Mitchell W. Laska
In 1970, while working at Chester Electronics, Mitch Laska was presented with the biggest challenge, and greatest opportunity of his career at that point. He was put on the design team, given the project manager position to design and execute the technology footprint in the most advanced middle school, if not school in general in the country. That school was the Branford Intermediate School. Laska installed a state of the art television studio, the most advanced lighting and sound available in the school’s auditorium, and a nerve center that controlled a centralized audio visual system that included closed circuit television systems in every classroom area in the school. When the project was complete, Laska’s dream came true, as he was offered the job of continuing to oversee and maintain this project that meant so much to him. This permanent position allowed him to return the town where he was born and raised, and the place that he loved so much. Like most legacies, much of Mitch’s visionary work seems commonplace today. In the early days of the school, Mitch created the “lighting committee”. He worked with middle school students to teach them how to operate the lighting board, the complex sound system, and all of the equipment in the television studio. While the original vision was to have middle school students be spectators as teachers controlled the technology, Mitch’s vision and patience with young people, created a culture where students not only learned how to control the technology, but they also became the creative force of how it was used in production. Young students created, directed, and produced all aspects of taped as well as live productions. In the late 1970’s, Mitch acquires one of the first computers purchased by any school system in the area. The first people that he gave access to the computer, was of course the students. It was Mitch’s vision that brought large numbers of computers into any school system in the state. Mitch worked shoulder to shoulder with the legendary Fran Walsh to make sure that BIS was the most cutting edge school in the state. Mitch formed a relationship with commodore computers, that brought reduced pricing to the school system. He also insisted that he and his team would be trained to service and fix all of the computers in the entire school system. This policy reduced budget needs, and all but eliminated down time for the technology’s availability to the students. Mitch’s impact of course was much wider for the town. While being a founding member of the town’s public access in 1973 was important, his leadership and insistence on its use to impact the town in the 1980’s still stands today. It was Mitch who put student content on those channels. It was Mitch’s brainchild to record and broadcast both RTM meetings and Board of Education meetings, so citizens of Branford could be educated on the inner workings of the town. Initially he volunteered his own time, and videotaped these meetings himself. Mitch designed the electronics lab when the high school was remodeled in the 1980’s, and was the first teacher of electronics in the high school. At one time he taught adult education programs where town citizens could learn about electronics, and even receive high school credits if they had yet to achieve their high school degrees. Perhaps one of his more impactful legacies, was his relationship with the Connecticut School of Electronics. Mitch established what was basically a paid internship program with the school. For many years, two students from that school, worked for Mitch at all times. Many talented people went through that program, as Mitch insisted that the school send him only the best and the brightest. It was through this program, that current Hall of Fame member Keith Spaar came to Branford Public Schools. When Keith graduated, Mitch offered him a permanent position. He then mentored Keith over the years, until retired, and Keith took over his position, where then Keith took the program to new heights during his Hall of Fame career.