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School Committee Interviews Candidates for Interim Seat

Committee members will soon decide on someone to fill the spot left by Joe Zarrella when he left to finish college.

Each of the six candidates for School Committee interviewed Wednesday night said they would bring a unique background to the task of improving the lives of students and each expressed an interest in running in the election this fall if selected.

No decision was made on an interim replacement for former member Joe Zarrella, but the item will be placed on the committee's next agenda. Vice Chair David Ringius, filling in for Chair Shannon Hume, who was absent due to illness, said that members will digest the candidates' applications and interviews for the Monday, Feb. 11 meeting.

Members asked the candidates a series of identical questions over a two-hour period Wednesday night, with some answers prompting follow-up. The candidates were asked why they want to join the School Committee, what skills and experience they would bring to the table and which issues they identify as priorities.

Space needs, funding and full-day kindergarten dominated candidates' lists of priorities. School safety and improving communication were also mentioned. For background information about each of the candidates, visit the following article:

http://braintree.patch.com/articles/school-committee-to-chose-among-six-for-empty-seat

All of the candidates live in Braintree, with their residency ranging from several months to several decades. And most have children in the Braintree school system.

"I'm fully vested in what they do," Kevin McGonigle said of his three children. "I think it's about time I make a difference in the town that I live in."

Cheryl Edgar, the one candidate whose interest in running for the seat next fall was less certain, said she is seeking the seat because of her experience as an educator and desire to serve the community.

"First and foremost, I have a love of children," said Edgar, who was a teacher and administrator in Hingham for nearly 40 years.

Pamela Wildeman, a marketing consultant, said she would bring a unique perspective as a parent who is a part of the new growth in Braintree. As a committee member, Wildeman said she would try to solidify the board's long-term approach to space needs, drawing on what she has seen as the frustration of parents.

"I'm excited about this," Wildeman said. "I would never sign up for something like this with a short-term view."

Former committee member Anthony Holmes has daughters at East and Hollis and a son moving into kindergarten. He is seeking to return to "be a voice for the students" and would focus first on space needs and the budget.

"You may have to trim the fat wherever you can," he said.

Sarah Nichols, who moved to Braintree last summer with her husband, said she would bring experience teaching and her education in policy and management to bear for the committee. Along with the other priorities mentioned, Nichols said she would focus on the instructional core and the transition to Common Core standards.

Kate Naughton readily admitted she has no background in education, but has been volunteering in Braintree for years, with the Braintree Fund for Education and Highlands PTO.

With a son in eighth grade at South, Naughton said she would bring the knowledge of a Braintree parent to the position. She mentioned improving school safety, space and expanding full-day kindergarten as priorities.

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