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Parents meet Windham superintendent candidates at community forum

WINDHAM - District parents, administrators and educators gathered inside the Windham High School auditorium Tuesday evening, eager to hear from the two finalists in the town's superintendent search.

The search for a new superintendent began last summer, when acting Superintendent Dr. Henry LaBranche announced his plans to retire.

"Then we prepared a focus group of residents and teachers to assist in the search," School Board member Bruce Anderson said.

The district received 16 applications from around the country.

The two finalists toured the district's schools extensively and met with parents, administrators and students last month.

In July 2011 former superintendent Frank Bass resigned after accepting the position as Hanover district superintendent. Since then, LaBranche has served as interim administrator for SAU 28, which encompasses Pelham and Windham.

The Pelham and Windham districts will be split next summer, with Windham withdrawing from SAU 28 to become SAU 95 by July 1.

A final decision on the superintendent hire won't be made for at least several more weeks, Harrison stressed.

Winifried Feneberg, who has served as assistant superintendent in the Timberlane and Hampstead school districts since 2007, was the first candidate to take to the stage.

"You have a great morale in your schools, even though there's a space crunch. The good news is, it doesn't seem to have had a negative impact on test scores," he said.

Feneberg stressed that he's not trying "to get out of Timberlane and Hampstead" so much as "recognizing an amazing opportunity to be part of a new SAU."

"As a former school psychologist and special education director, what counts is that the kids are serviced in the best way possible: to become college-career ready and become good citizens we can confidently send out into the world," said.

Asked how he'd prioritize the arts in Windham, Feneberg said, "Education, to me, is about having a well-rounded person. In order to do that, I think art, music and the sciences ... as well as individualized special services involve enrichment."

Candidate Richard Bergeron, who has served as superintendent of the Contoocook Valley Regional School District since 2007, is the father of three grown children, two of whom are teachers.

Bergeron said he has already made the decision to leave Contoocook Valley, which encompasses nine towns, after a six-year-career there. "It's been an interesting and challenging experience, but I'm ready to go back to my roots and serve one single community," he noted.

During his time in that district, Bergeron said he had set and met various goals, including an improvement in overall NECAP scores. He also served as Andover, Mass., superintendent and assistant superintendent, and taught in several Massachusetts school districts.

Asked about his ideas for special education and creative enrichment, Bergeron noted that the high school in his current district recently embarked on a strategic intervention program with much success.

"Early intervention is really the economic way to go," he said, noting that incoming kindergarten students in ConVal are now subjected to such programs. As a result, the district has been able to reduce the number of special needs students requiring out-of-district placement.

"I look to connect student interests and passions with outside learning experiences," Bergeron said. "At ConVal, we'd go out of our way to find connections for all of our students."

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