DRACUT — Voters will decide Monday who they’d like to fill two seats on the School Committee. The race is among incumbents Joe Wilkie and Dan O’Connell and challenger Susan Koufogazos.
“I have kids in the system. I care deeply about it,” O’Connell said when asked about his main reason for seeking re-election. “I was born and raised in Dracut. I’ve been here for 48 years and I care about what’s happening in the schools. I’m invested because I have kids in the district.”
Koufogazos, a longtime resident whose children attended Dracut schools, said she’s running because she’d like to bring her 22 years of experience as a parent and also as a volunteer in the district. She also previously served on the Greater Lowell Technical High School School Council.
“I believe I have a lot that I can offer and I would like to continue to do so… on a larger scale,” Koufogazos said.
Wilkie, who chairs the committee, said he thinks he’s demonstrated a track record of commitment to the town and school community.
“I’m excited and enjoy the work that we do on the School Committee, and I’d like to continue that,” he said.
On the subject of issues he’d like to tackle if re-elected, O’Connell said he’d like to expand programming for students. “I’d love for our kids to have multiple languages to learn,” O’Connell said. “I would just continue moving the district forward. I think we’re on a good roll. I think things are improving with the town.”
Koufogazos said there’s a need for accountability in terms of fiscal reporting — a topic that caused disagreement last December among committee members over the best approach and whether requesting quarterly financial reports would be too much to ask of school administrators. She added that working toward more accessible information and providing it in a timely fashion would be priorities, and suggested creating a more cohesive district website.
“When people have the information to make informed choices, there’s a lot more participation and a lot more satisfaction,” Koufogazos said.
Wilkie, who has two sons currently in the district, said his priorities would be to continue the work the committee has started in three main areas: student achievement, technology, and finances. “I’d also add to that: collaboration with the town manager, collaboration with our state rep, Colleen Garry,” he said.
All three candidates agreed that there’s always room for improvement.
“I think obviously we have a new special education director hopefully coming in soon. I think we can always improve on that,” O’Connell said. “There’s no district that’s perfect with special ed. If we can continue to improve in that area, I’d like to see that.” O’Connell added that he’d like to see facilities improved.
“We have over $11 million worth of capital improvement projects that we need to take a very proactive look at,” Koufogazos said. “We do need to take a look at that and start to have a long-term goal.”
Wilkie said any district is a work in progress.
“There’s never a stop or a complacency in public education,” he said.
In other contested races on the ballot on Monday:
* For two, three-year seats on the Board of Selectmen, incumbent Joseph DiRocco Jr.; Phil Thibault, chair of the Master Plan Committee and member of the Permanent Building Committee; and John Joyce, a U.S. Navy Seabee veteran and comedian who was defeated last year.
* For a five-year seat on the Housing Authority, incumbent George M. Nangle and Frederick W. Spicer Jr.
Polls open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the following locations:
Precincts 1 and 6A: Senior Center, 951 Mammoth Road.
Precinct 2, 5, 6 and 9: Justus C. Richardson Middle School, 1570 Lakeview Ave.
Precincts 3 and 8: M.G. Parker Memorial Library, 28 Arlington St.
Precincts 4 and 7: Joseph A. Campbell Elementary School, 1021 Methuen St.
Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.