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Process for new super begins
DIXFIELD -- The search for a new superintendent for RSU 10 formally got underway Monday with the unanimous vote to contract with Maine School Management Assoc.
That decision was directly following an hour-long presentation by Sandra MacArthur, executive director of MSMA, which offers a special fee service to assist Maine school boards in the development of appropriate superintendent search processes, in advertising to recruit broad and representative candidate pools, in obtaining input from staff and communities, and in the receiving of applications and arranging of interviews.
Present Superintendent Tom Ward, who has served as superintendent of RSU 10 since the consolidation in 2009, has resigned, effective June 30. "Dr. Tom," as he is called, was voted unanimously by the RSU 9 Board of Directors on March 4 in Farmington as their superintendent.
Ward clarified that he will be formally announcing his resignation as soon as he has received a contract from his new employer.
MacArthur noted that MSMA conducts 60 to 75 percent of school superintendent searches in the state (from 20 to 35 per year), which means that the applications to start the process will go directly to MSMA. "The number one reason most hire us is because of confidentiality. Maine is a small state in many ways. It's very hard to keep candidate's names confidential."
She noted it's highly likely RSU 10 will not have a new superintendent by July 1 because a superintendent who is serving elsewhere would require 60 to 90 notice to his/her present employer. "This is not a process that can be hurried."
For that reason, MacArthur said the RSU will probably require an interim superintendent. MSMA does have an available listing for people who could serve in this capacity.
She said the RSU's search committee would typically have eight to 12 members, with at least 50 percent of board's weighted vote comprising that committee.
There would be two rounds of interviews. In the first round, a candidate could be interviewed by videoconferencing, particularly if they're from out of state.
MacArthur said the second round, which might have two to four candidates, would like include a reimbursement for expenses, which could include mileage, meals, lodging and air fare. In this round, for the sake of confidentiality, the interview is conducted somewhere off-site to avoid detection of the candidates.
MacArthur said the more work that is done up front, the easier the search will be. "Do not make a bad hire. Find someone who fits what your looking for."
She added that if they need to retain the interim superintendent to go through the process a second time, to do that rather than hire the "wrong" person for the position.
Ward's current salary is $119,000 in RSU 10. MacArthur said the average superitendent's salary in Maine is $109,400. For a district of this size, the pay could be expected to be an additional $10,000 to $15,000.
MacArthur said there are 94 fulltime and 24 parttime superitendents in Maine. Presently, there are 20 opening in the state.
While a typical contract for a superintendent would be two to three years, she said the average stay in Maine is 4.3 years, compared to 18 months nationally. Bringing down the Maine rates is a number of veteran superintendents who have retired.
"It getting harder and harder replacing them. We don't have people aspiring to be superintendent," noted MacArthur.
For Ward, a 1972 graduate of Mt. Blue High School, this move is a homecoming.
"Everyone has been really good in understanding. I'm an emotional wreck right now," said Ward last Wednesday.
Ward, 58, of Temple, said he's hopeful this next stage in his life as RSU 9 superintendent will carry him into his eventual retirement.
Meeting with his administrative team and school board, Ward 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 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.
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 Marshfield 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,” said Ward.