Lois F. Berlin, a veteran educator who spent more than two decades working in the Alexandria schools, will become superintendent of Falls Church schools in July, officials announced yesterday.

Berlin, 52, will be paid $143,500 annually on a four-year contract -- an appointment the Falls Church School Board is expected to back unanimously at its Tuesday meeting, board Chairman Ruth R. Brock said.

"We are excited to be getting her," Brock said. "We were looking for someone who would appreciate what we have and build on it."

In her interviews with the School Board, principals and parents, Berlin repeatedly cited a personal connection to Falls Church schools: Her husband, Larry Stuebing, graduated from George Mason High School in 1967.

"When he reached George Mason as a freshman, he'd been in 11 different schools," Berlin said. "He reached the school as a bright kid but had a poor foundation. His teachers rallied around him. . . . I've always had an admiration for the Falls Church system."

Berlin, who graduated from Mount Vernon High School and received her undergraduate and doctoral degrees from Virginia Tech, started her career as a special-needs teacher in Scotland. In 1980, she became a special education teacher at John Adams Elementary School in Alexandria. She spent the next 24 years in the Alexandria system, most recently as the associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

"As a teacher, I always got a great deal of satisfaction seeing my children grow," said Berlin, who lives in the District. "As I went through various years of teaching, I decided I wanted to affect more than my classroom."

Falls Church School Board members say Berlin's first task will be to guide the district's new grade configurations. Beginning in September 2005, four separate schools will house kindergarten and first grade, second through fourth grades, fifth through seventh grades, and eighth through 12th grades.

In January, Falls Church Superintendent Mary Ellen Shaw announced her retirement after 34 years in the tiny district of fewer than 2,000 students. From 35 applicants, the School Board narrowed the pool to four finalists. Their names were not disclosed.

Yesterday, Falls Church became the first school system in the area to fill a superintendent vacancy; the District, Fairfax County and Howard County are still looking.