’s name on a written ballot. Board President David Walker read aloud each name and their vote for Fountain.

After the vote, Fountain complimented the board.

“They have raised the standard of what a School Board should be,” he said. “They don’t bicker, they don’t fuss. They make decisions. They work well together.”

The search for a new superintendent began in mid-August and Fountain was one of only three people who applied for the job.

The board held both private and public interviews with all three on Oct. 24. The other two applicants were Paul E. Nelson, superintendent of Tensas Parish and previously Concordia Parish, and Leslie Jones, dean of the college of education at Nicholls State University and a former elementary school principal.

Jones was the only other candidate who was in the audience Monday night.

The board had the option of rejecting all applicants and search again, but decided to appoint Fountain.

Walker said he's not aware of any board members discussing who they were going to vote for in advance of Monday's vote. He said he himself shied away from the topic when he was talking to his colleagues, and he saw them do the same.

Nevertheless, he said board members were impressed with a proposed action plan Fountain gave board members during his Oct. 24 interview.

"He thought about he wanted and where he wanted us to go," Walker said.

After Monday's meeting, Fountain said he was nervous going in and he couldn't get a read on how the vote would go — "It has been deathly silent," he said — but he relaxed as his name was read aloud over and over.

"This process has been so great," Fountain said. "It really forced me to think about what's good for the school system."

Faulk said he plans to work closely with Fountain during the transition.

“I’m not moving. I’m still going to be a citizen here," Faulk said. "I look forward to great things happening in this school system.”

While Fountain said academics is his strength, he’s been learning the financial side of schools by consulting Faulk, who is known in education circles for his expertise with the state’s school funding formula known as the Minimum Foundation Program, or MFP.

“I say you can’t spell MFP without Mike Faulk,” Fountain said during his Oct. 24 public interview. “And he will certainly be a great resource for me.”

Follow Charles Lussier on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.