By John Toole
---- — WINDHAM — Windham High’s next principal brings character, a strong work ethic and good rapport with students to the job, education officials who have worked with him said yesterday.
The School Board, in a 5-0 decision Wednesday night, agreed to give the job to Ryan Kaplan, assistant principal at Spaulding High in Rochester.
Officials are finalizing a contract. Kaplan, 33, is expected to be formally introduced to the community by the School Board next week.
Students should expect a seamless transition in the administration and a new principal who will be engaging them, Kaplan said.
“Their learning is of primary importance,” he said.
Kaplan said there is wonderful energy and a lot happening at Windham High. He said he expects his first year will be one getting to know students and staff, seeking a lot of feedback and sorting through what fits with the community’s vision for the school.
“I’m hoping to really get to know the needs and wants of the school,” he said.
While he enjoys the challenges of administration, he said his heart is in the classroom.
“I will find ways to be in the classroom,” he said.
A field of more than 25 candidates competed to succeed Tom Murphy, New Hampshire’s principal of the year, who is departing to head his alma mater, Billerica Memorial High School.
Murphy, retiring Superintendent Henry LaBranche and incoming Superintendent Winfried Feneberg vetted the candidates. LaBranche recommended the board hire Kaplan.
Kaplan has served as assistant principal at Spaulding since 2009 and wanted to become a school administrator when he worked as a social studies teacher at Coe-Brown Northwood Academy, Headmaster David Smith recalled.
“I’m very excited for him,” Smith said, upon learning of the School Board’s decision. “Ryan was a very enthusiastic, well prepared social studies teacher for us.”
Though Kaplan enjoyed the classroom, he wanted to become an administrator, the headmaster said.
“He was very student oriented and a good communicator,” he said.
Smith praised Kaplan’s rapport with students, hard work and willingness to learn.
Kaplan impressed Windham school officials.
“What impressed the interview teams is he is a very dynamic young man, an innovator who is looking with a long-term perspective at the school and school district,” Feneberg said.
Kaplan also is a good listener, very student centered and willing to work with parents, he said.
His ability to work as part of a team came through loud and clear in his interview, Feneberg said.
“He is just a natural leader,” Feneberg said.
School Board members liked what they saw.
“We are confident his energy, enthusiasm and experience will make him a strong leader for Windham High School,” Stephanie Wimmer said.
Kaplan will be paid $95,000 a year.
“He seemed to be genuine,” School Board member Dennis Senibaldi said.
Rochester School Board Chairman Bob Watson said he hates to see Kaplan go, but he is ready for the next step.
“He will do well in Windham,” Watson said. “He is young and he has a lot of energy. He is a very even-tempered person who gets along with everybody: students, faculty and parents.”
Kaplan comes into a year of transition for Windham.
Windham is splitting with Pelham to become its own standalone SAU 95, as Feneberg replaces LaBranche.
“This truly is a new SAU and new leadership team, and Ryan will be an integral part of that team,” Feneberg said. “He has my complete trust.”
Kaplan brings business experience to the post. He previously worked as an underwriter with MassMutual Financial Group.
He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of New Hampshire. He plans to pursue a doctorate.
Kaplan and his wife, Linsay, have a 2-year-old son, Elijah, and a baby on the way.
He is a cycling enthusiast, who has participated in bike tours across the country and benefit rides for Muscular Dystrophy. He said his aspiration is to ride from Egypt to South Africa.