Washington Heritage

Package of Washington History Arrives in Mail

Teacher JoAnn Hansen with her Washington School class in May 1960.

March 3, 2017

Marsh Neville went to her mailbox in the main office one day and the Washington Primary School principal found a package. The contents surprised her.

Inside a large insulated enveloped was a handwritten letter from JoAnn Hansen and various class photos in their original sleeves. The photos date to the late 1950s and early 1960s.

“To ‘Whoever,’” the letter begins. “I was a first grade teacher at Washington from 2/58 until 3/62 under Les Read’s tenure. In going through my ‘stuff,’ I came across these pictures. They only have meaning to me and when I pass on, my children will surely toss them! Perhaps you have an archives section and these could be added to it. If not, a toss out on your part would be fine. My years there gave me many fond memories I will cherish forever. So glad the school is still educating kids today.”

Ms. Hansen earned a Bachelor of Science degree in education at Hofstra University in January 1958. She started her career in Huntington the following month after being assigned to teach first grade at Washington Elementary School. Her first year salary was $4,300.

Ms. Hansen worked under Washington’s founding principal, Leslie Read. He studied at Brockport Normal School outside of Rochester. Today it is known at SUNY Brockport.

J. Taylor Finley was Huntington’s superintendent of schools at the time of Ms. Hansen’s appointment to the faculty. Although the former teacher said she worked at Washington until March 1962, district records indicate she taught in the school until March 1963.

One of the photos in the package that Ms. Hansen sent to Washington School is of the initial class she was assigned to teach. Taken in May 1958, the photo shows her standing in the center of the back row, surrounded by 30 boys and girls. Students signed their names inside the cover of the photo sleeve, opposite the class picture. One of the students is Salvatore Lupinacci, whose son, Chad is currently serving in the New York State Assembly. The elder Mr. Lupinacci went on to graduate with Huntington High School’s Class of 1969.

“I have very fond memories of Mrs. Hansen and the class,” Mr. Lupinacci said last week. “She was an excellent teacher who I remember very well. I also remember Mr. Read, who at times I had to spend some time with.”

James Tucker was one of the students in the photo with Mr. Lupinacci. “Jimmy later died in an accident when he was struck by a car while crossing the street,” Mr. Lupinacci said. “I think we were in third grade.”

The May 1960 first grade class photo includes Kenneth DiGiacomo, whose brother, Thomas is currently president of both the Huntington School Board and the Huntington High School Alumni Association. Ken DiGiacomo graduated with Huntington’s Class of 1971.

The package also contained a group faculty photo, which is undated, but believed to be from 1960. Teachers surround Mr. Read, who is seated in the middle of the front row with his arms folded across his waist. He remained as principal until 1966.

Shortly after Ms. Hansen arrived, construction began on a new wing at Washington Elementary School. During a meeting on January 7, 1958, the Huntington School Board approved the idea of adding a new wing to Washington, Southdown and Flower Hill schools at a combined cost of $800,000. Washington’s new wing housed classes for the first time on November 24, 1958.

Today that new wing includes third and fourth grade and special education classrooms, speech, psychological and reading services, the library/computer room and the art room.

Washington Heritage
Washington teacher JoAnn Hansen with her first grade class in May 1958.
Washington Heritage
Teacher JoAnn Hansen with her Washington School first grade class in May 1959.
Washington Heritage
Teacher JoAnn Hansen's first grade class in May 1958.
Washington Heritage
The Washington Elementary School faculty in 1960