LYNN — Sixteen Democratic candidates for City Council and School Committee were given 2½ minutes Monday night to make their case for why they should be elected in November.
The hour-long candidates’ forum was hosted by the Lynn Democratic City Committee at the Ancient Order of Hibernians. It didn’t feature any questions and was open to Democratic candidates only. The night featured a heavy showing from incumbents — only three challengers made an appearance.
All but two of the seven candidates vying for six seats on the School Committee who spoke at the forum addressed overcrowding as a pressing issue in the Lynn Public Schools.
School Committee incumbents Donna Coppola, John Ford and Lorraine Gately all spoke about overcrowding at Lynn English High School specifically, which increased from about 1,800 students last school year to more than 2,000 students this year.
Ford said the district is considering a plan to add portable classrooms by next September, which are “desperately” needed at Lynn English and Breed Middle School.
Gately suggested a split schedule at Lynn English, where some students come in the morning and others in the afternoon to alleviate large class sizes. She saw that option used first-hand during her time as a biology teacher at the school when it was under construction.
Committee member Michael Satterwhite said the district has a lot of work to do with making sure it is complying with special education standards.
School Committee incumbent Brian Castellanos spoke about the importance of making sure students’ voices were represented in policy-making decisions in the district.
Jared Nicholson, an incumbent on the School Committee, said one doesn’t have to look far to see where the American Dream is, referring to the variety of different languages spoken in the Lynn Public Schools. But the district can do better in some areas, such as providing students with more college and career pathways, he said.
Tiffany Magnolia, a challenger for School Committee, said as a parent of an LPS student, she hears stories about how parents feel shut out in the district, and is running to advocate for more of their voices to be heard.
The majority of at-large and ward councilor incumbents on the City Council said they didn’t want to see any change on the panel. The consensus among them was that they work well together and have been able to get a lot done.
But Natasha Megie-Maddrey, who is challenging Richard Colucci in Ward 4, said she’s running to bring change to the city, but nothing is going to change if voters keep on electing the same people.
Colucci cited his accomplishments during his time on the council, and said it’s important to him that he does what his constituents want.
City Council President Darren Cyr, who is running for Ward 3, said his accomplishments in the ward include an investment into roadwork and parks, and the construction of a new Thurgood Marshall Middle School. His opponent, George Meimeteas, did not appear.
Ward 1 Councilor Wayne Lozzi said he was proud of his efforts toward Lynn’s recent designation as a green community, making it eligible for grant opportunities. His opponent, William O’Shea, spoke of the need for a new Pickering Middle School, and a better process after a failed vote two years ago.
Ward 6 Councilor Fred Hogan said he was focused on following through on his promises to his constituents and getting things done. His opponent, Cinda Danh, did not appear.
Ward 7 Councilor Jay Walsh said he feels it’s important to focus on things that may seem small but make a difference, such as fixing sidewalks and helping people dig out after snowstorms. His opponent, Alexis Reynoso, did not appear.
Of the seven candidates vying for the four Councilor-at-Large seats, only two — incumbents Hong Net and Brian LaPierre — appeared. Incumbents Buzzy Barton and Brian Field could not appear, and two Democratic challengers, Lennin Ernesto Pena and Jose M. Encarnacion, were invited but didn’t show up.
Net and LaPierre both spoke about the city being able to balance its fiscal year 2020 budget, filling a projected $5 million gap, as an accomplishment.
Ward 2 Councilor Rick Starbard, a Republican incumbent who is running unopposed, and three unenrolled candidates, Marven Hyppolite, a challenger for the Ward 5 Council seat; Joel Hyppolite, a challenger for Councilor-at-Large, and Sandra Lopez, a challenger for School Committee, were not invited.
Ward 5 Councilor Dianna Chakoutis was invited but could not attend.
The election is Nov. 5.