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August 22. 2012 11:15PM

Kindergarten may be named for LaBranche

WINDHAM — Future generations may start their academic careers at the Dr. Henry LaBranche Kindergarten at Golden Brook School.

Former School Board chairman Ed Gallagher has suggested naming the newly constructed kindergarten wing after LaBranche.

“The town of Windham, and literally three generations of students, are deeply indebted to Dr. LaBranche for all he has done at the local and state levels to enhance education for Windham,” Gallagher said in a prepared statement to the School Board. “He has remained our iconic superintendent for over 30 years, and now comes full circle of completing his educational career in the town where he both started and has resided.”

LaBranche has lived in Windham for 37 years. He served as SAU 28’s first superintendent for 13 years following its formation in 1975. After working for the Department of Education, LaBranche went on to spend 15 years as Salem’s superintendent at a time when Windham students attended Salem High School.

In June 2011, LaBranche came out of retirement and took the post of interim superintendent of SAU 28 overseeing Windham High School’s first graduating class and construction of the new kindergarten wing. He has since agreed to stay on as Windham splits from SAU 28 and forms its own administrative unit.

“Both Hank and his lovely wife Pam recognized his town needed him one more time, and he stepped up with his family’s support to the challenge and to serve his town,” Gallagher said.

Gallagher commended LaBranche’s leadership skills, calm demeanor and wisdom. His impact is to always leave a place better than he found it, and his legacy is illuminated by the many individuals who rely on him as a trained mentor, Gallagher said.

LaBranche successfully led construction of the kindergarten after the state cut more than a million dollars in previously approved funding, Gallagher said.

“Perhaps more impressively, for the first time, Windham now has its own complete (pre-kindergarten through grade 12) ecosystem prepared for and dedicated to educational excellence,” Gallagher said. “Windham has a strong record of education, yet it’s fair to say the best is yet to come.”

LaBranche wasn’t warned of the request, and Gallagher apologized if it embarrassed him. LaBranche is a humble man of many degrees and titles, none of which mean more to him than “educator,” Gallagher said.

Board members seemed open to the idea.

Jerome Rekart said Gallagher outlined what many discovered through daily interactions with LaBranche. Naming a facility that sets the foundation of educational standards seems a fitting honor, Rekart said.

Michelle Farrell agreed that LaBranche inspires students and staff alike.

“It’s been wonderful working with Dr. LaBranche, and he truly is a mentor to many of us,” Farrell said.

Chairman Bruce Anderson said many careers have catapulted forward in the past year with LaBranche’s guidance.

“His impact on education throughout this state is his legacy,” Anderson said.

Anderson asked that the proposal be put on the Sept. 4 agenda to receive input from the taxpayers.

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Julie Hanson may be reached at Jhanson@newstote.com.


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