Windham Loses Another School Administrator

April 22, 2016

 

by Barbara O’Brien

Not only will the Windham School District be starting the upcoming school year with a new superintendent, but school board members are also being tasked with finding another business and finance administrator.

Business Administrator and Finance Director Adam Steel, who has been paramount in many of the achievements accomplished since the Windham School District split from Pelham several years ago, has given notice that he will be taking on a similar job in Amherst/Mont Vernon (SAU 39), beginning on July 1, with the commencement of the 2016-2017 school year.

Windham has been plagued with the resignation of various administrators since it embarked on the establishment of its own administrative unit; not just in the top spot of superintendent, but among principals, vice principals, directors and other SAU personnel, as well.  Langlois will be the fifth superintendent in the past eight years.

Steel’s departure leaves a vacancy that comes at the same time Richard Langlois will be taking on the duties of Windham’s superintendent of schools.  Langlois is currently employed as school superintendent in Marlborough, Mass. Langlois was chosen by the majority of school board members a couple of months ago, but the decision was not unanimous.  Voting in favor of hiring Langlois were Daniel Popovici-Muller, Tom Murray and Ken Eyring.  Opposed to Langlois’ hiring were Rob Breton and Dennis Senibaldi.  Dr. Tina McCoy, who was the other final candidate for superintendent, will continue in an interim capacity until the end of June.

Steel, who worked for the Pelham School District for many years, prior to taking on the duties in Windham, started out as the technology director in 2005, then moved on to Pelham’s business administrator slot.  When Windham’s former Business Administrator Donna Claremont left on short notice, Steel took on the duties of both school districts.  When Windham and Pelham went their separate ways, Steel chose to stay with the brand new Windham School District 95.  This past year, Steel earned his certification to serve as a superintendent of schools in New Hampshire.  He was a finalist when an interim superintendent was chosen for the Windham School District last year.

“I am proud of our accomplishments over the past few years,” said Steel this past week,  “which includes the passing of two teacher contracts, building the Henry E. LaBranche Kindergarten wing at Golden Brook School on time and under budget, passing operating budgets, creating a capital needs plan that ensures the buildings will be kept in great shape, transitioning to a new bus company that has greatly reduced complaints from parents, moving the food service operation in-house, saving a million dollars through the re-financing of the Windham High School bond, the hiring of a facility director last year, having clean audits each year I’ve been here, and most importantly … the incredible success of our students; academically, artistically, and athletically,” Steel said.  “And, all this success has come at a cost per pupil that is significantly less than the state average.

“My favorite memories at the Windham School District will be the three field trips I had the privilege of attending as a chaperone,” Steel recalled.  “Those trips with the band and the robotics team inspired my work and encouraged me to always make decisions that reflect the best interest of our students and their future success.”

Steel and his wife, Kristin, and their three sons will be moving from Manchester to either Amherst or Mont Vernon, prior to the beginning of school next September.

“Over the past six years, I have had a remarkable opportunity to learn and to grow in Windham,” said Steel. “While the challenges have been real, the people who have faced them with me are what has made the last number of years special to me.  Those relationships are a gift to me and will continue well into the future.”

Steel expressed his sincere appreciation to his former “bosses” in Windham, including Tina McCoy, Winfried Feneberg, Elaine Cutler, and Frank Bass.  A special thank you goes to former superintendent Henry LaBranche, who Steel said continues to serve “as an exceptional mentor to me on a regular basis. “  I have learned so much from each of you,” he added.

Steel also commented on his appreciation for the following school board members for their dedication to the students of Windham and for their collaborative efforts in making Windham a stellar school district:  Michelle Farrell, Andy Ducharme, Rob Hardy, Megan Larson, Brian Carton, Debby Ryan, Bruce Anderson, Dennis Senibaldi, Rob Breton, Stephanie Wimmer, Mike Joanis, Jerome Rekart, Linda Mahoney, John Hollinger, and Jeff Bostic.

“These are great people, who never cease to advocate for students,” Steel said.  “Thank you, also, to my finance department, who has truly become like family,” he said.  “Thank you to each of the principals and other administrators who have taught me what successful educational opportunities for students look like and for helping me understand how to help create opportunities for kids,” Steel said.  A heartfelt thank you also goes to “all of my teacher friends, who have consistently proven to be highly professional and dedicated to their craft,” he said.  Thanks also to “a wonderfully supportive community; one which advocates strongly for students and for doing what is best for our kids,” Steel said.  “These are people who do not always agree, but who always work to solve issues with decorum and with the best interest of students in mind.”

Dr. McCoy is one of many who are sorry to see Steel leave Windham, “Mr. Steel has done an outstanding job for the Windham School District.  His energy, insight and dedication will be sorely missed,” McCoy said.  “While this is a devastating blow to our school system, I understand that this is the best choice for him, both personally and professionally.  I wish him well and know that he will meet with great success in his new position,” she commented.

Windham resident Barbara Coish has served in many capacities over the years, including former school board chairman, director of the Windham Senior Center and videographer for most of the school district’s late night meetings.  During that time, she has gotten to know Adam Steel in various capacities.  “I have been privileged to watch Adam grow as a business administrator, as I televised school board meetings,” Coish said.  “Over the years, Adam has grown more and more comfortable in speaking on subjects in his area of specialty.  He expresses himself clearly and accurately when questions are posed to him.  It is obvious that Adam is driven to learn and excel.  Because of this, I feel that Adam will have no difficulty as he transitions to a new SAU.”

Coish also volunteers in one of the classrooms at Golden Brook School on a regular basis.  “The students in Paula Renda’s class always call me Grammy,” Coish said.  “In the past few years, Adam also began referring to me in the same way.  I love being referred to as Grammy by those other than my own grandsons,” Coish said, “so I hope Adam will never stop calling me Grammy, whenever our paths cross in the future!”  He will be missed, Coish said.

“I am sorry to see Mr. Steel leave, and I am grateful for his distinguished service to our school district,” school board chairman Daniel Popovici-Muller said, “but as someone who is lucky enough to work for my own town, I understand why he made this choice for himself and his family, and wish him the best in his career.”  Popovici-Muller was hired as the finance director for the Town of Windham late last year, upon the departure of Dana Call.

“The Windham School District will be hard pressed to find a more dedicated business administrator to replace what Adam Steel has become in his years in Windham,” school board Vice-Chairman Rob Breton said.  “Adam has provided much needed stability in a position that had been lacking for many years.  We will miss his intimate knowledge of all that goes on in the district and at each of the schools.  He was invaluable and his next employer is going to find out very quickly just how fortunate they are to have brought him on board.”

At press time, it had not yet been determined whether the school board will seek an interim business and finance administrator or will launch a search for a permanent replacement.