BENICIA -- Ending months of uncertainty about the fate of the Benicia High School principal, the school board voted Thursday to demote the current principal and name his replacement.

"He appears to be a really excellent young man with a great deal to offer," said Superintendent Janice Adams about the hiring of Damon Wright.

The 38-year-old Wright, currently assistant principal of California High School in San Ramon, will replace Gary Jensen as the top administrator at Benicia High. Jensen had been the subject of heated community debate, as the school board initially voted to remove him from office, then later rescinded its closed-session votes.

The school board ultimately opted Thursday to demote an unnamed administrator, presumably Jensen, during a closed session. Wright was then announced as the new high school principal.

Adams declined to comment on why Jensen was removed, but praised Wright, one of dozens of applicants for the job.

"He impressed the interview committee tremendously with his passion, his intelligence. He's very ... knowledgeable, really committed to high quality education," Adams said.

Wright's selection makes him the first black principal of Benicia High School, though Adams said race was not a factor in choosing Wright.

Indeed, Wright was unaware of that particular status until a phone interview on Friday.

"I didn't know that. ... In terms of race and culture, I have a diverse background, and I think I can apply my experiences to Benicia as well. I don't think it's going to be a concern," Wright said.

Wright, an American Canyon resident, has spent the last nine years working at California High School, first as a school psychologist and for the last three years as an assistant principal.

"Benicia has been a place of interest for years for me. I know it's an outstanding school. ... It's a very supportive community, and they're doing a lot of great things," Wright said.

Wright has experience in career technical education, like Benicia's recently launched ECHO Academy, which focuses on environmental science. California High has engineering and design academies.

His new assignment begins July 1, and will be Wright's first stint as a principal.

"I just think that I'm a great fit for the district, and I'm going to continue to move the district in a forward direction," Wright said.