By Max Bowenfirstname.lastname@example.org
Three of the four candidates for two seats on the School Committee discussed community support for a new high school and programs outside of the classroom during a televised debate.
The debate was moderated by North TV Executive Director Peter Gay and aired on the station’s Education Channel on Monday, March 28. Mike Kirby of the Sun Chronicle and Paul Healy of WARA were the panelists. The debate included candidates Charles R. Dobre-Badobre, John Costello, and Ethan Hamilton. Costello and Hamilton are both running for re-election.
Candidate David Chee, who used to be a committee member as well as a selectman, was unable to attend, and sent a statement which Gay read. In the statement, Chee wrote of his desire to continue the traditions of the North Schools and commitment to a responsible budget process. He maintains a connection to the schools as a volleyball referee and has supported several projects, such as the new police station and the new Community School roof.
“My hope is that you the voter will reflect my vision,” said Chee.
The debate covered a number of subjects, among them the potential renovation or replacement of the high school. The town is in the Eligibility Phase of the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s repair program, with the end goal of receiving reimbursement for the work. Roughly half the cost will be borne by the town, likely in the form of a temporary tax increase.
This kind can be a hard sell for the residents, and the candidates were asked how they would approach it. Dorbe-Badobre—the only candidate with no political experience—said that the process must be done responsibly.
“It would be great to have a high school, why not?” he said. “If we can renovate what we have, why not?”
Hamilton, who has served for two terms, said any estimate on the project’s price would be premature, and it may end up being a less costly renovation. He added that any opportunity to take an aging building offline was a good one.
“We’re going to go through all the steps,” said Hamilton. “Will get a ton of input from you (the residents).”
Costello added that the process was still in the early stages and it could be a few years before a cost is known. He said that the economy could be in a different place by then, and investments would need to be made.
“We need to be mindful of our spending,” he said.
Over the last few years North Schools has made several technology-based upgrades, including Google Chromebooks for every student. On the subject of cultural programs or opportunities for real-world experience, Hamilton cited the NorthServes program, which requires a certain number of community service hours each year. Costello echoed this, adding that the committee has always been supportive of trips abroad.
“Education goes beyond the classroom,” he said. “Those things are essential.”
Dorbe-Badobre said that the students need to be part of the decision-making process. He stressed the importance of connecting with different cultures and the need for programs to give students help in preparing for college or potential careers.
“We need as leaders to be creative,” he said.
In their opening and closing statements, both Costello and Hamilton focused on their time on the committee. Costello said over the course of his first term he learned that listening is paramount and the district needs to make investments in high-quality education.
“The policies we enact go far beyond the four walls of the school,” said Costello.
Hamilton said that if re-elected he would only serve one more term. He spoke of the dire situation the schools were in six years ago, how there was talk of budget cuts and money was being spent on a building that was never used, that leadership was in over its head.
“In six years we saw a lot of changes, made great strides,” said Hamilton “Look at my track record—a lot happened.”
In his closing remarks, Dorbe-Badobre said that this night was about the future. He hopes to bring new ideas as a member of the committee, adding that the curriculum is in need of change.
“I want to be an advocate that is accessible, that listens to the stakeholders,” he said. “We should not trade our values for funding. I want to be that change, I want to bring diversity to the School Committee.”
The Town Election will be held on Tuesday, April 5. Polls will be open from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. The School Committee is the only contested race this year.