DRACUT -- The three candidates vying for two open seats on the School Committee struck a mostly harmonious chord in answer to almost every question posed to them during Monday's Dracut Candidates Night event held Monday night at Harmony Hall.
In their opening statements, candidates John Kelly, Joe Wilkie and Dan O'Connell each shared that they are professionally employed, married dads who have multiple children attending, or about to enter, Dracut's public schools.
They also voiced agreement that whoever is elected to the School Committee on Monday, May 7, the town will be well-served.
"We're fathers, we're parents, and we all care about the community and about our kids," said O'Connell, "It's going to be a very tough choice for the voters. The town will do great with whatever two candidates get in. I really don't see much difference between the three of us."
One difference that O'Connell did call to the attention of about 30 people in attendance and those watching the Dracut Cable-Access TV broadcast is that of the three candidates he is the only lifelong, 42-year resident.
Another difference among the three that became evident during the question-and-answer segment of the meeting conducted by the event's moderator, Anne Ziaja, involved their responses as to whether each would back a debt exclusion to boost Dracut's school funding above a 2.5 percent increase.
"No, I'm dead set against it," responded Kelly, the only candidate to rule out a debt exclusion under any circumstance.
Wilkie and O'Connell opted to take a wait-and-see approach on possible support for a debt exclusion, based on a more thorough analysis of the proposed 2013 Dracut School budget.
"If it came to light that we need more money to support our schools, I would absolutely support that," said Wilkie.
Responded O'Connell: "I haven't taken the budget line by line, but if I found there were no other ways to get money, I'd have to look at that. I would like to look closely at the budget first."
Wilkie, O'Connell and Kelly were also firmly in agreement that the current search for the next superintendent of schools to succeed the departing Stacy Scott must produce a qualified leader who will make a commitment to serving the Dracut School District for an extended number of years.
The three candidates agreed the inequity of Dracut School District budget cuts in contrast to increases in the Greater Lowell Technical High School funding formula.
The candidates night event also included appearances by candidates for the Dracut Water Supply District and Dracut Housing Authority.
Follow John Collins on Twitter at johncolowellsun.