Reported by Diana Jeong
More than 150 residents packed the Malden Senior Center on Sept. 28 to hear candidates for the Malden School Committee discuss their positions on issues ranging from bilingual education and family engagement to teaching subjects in a culturally sensitive manner.
The candidates forum was sponsored by the Greater Malden Asian American Community Coalition (GMAACC) the Mass Senior Action Council, Chinese Cultural Connection, Chinese Progressive Association, and APIsCAN (which a coalition of groups who serve various Asian communities throughout Massachusetts). These organizations have worked together in the past on civic engagement and language access issues.
The Malden School Committee consists of the mayor and eight members who are elected from each of the city’s eight wards. Three of those seats are being contested in the municipal elections to be held Nov. 7.
All school committee candidates were invited to attend the forum; eight participated. Lisa Wong, former mayor of the Fitchburg and current Deputy Director of the Asian American Civic Association, served as moderator.
The forum began with greetings from Malden Mayor Gary Christenson, followed by introductions and acknowledgements by two students from Malden High School. Other students who attend Malden public schools also played significant roles during the forum. Mass Senior Action Council also made a brief presentation regarding bilingual ballots. This year’s election will mark the first time the City of Malden will have ballots in both English and Chinese. This is due to the Voting Rights Act of 1975 which stated that when more than 5% of voting age residents speak a minority language, all election materials must also be available in that language.
Attending the forum were candidates Michael Drummey (Ward 1), Emmanuel Marsh (Ward 2), Mekka Smith (Ward 3), Jennifer Spadafora (Ward 3), Tara Beardsley (Ward 5), Colleen Leon (Ward 6), Catherine Bordanaro (Ward 7) and Nichole Mossalam (Ward 7). Candidates who did not attend were Robert McCarthy, Jr. (Ward 2), Leonard Iovino (Ward 4) and John Froio (Ward 8).
Attending candidates first spoke about their background and issues that were of most concern. They then answered questions, some from a survey conducted by GMAACC and some from the audience. These questions covered a wide range of topics including:
- The role schools should play in teaching about drug and alcohol abuse, wellness, and bullying
- Teaching subjects in a culturally sensitive manner
- Support for an ombudsman to whom students can report incidents of discrimination
- Bilingual education
- Family engagement
- Educational needs for gifted students
- Transportation issues
- Hiring of minority staff
Forum organizers offered translation services to audience members who needed them. Below you can view the entire proceedings of the event, recorded by MATV, Malden’s Media Center.