Candidates’ Night: Video, School Committee highlights, and SWL coverage of BOS candidates (Updated)

Last night, candidates for contested positions in the May 12th town election made their cases to voters at the library’s annual Candidates’ Night.

I couldn’t make it, but new I could count on Southborough Access Media to capture it for us. Click play to see it for yourself. Or if you want the highlights, scroll down for coverage.

First up to bat were candidates for K-8 School Committee. In the race for two seats on the committee, Tim Martel is running against incumbents, Paul Desmond and Kathleen Harrigan.

Martel committed his support to “our shared vision of the school system”. He lauded the superintendent’s leadership “old and new”, and the “dedication of our teachers”.

What Martel wants to change is the committee’s policy to not engage in dialogue with the public:

Anybody who takes the time to attend a committee meeting should be given the respect of honest dialogue. Not so long ago, even one of our selectmen received a not so respectful response when he dared to question the committee about MCAS scores.

He hopes to increase transparency and collaboration with town officials. One priority for discussion would be the future of Neary School.

Desmond explained that his continued desire is to “ensure that we give our kids the best possible education at a price we can afford.” To that end, he supports increasing technology in the classroom, keeping teacher ratios low, educating “the whole child” and listening and responding to parent concerns.

Both Desmond and Harrigan stressed that the best way to manage education costs is working with legislature. Desmond quipped:

“there are crazy things the state is doing that has a real effect on city and town budgets.”

Harrigan explained that the state promised funding in the past that it has failed to come through on or cuts when the state budget is tight. Items of concern include regional bus transportation, “circuit breaker”, and chapter 70. That funding represents millions of dollars for funding the budget.

Having served on Southborough school committees for 6 years, Harrigan said that in that time she’s seen:

“tremendous growth in many of the areas of every aspect of educating our children and also protecting our town finances.”

Harrigan named the many subcommittees that she has served on during her tenure and shared that this year the Mass Association of School Committees 2013 awarded her the All Star Committee member for division 4.

Next up were the candidates for the Board of Selectmen. Watching the video, I was surprised at the wide range of topics covered in Q&A.

Southborough Wicked Local reported a couple of the highlights.

Candidates were united against the proposed 180 unit 40B project at Park Central. On the topic of Main Street, there was some divide:

Parry has been the most the vocal opponent, while Cimino, Phaneuf and Fazen all said they didn’t support the plan in its present form.

SWL coverage highlighted on candidate responses to recent allegations that town officials intentionally miscommunicated plans to layoff longtime cemetery supervisor Bridget Gilleney-DeCenzo.

Candidates focused on a need for greater transparency on the board and many pushed for the employee to be rehired:

“I’m tired of reading about Southborough in the newspaper and all the controversy that goes on here,” said candidate and Fire Capt. Joe Hubley. “Frankly, I’m embarrassed, and it needs to stop.” . . .

Candidate David Parry said he thought Gilleney-DeCenzo should be rehired and that a full investigation should be launched.

Candidate and Planning Board Member Paul Cimino said he thinks there also needs to be more of a review of what has happened. He also suggested that, should Gilleney-DeCenzo be rehired, the money to do that should come from funds Town Meeting set aside to buy a new truck for DPW Superintendent Karen Galligan.

Candidate Al Hamilton said he’s championed additional transparency for years. He pointed out that the Advisory Committee began putting all its emails and working documents online while he was the chairman, and said as a selectman he’d ask fellow board members to do something similar.

“The government of the town of Southborough belongs to you,” he said, and most of its work should be public.

Candidate Louis Fazen III said he also believes that a “severe injustice” has been done to Gilleney-DeCenzo.

Selectman Chairman and candidate for re-election Daniel Kolenda said he’s always open to talk to any resident about any topic. He also defended [Town Adminsitrator Mark] Purple, who was criticized heavily by longtime resident Desiree Aselbekian. . .

He said he’s working with Purple to come up with “creative and responsible solutions” to staffing for cemetery work.

Candidate Bonnie Phaneuf said selectmen should have made sure the DPW budget was discussed at Town Meeting.

For the full story, click here.

Updated (5/9/14 3:05 pm) I updated the wording on SWL coverage of the BOS candidates. Although their coverage focused on the Gilleney-DeCenzo layoff, the range of topics covered was much wider. Frankly, I found too much ground was covered to pull out highlights without being seemingly biased towards or against some candidates. So I’m going to have to urge you to watch for yourselves!

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