Westford goes to the polls to choose their elected officials in just a few weeks and the League of Women Voters offered them a chance to meet the candidates for those offices on Wednesday night.
Moderated by Jo-Ann Berry of the Acton Area League of Women Voters, the J.V. Fletcher Library event provided opportunities for candidates of all the upcoming races, most notably the contested School Committee race.
There, Incumbent Terence Ryan was joined by Full-Day Kindergarten Citizens’ Advisory Committee Member Avery Adam, Blanchard School Advisory Committee Member Chris Sanders and Westford Academy Student Pranav Mulpur.
While the candidates all agreed on topics ranging from the introducing civics classes to high school students and the need to provide more competitive teacher salaries, Mulpur’s views varied at times.
Most notably, this difference came when the candidates were asked about what policy they would like to see implement, with Mulpur indicating a desire to push back the beginning of the school day for high school students.
He noted research stating that high school students did not meet peak efficiency until 8:30 due to their sleep patterns, but Westford Academy’s schedule began at 7:45.
“It’s dangerous to have sleep deprived kids driving to school,” said Mulpur. “Our number one priority is the health of students and this is a health issue.”
All the candidates agreed that the traditional six hour school day is likely optimal, although Ryan urged caution regarding the suggestion to move the day forward too much due to the impact on scheduling for after school sporting events with other towns.
Mulpur also questioned spending priorities, stating that recent expenditures for new security cameras and new computers could be put to better use toward bringing Westford’s teacher pay in line with comparable communities.
The four candidates will vie for three slots on the committee.
Prior to the School Committee segment of the evening, voters heard from Board of Health Candidate Helen Fu, Planning Board Candidate Dennis Galvin and Board of Selectmen Candidate Mark Kost. All three candidates are running unopposed.
Election Day is May 7. A full video of the event will be available soon at westfordcat.org
CORRECTION: There are three slots open, not two. Also, Mulpur said changing the start time from 7:35 to 8:30, not 8:45 to 9:30.