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Merrimack Valley

October 23, 2013

Little difference between 8 School Committee candidates

METHUEN — Seven of the eight candidates for School Committee agreed on a broad range of issues at a debate last night, including keeping a focus on technology, opposing user fees and taking a slow approach to any redistricting.

The only hint of disagreement came over whether athletes could be exempted from physical education, or band members from music, if they take other curriculum courses instead.

An eighth candidate, Thomas Grondine, could not attend the debate at Timony Grammar School because of a previously scheduled meeting of the Greater Lawrence Technical School board, of which he is a member.

Most of the candidates have prior experience as elected officials. Incumbents Lynne Hajjar Kumm and Mary Jean Fawcett are running for their second term. Robert Vogler, who has served for years on the committee, is running for a full term after being appointed to finish the term of former member Mark Graziano. Grondine also has served on the City Council. Dennis “D.J.” Deeb served on the Dracut School Committee and the Greater Lowell Technical School Board before moving to Methuen.

Candidates Richard Beshara, Jana DiNatale and Bryan Sweet have not held elective office.

Four have or had careers in education: Beshara retired as principal of Marsh Grammar School this year, Deeb is a teacher at North Reading and the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Fawcett was a teacher and administrator in Methuen and Vogler was a teacher in Beverly.

DiNatale is an assistant district attorney and Sweet is an administrative manager of research at Massachusetts General Hospital.

The seven candidates, who answered questions from moderator and MCTV executive director Karen Hayden and from audience members and students, disagreed over whether students in certain extracurricular activities, such as sports or music, could be exempted from gym or music classes.

“I wouldn’t single out athletics,” Fawcett said in response to the question, which specifically named athletes.

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