DIXFIELD – Tom Ward is ready to hit the ground running, and to get going on a list of tasks that must be done to pull a new school union together.

Ward, SAD 21’s superintendent, was unanimously chosen as the first superintendent of the Western Foothills School District RSU 10.

“I’m excited. We have a tremendous opportunity in front of us to create a top-notch school district. We have the personnel, board and support of the communities,” he said following the RSU board’s more than three hour organizational meeting Tuesday night.

His selection as head of the district reflected the spirit of cooperation and unity evident among the 15 RSU board members at the meeting. The only two missing were the representatives from Roxbury and Peru. Twelve towns make up the unit.

Earlier in the evening, the board unanimously elected SAD 39 Chairman Jerry Wiley of Buckfield as chairman, and SAD 43 board vice Chairman Jeff Sterling of Rumford as vice chairman.

SAD 43 Superintendent Jim Hodgkin, who served as interim superintendent of the 3,000 student district since voters approved the merger in November, presided over the first gathering.

“This is a very historic evening,” he said as the board convened in the Dirigo High School community room.

Nearly all administrators of three merged districts attended, as did Rep. Matt Peterson, D-Rumford, Rep. Terry Hayes, D-Buckfield, and Sen. Bruce Bryant, D-Dixfield.

The board also set the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month as regular meeting nights at the Dirigo community room, although some modifications may be needed because of school vacations. Other workshops and committee meetings will be called during the next few months to work out the tasks required to join three districts and the unaffiliated town of Hanover into one school unit. RSU 10 is in business as of July 1. At that time, the three SADs will no longer exist.

Neither SAD 39 Superintendent Rick Colpitts nor Hodgkin applied for the new superintendency.

Representatives from the 12 towns have been working to form a new district for nearly two years.

The central office for the new school unit will be in the former Dixfield Elementary School, which now houses the SAD 21 central office.

Ward begins immediately. He said he plans to visit all the schools of the Western Foothills School District, meet people and get to know each area. Setting goals and writing a policy manual are among projects to be tackled, he said.

The next board meeting was set for 6:30 p.m., Feb. 24.


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