WILMINGTON, MA — School Committee members Manny Mulas and M.J. Byrnes are seeking their second 3-year terms to the board unopposed. Both still agreed to participate in Tuesday’s Candidates Night, fielding three questions from the local media and a question from each other.
Highlights from Manny Mulas:
- “Whether they’re in kindergarten or a senior in high school, all Wilmington students deserve great teachers, great resources and the best facilities,” said Mulas in his opening remarks. “I’m honored to have the opportunity to serve this town for another three years and work side-by-side with my colleagues, along with our new superintendent Mary DeLai, who I feel will be a terrific leader for our schools for many years to come.”
- When asked what the next building project in the district would be now that the high school has opened, Mulas said there was no talk of any building projects at this point. “It’s not something we’ve discussed for the short-term, but it’s certainly something we’ll look at for the long-term.”
- When asked about how children should be tested, Mulas responded that he didn’t like assessment testing as a parent, but recognized that the state and federal government requires it. He stressed that “all children learn differently” and that assessment testing isn’t a perfect way to measure student achievement in many children.
- When asked about increasing the start times at the middle school and high school to 8:30am, Mulas said it’s something he’s interested in exploring. “I would have to look at the studies. It’s something we can talk about. I wouldn’t be opposed to it. I could see what [later start times] would benefit students.”
- When asked what was the biggest challenge of his first term, Mulas discussed the process the committee had to undertake to replace retired Superintendent Joanne Benton. He referred to his vote to appoint Mary DeLai as Superintendent as “the toughest, but best vote I’ve taken.”
- In his closing statement, Mulas stressed that “it’s all about the kids” with him and his colleagues. “All the decisions we make on the School Committee are meant to benefit the children that attend our schools.”
Highlights from MJ Byrnes:
- “It has been my privilege to be able to serve my community in the role as a school committee member. I’m honored and enthusiastic that I can continue to serve,” said Byrnes in her opening remarks. She says she will focus on the PARCC assessment, closing the achievement gap, and advocating against unfunded mandates in her next three years.
- Byrnes agreed with Mulas that there are no new schools likely to be built in the near future. “I’d like to start a discussion about building a new facility to house our central office, technology and special education administrators,” said Byrnes. Byrnes noted that the Roman House, where the Central Office currently resides, is deficient in many areas, with significant space and technology constraints.
- When asked about how children should be tested, Byrnes agreed that some sort of assessment is needed, but has serious concerns about the PARCC exam. “There’s a cluster of students who the test can’t accommodate.” Byrnes also stressed her belief that students are over-tested.
- Byrnes agrees that a later start time for Wilmington Middle School and High School students is worth of a discussion. It hasn’t been acted upon in the past, she said, because the schools share school buses and a change to one school’s start time would likely result in a changes to others. Byrnes also noted that the district doesn’t charge bus fees because of the current bus schedule and configuration.
- In response to a question asked by Mulas, Byrnes discussed her role as the district’s Legislative Representative. Byrnes discussed the process she undertakes by monitoring local, state and federal education issues online and then bringing concerns to Chair Peggy Kane and Superintendent Mary DeLai, before drafting letters on behalf of the School Committee, which they sign off on. Byrnes mentioned a letter she sent last year to Senator Elizabeth Warren on school safety, which Warren responded to.
- In her closing, Byrnes said: “It takes a village to raise a child, and after almost 13 years of living in Wilmington, I couldn’t ask for a better village to help raise my children.”
The Town Election is Saturday, April 25. Polls are open from 8am to 8pm.
The School Committee debate was a part of “Candidates Night,” sponsored by Wilmington Community Television, Wilmington Town Crier, Wilmington Chabmer of Commerce and Reading Cooperative Bank. Town Crier News Editor Jayne Miller moderated the debate, which was held at WCTV studios.
Watch the 30-minute debate, courtesy of WCTV, below.