DIXFIELD — Superintendent Tom Ward said he made an extremely difficult and emotional decision to resign from RSU 10 in Dixfield to lead RSU 9 in Farmington.
His resignation is effective June 30.
Since his hiring was announced at Tuesday’s RSU 9 board meeting, he said he has received hundreds of emails from people all over the state. Most are sorry that he’s leaving the Dixfield area, but pleased that he’ll be going home, he said.
Ward is a 1972 graduate of Mt. Blue High School in Farmington.
He spent much of his youth in northern New York, he said, but when he and his parents crossed the Piscataqua River into Maine when he was 17, it felt right.
“I fell in love with the state and with Mt. Blue High School. I’ve felt the same ever since,” he said.
He taught, coached and was principal at Mt. Blue, and was a principal at Dirigo High School in Dixfield and Marshfield High School in South Berwick, before becoming superintendent of SAD 21 in Dixfield and superintendent of RSU 10.
“The timing is right,” he said of moving to Farmington. “It’s been a goal of mine to be superintendent of RSU 9, that goes back to going home.”
During the past few years, he has worked to bring the former SADs 43, Rumford/Mexico, 21 in Dixfield and 39 in Buckfield together to form RSU 10.
“I’m very proud of all our accomplishments in SAD 21 and RSU 10, especially with all the (educational) initiatives that provide the supports our students need. I’m very proud of the consolidation,” he said.
Since the three districts became one, about $3 million has been saved, he said.
“We are a model for the state. When state aid started to take a nosedive, I knew we had to consolidate to protect our programs, make improvements, and save money,” he said.
Because the three districts merged, RSU 10 received $1.2 million to help with the consolidation.
“We’ve improved all the schools and made salaries equal and competitive. We’ve worked hard to recruit those who will stay and are committed,” he said.
He also worked through the addition of the former Peru School Department to SAD 21. Because of that success, the state paid for construction of a new elementary school.
He has the same educational goals for RSU 9 as he's had for RSU 10.
“It’s always a journey of continuous improvement, and we’re going to have fun,” he said.
RSU 10 has been ahead of many other districts in its implementation of mass customized learning, positive behavior intervention and response to intervention, all educational initiatives handed down by the state. One of his tasks at RSU 9 will be to move these initiatives forward.
But until he begins his new job July 1, he'll continue his work in RSU 10.
“I’ll make decisions like I was going to continue as superintendent – get a budget approved, complete teacher negotiations, continue work on mass customized learning,” he said.
“I’m very fortunate that we’ll have another good board that is supportive of my ideas and my vision, to improve student opportunities and to bring in initiatives to do that,” he said.
RSU 9 has 2,400 students from the 10 towns of Chesterville, Farmington, Industry, New Sharon, New Vineyard, Starks, Temple, Vienna, Weld and Wilton.
RSU 10 has 2,800 students from the 12 towns of Canton, Carthage, Dixfield, Peru, Buckfield, Hartford, Sumner, Byron, Mexico, Roxbury, Rumford and Hanover.
His wife, Dr. Grace Ward, is an associate professor at the University of Maine at Farmington who leads the teacher education program for middle and high school teachers.
The couple has two adult daughters, a grandson and a granddaughter.
When Ward has time, he likes to run, do yoga, and go out on his sailboat with his family.