Gorham immediatley replaced acting superintendent Brian Waite, who accepted a job as superintendent in Shenandoah Valley last month. Waite could not begin his new job until Gorham took over. They will continue to work together to make the transition smooth.
Longtime superintendent, David McLaughlin-Smith, announced his retirement last year and so began a difficult search for a replacement. Waite filled in as temporary acting superintendent after an outgoing school board hired one person for the job and the current school board rescinded that appointment.
In January, the district involved the community in its search, using a survey where residents could voice the qualities in a new superintendent that they feel are most important.
While Gorham hasn’t seen the results of the survey, he is interested in seeing how the residents responded. But, he stressed, that survey is just one way of hearing a few voices, it’s not a definitive tool for stating what the whole community wants or needs.
Gorham was born and raised in Ashley where he still resides. He’s the father of three children, ages 13, 12, and 9, and he says, “They are my life. They are my everything.”
He earned a degree in broadcast journalism from Luzerne County Community College and another in crisis public relations and advertising from Ithaca College. He worked as a manager at Price Chopper, a foreman for a landscaping company, and a radio disc jockey.
Asked how he made the leap to a career in education, Gorham replied while previous generations would get a job at a company and work there until retirement, the modern work force is made up of people learning new skills and moving up and in different directions.
“I’m an example of how the world is changing in terms of careers,” he said. “…For me, communication and education has been the commonality of it.”
He received his teaching credentials and administrative degree from Wilkes Univ., and he later completed his superintendent certification from Marywood Univ.
Gorham taught 18-to 20-year olds at Plains Alternative Learning Center, most who he described as “having black boxes on their ankles,” having had been previously arrested and were being monitored by police. “It was a great experience,” Gorham noted. “It gave me a much broader perspective on people’s behaviors and how to deal with them.”
He went on to teach and coach at Hanover Area High School and served as principal at the Northwest Area School District, before becoming superintendent at Carbondale in 2013.
He has also served for years on the Ashley Borough Council, adding the reason of being involved in local government is “to protect my family.” No stranger to testifying in Harrisburg, Gorham spoke passionately about his fight for a fair funding formula for PA schools.
Pennsylvania is one of three states that does not have fair funding for schools, he stated, giving this explanation: Funding is given to school districts based on their size. While the state distributes its funding by how many students are in a building, it does not account for important factors like the socioeconomic status of the population, loss of funds due to charter schools, or the number of students with special needs.
Sleeping giant Gorham’s first official day at
Crestwood, April 13, happened to be his 45th birthday. He spent the day meeting everyone he could, from the maintenance staff and cafeteria workers to the teachers and administrators. He visited each school in the district as well.
The new superintendent plans on spending more time in the various school buildings over the next week. “I’m interested in how the buildings operate,” he said. “I want to get a good look at what’s happening.”
When asked what brought him to the district, Gorham replied, “Crestwood was always considered to be the sleeping giant. There are incredible opportunities in the district.”
When he interviewed at Crestwood, Gorham said he was first impressed by the aesthetics of the grounds and impressed by how polite and respectful the students were. The administrators and staff, were knowledgeable and personable.
“I want to let the people in the community know the excellence that is here under these roofs,” he said. “It’s the sleeping giant and it deserves to be in the spotlight of excellence.”
In regard to specific goals as superintendent, Gorham related that, while of course he has goals, it’s difficult to articulate them until he spends time in the district and gains an understanding of the culture here.
In his first year as superintendent here, Gorham plans on heavily observing how the Crestwood schools operate. “I will literally be in the kitchens…in the maintenance areas…in the classrooms. That’s where you discover how a district operates,” he stated, adding that he will rely on the seasoned professionals here to collaborate with him on making good decisions for the schools.
Bringing the human component to his job is important in a time where so many rely on technology for communication, Gorham remarked. He will not have a computer on his desk and will not spend much time in his office. Rather, he said, he’ll carry a smart phone and, when he gets a call from someone in the school building, will pick up the phone, walk to the caller, and to speak face to face.
The superintendent and school staff needs to remember that their job is not “putting peas in a can on a shelf,” he concluded, but rather, “producing successful humans for the workforce.”