The Cato-Meridian Central School District has selected a new superintendent: Dr. Terry Ward.

Ward was offered the position by the district's board of education at the end of a meeting Monday night. He is set to start with the district in January. The educator, who is currently the assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and pupil personnel at the Cazenovia Central School District, ultimately beat out 19 other applicants for the job.

A formal board appointment is expected to be made sometime this month, pending final contract negotiations.

Ward said he and the board talked about his priorities for the district at the Monday meeting. He showed the board an entry plan he had created that outlined his long-term and short-term plans for the district. Ward and the other top contender, Shawn Bisetta, met with the board on Nov. 1.

Taking the superintendent job marks a bit of a reunion for Ward, as he served as an assistant principal intern at Cato-Meridian's middle school from 2003-2004, when he was transitioning his education career from teaching to administration. He was struck by how warm and friendly people were at the district, saying it was "like a family."

On his first day at the district, a teaching assistant asked him what kind of snacks he liked. He casually said he was fond of fruits. The next day, he was told to look in a lunch bag, which contained grapes, apples and other goods for him. Ward never forgot the kindness he was shown on those first two days in a new environment.

He also recalled when a teacher at the district died a year after Ward left the district. At an event memorializing the teacher, he again saw the kindness of the district's employees.

"I remember thinking, 'These are people you want to be around,'" Ward said.

One of Ward's primary educational beliefs is the importance of students having access to learning. For example, he wants special education students to have opportunities to get regents diplomas and students performing "middle level" academically to have access to advanced placement classes.

He also wants students already taking advanced classes to be able to take courses where they can get college credit. On the more short-term side of things, he plans to immediately focus on the district's budget when he starts in January.

There are certain core beliefs Ward wants to emphasize when he arrives at the district, like the importance of every single student displaying academic growth.

Ward had previously served as the Cazenovia district's director of special education. He also served as an employee of the Central New York Regional Information Center, an elementary principal at Fulton City School District and an assistant elementary principal at the Phoenix Central School District.

He has a doctorate in executive leadership from St. John Fisher College. Ward also holds a master of science in special education from Syracuse University; a certificate in advanced study from SUNY Oswego; a bachelor of arts degree in history from SUNY Cortland; and an associate of applied science degree from SUNY Canton.

Current superintendent Noel Patterson will serve through December. He announced his retirement in May. The longtime educator started with Cato-Meridian in 2009.

William Speck, former superintendent of Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES, served as the hiring consultant for the superintendent search through BOCES at a cost of $8,500.

Ward said he is looking forward to getting started — again — at Cato-Meridian. He doesn't take the responsibly lightly.

"I really do believe that we have the best and most important jobs in the world," Ward said.

Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or kelly.rocheleau@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.

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