FARMINGTON – There were smiles all around Tuesday night when RSU 9 directors voted unanimously Tuesday to hire a 1972 graduate of Mt. Blue High School to lead the district, beginning July 1.

Thomas “Dr. Tom” Ward, 58, of Temple, currently superintendent of RSU 10 in the Rumford, Buckfield and Dixfield areas, accepted the position contingent on negotiating a contract.

RSU 9 Superintendent Mike Cormier will retire June 30 after serving the district for 20 years.

Ward was one of nine candidates to apply for the job.

After the vote, Ward told the school board they won’t be disappointed.

“I am equally excited,” he said.

Ward told the board he is RSU 10 superintendent until June 30.

Meeting with his administrative team and school board, he said, they are not happy but they also see the opportunity for the two districts to work together.

Each district consists of 10 towns. RSU 9 has nearly 2,400 students and RSU 10 has 2,800.

Ward’s current salary is $119,000 in RSU 10.

Ward said saying he is excited is an understatement but it is also a very difficult decision.

“I put my heart and soul” into RSU 10 for four years and SAD 21 in Dixfield for six years prior to that, he said.

RSU 10 is the combination of the former SAD 21, SAD 43 and SAD 39 and Hanover. RSU 10 has three high schools. The districts consolidated on July 1, 2009.

“I want to make sure I am clear this was not easy to decide,” Ward said. “RSU 10 is equally as great as RSU 9.”

There were a lot of tears both ways, he said.

“We’re going to have fun. We are going to work hard but we’re going to have fun,” Ward told the school board.

Leanne Condon, assistant superintendent/director of curriculum in RSU 9, said she was happy.

“I am so excited. Oh my goodness,” she said.

RSU 10 is a little more advanced in several education initiatives, including mass customized learning, positive behavior intervention and response to intervention, and she believes Ward will be able to move the district further ahead quickly.

Ward’s career includes being a teacher, coach, athletic director, assistant principal/athletic director and principal of Mt. Blue High School in Farmington. He also was principal at Dirigo High School in Dixfield and then came back to Mt. Blue High School as principal for eight years. He then was principal of SAD 35’s Marshwood High School in South Berwick for eight years and superintendent of SAD 21 for six years before consolidation to RSU 10, which he has led for four years.

This is an opportunity to come home, Ward said of the new position. His children went to SAD 9/RSU 9 schools. His wife, Grace Ward, is an associate professor in the education department at the University of Maine at Farmington, a position she has held for eight years. He had a great experience as a student, teacher, coach and administrator in the Farmington area district, he said.

“It is an opportunity I did not want to pass up as superintendent of RSU 9,” Ward said.

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