In Otto, AASD gets new start

The Altoona Area School Board has chosen former school district administrator Tom Otto to succeed longtime superintendent Dennis Murray.

At a recent meeting, the board voted unanimously to hire Otto under a four-year contract with a starting salary of $141,000. The action concluded a six-month search that began shortly after Murray announced his intention to retire as of June 30.

From 15 applicants, the school board went through a process that narrowed the superintendent candidates under consideration, then focused on Otto, who offered impressive credentials.

Otto, 56, holds a doctorate in education from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

He is a former teacher and principal at the former Keith Junior High School that was replaced with the current Altoona Area Junior High School.

Otto worked three years as academic principal, then director of curriculum at Bellwood-Antis High School, his alma mater, and he also spent a tenure as the varsity boys basketball coach at Hollidaysburg Area High School.

In 2011, he began working as superintendent of the Clearfield Area School District, where the school board initiated a $36 million high school renovation project and voted in January to build an $11 million addition to one of the district’s three elementary schools, in connection with closing the other two and a middle school as well.

After 35 years in education, Otto should have a wealth of knowledge to draw from in helping the Altoona Area School District as it considers how to address a shrinking elementary school enrollment and how to best educate students for a world that needs a wide variety of expertise and skills.

If Otto can put that experience to use while communicating openly and honestly with the school personnel and the public, the Altoona Area School District will indeed be moving forward.

So in mid-June when Otto is ready to start working in Altoona, the welcome mat should be out.