Students Quiz School Committee Candidates on Safety, Budget During Haverhill High Debate

School Committee candidate Thomas Grannemann demonstrated a budget graph during a Haverhill High School debate on Oct. 16, 2019. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Members of Haverhill High School’s government classes had their chance to question candidates running for the city’s three open School Committee seats last week in a debate over topics including safety, infrastructure improvements and creative arts funding.

Moderators Sean Lanigan and Rachel Walsh from Tom Jordan’s and Shaun Ashworth’s classes quizzed incumbents Sven A. Amirian, Gail M. Sullivan and Scott W. Wood Jr., along with challengers Toni Donais and Thomas Grannemann in front of 85 of their peers Wednesday in the high school library as Superintendent Margaret Marotta and Principal Glenn Burns looked on.

The highlight of the discussion was a lively back and forth about the importance of fine arts funding, which was deemed a priority by all candidates. Each person on the ballot also agreed school safety for Haverhill High students must be paramount, especially in the wake of the July 29 incident in which a sophomore allegedly brought a gun to campus.

While critical issues were debated, the morning did include some fun by way of a ‘lightning round,’ that asked policymakers where they stood on the all-important “Carters vs. Biggarts ice cream” and “hot dogs vs. hamburgers” questions.

Jordan tells WHAV students in his AP Government class elected Wood the debate winner, followed by Sullivan, Amirian, Donais and Granneman.

Student Council President Leah Pearse, who sits on the School Committee as a student representative, attended the debate with her AP Government classmates. While she cannot vote in the upcoming Nov. 5 election, she told WHAV she looks forward to sharing what she learned about the candidates with her parents as they fill out their ballots.

Amirian, who serves as School Committee vice chairman under Mayor James J. Fiorentini, hopes the debate encouraged attendees to get more involved in municipal politics.

“Your voices are the ones who really aren’t heard. If something’s going wrong, or if something’s going right, we want to hear about the good stuff, too. I would encourage you to use your student government, come to our meetings and talk to us or ask a student rep to talk about issues,” he said.

In addition to electing three new School Committee members Nov. 5, Haverhill voters will also cast ballots for City Council and Mayor on that date.

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