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Ligonier Valley picks new superintendent

| Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Johnstown-area native will be the next leader of the Ligonier Valley School District.

During a special meeting Monday, the school board voted unanimously to hire Christine Oldham -- the superintendent of Ferndale Area School District near Johnstown -- to replace Stephen J. Whisdosh, who will retire June 29.

"I'm very excited. I really think this will be a good match," Oldham said Tuesday from her administrative office at Ferndale.

After the 8-0 roll call vote -- board member Martin Stahl was absent -- Whisdosh read a prepared statement congratulating Oldham on her appointment.

"I am certain that Dr. Oldham will quickly realize that accepting this position was the right decision for her," Whisdosh said. "It is a tremendous relief for me to know that when I leave, the Ligonier Valley School District will remain in good hands."

Details of the district's five-year contract are still being worked out, with Oldham tentatively scheduled to begin her tenure July 1 at an initial salary of $115,000.

Oldham, an Indiana University of Pennsylvania graduate with degrees in business administration and elementary education, grew up in the Johnstown area.

After taking her first job in 1988 as an elementary teacher in Camden, Del., Oldham went on to receive a master's degree from Delaware State University in Dover in 1990 and a doctorate from Wilmington College in 1997.

She was assistant principal of West Side Elementary in the Johnstown School District from 1994 to 1998, when she became an elementary principal in 1998 in the Conemaugh Township School District. She was named curriculum director and instructional coordinator there in 2001.

Oldham became superintendent of Ferndale Area in 2003.

"I have loved everywhere that I've been, and I believe everybody is in any place and time for a purpose," Oldham said.

One issue Oldham said she anticipates encountering at Ligonier Valley is the ongoing effort to cultivate a curriculum standard that satisfies the needs of a student body drawn from myriad localities.

"I have not had the experiences of having two separate high schools, so I'll be focused on being able to evaluate (curriculum) offerings from one end of the district to the other," Oldham said.

While she admitted she was not actively searching for opportunities to make a career move, Oldham's dealings with the district to this point have fortified her belief that a bright future awaits.

"I really do have a strong faith that, as I researched the district and talked with its members, I got an understanding of what its needs are and what I can bring to it," Oldham said.

Oldham said she plans to stay on at Ferndale through the district's own search for her replacement. Once that process is complete, she and her husband, Tom, and the couple's children -- daughter Alyssa, 15, and son Ryan, 13 -- will relocate to the Ligonier Valley.

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