HARVARD - There are three finalists to become Harvard's next School Superintendent. Of the three, one is a finalist elsewhere, but remains in the mix in Harvard.

The Harvard School Committee noted that there were 31 applicants for the job. After hours of meetings and interviews of semifinalists, the final three candidates announced at Monday's School Committee meeting were: Dr. Judith Paolucci of Yarmouth, Maine, Dr. Jessica Huizenga of Burlington and Scott Carpenter of Sudbury.

School Committee Chair SusanMary Redinger clarified - the three finalists are not ranked in any order of preference. Still to come are reference checks, onsite visits in their current districts, and a Harvard school tour and public question and answer session before any hiring decision is made.

Judith Paolucci has served as the superintendent of schools in Yarmouth, Maine since 2009. Previously she was the assistant superintendent of schools in Narragansett, Rhode Island (2003-2009), executive director of the Rhode Island Teaching and Learning Center (2002-2003) and an adjunct professor at Rhode Island College and University of Rhode Island (2001-2008).

Paolucci is a 1985 graduate of Rhode Island College, attained a Master's Degree in Environmental Studies from Brown University in 1987, and her Doctorate in Education from the University of Rhode Island/Rhode Island College in 2001. Paolucci has advised Harvard that she has been offered the superintendent post in the Leicester School District. The Telegram & Gazette newspaper reports that job offer was extended to Paolucci on Saturday.

"I believe that my combination of experience and education make me a most viable candidate for a high-performing district interested in transparency, accountability, and a focus on continual improvement," wrote Paolucci.

Jessica Huizenga has served as interim school superintendent for the Freetown-Lakevile Regional School District since July. For the two prior years, she'd served the district as assistant school superintendent for student and professional learning. Previously Huizenga served as principal of the Blanchard Middle School in Westford (2008-2010), principal of the Robert Adams Middle School in Holliston (2006 to 2008), and other posts including teaching in Plymouth and Texas.

Huizenga is a 1997 graduate of Erskine College in South Carolina, received her Master's Degree in Educational Administration in 2004 and her Doctorate in Leadership in Schooling in 2001 from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.

While 'bittersweet' over departing from Freetown-Lakeville, Huizenga said she's weary of the daily commute from Burlington she's trekked over the past two and a half years. Despite the district's loss of $2 million in revenue, Huizenga said she helped secure voter approval of a $903,000 debt exclusion override, worked to attract Choice students, and secured grants - all while lowering elementary and middle school class sizes and boosting achievement test scores. "I am looking to be a part of a community that understands that children and their schools are their most valuable resources and willing to do whatever it takes to ensure excellence," wrote Huizenga.

Scott Carpenter is in his fourth school year serving as the combined superintendent and principal of the Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School in Sudbury which serves 1,600 high school students. Prior to that, Carpenter served as a housemaster to a fourth of the students in the school, overseeing and evaluating 30 of the school's faculty members and serving as administrative lead for construction of a new $74 million high school. Carpenter also served as a teacher in Lincoln-Sudbury, Lexington, Somerville and Hartford.

Carpenter graduated from Indiana University Southeast in 1988, received a Master of Science degree from Lehigh University in 1992, a Master of Arts in Teaching Science and Education from Boston University in 1993, and is working towards his Doctorate in curriculum, teaching, learning and leadership from Northeastern University in July.

"From guiding an educational community through a school construction project to my approach to budget reduction, my abilities as a consensus builder, manager, and leader are fine-tuned," said Carpenter in his cover letter to the search committee. "I embrace 21st Century skills and the preparation of our children for an ever-changing future...I am approachable and laid-back, yet have a tireless work ethic."

"Each, we're confident, would serve the district well," said Redinger of the finalists.

The search committee gave up much family time to serve on the screening process. "These individuals spent 13 hours interviewing last week," said Redinger. She praised the group for its "clear passion and dedication."

"The process was remarkably professional and easier than I ever anticipated and hugely collaborative," said Redinger.

Regarding Paolucci's candidacy in Leicester, Redinger said simply "We'll keep her until we learn otherwise."

Next up - reference checks on the three finalists. On Jan. 3, 4 and 7, members of the school committee, Interim School Supt. Joseph Connelly and the two school principals will tour the finalists' current school districts.

Finally, the three finalists will be scheduled for tours of the two Harvard schools and the public will be afforded the opportunity to meet the finalists those evenings from 6:70-7:30, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 9-11.

Redinger said the plan is for the committee to announce the ultimate choice at the regularly scheduled school committee meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 14.

School Committee member Keith Cheveralls paused to thank Redinger for her leadership through the process. Cheveralls chaired the school committee when a "scaled down version of this" was employed to hire Connelly.

"You executed this flawlessly," said Cheveralls. "Back to you- thank you."

Follow Mary Arata at twitter.com/maryearata.