Milford candidates get feedback from town's newest registered voters

MILFORD — Milford High School students of voting age voiced concern about their building's poor condition on Wednesday during a candidates forum in the school's Thomas I. Davoren Auditorium.

Three of the four School Committee candidates vying for two open seats attended the forum, as did Select Board Chair Mike Walsh who is running uncontested for reelection on April 5.

Principal Josh Otlin served as moderator.

“We see the most participation in voting when we have presidential elections in the country and the lowest level of participation when we have local elections,” said Otlin, “and that's a little bit counterintuitive because it's local elections when your vote matters the most.”

The forum was held two days after the Select Board and Superintendent of Schools Kevin McIntyre submitted a letter of interest to fund either a renovation or rebuild with the Massachusetts School Building Authority funding.

Walsh talked about the building's shortcomings.

“I came in here this afternoon, and I had to step around a puddle of water, and to me that's unacceptable,” he said. “We've made improvements. We have a facility manager now that's working on things every single day to keep the schools where they need to be.”

School Committee candidates R.J. Sheedy (incumbent), Robyn Bratica and Derrick Sobers answered questions about issues that concerned both them and high school students. Infrastructure and academic performance were top concerns.

John Erickson, an incumbent who is seeking reelection, was not able to attend.

Milford candidates get feedback from town's newest registered voters

Bratica, a 2002 Milford High School graduate, said she holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Rhode Island and has worked for five years in Milford Public Schools as a psychologist and adjustment counselor.

She said her goal is to increase the school’s graduation rate and decrease its dropout rate by making it more inviting and inclusive.

“We need to create a community where this is a school that people want to be at and a place where students feel safe and valued,” said Bratica. “We also need to increase paid opportunities; I know some students have dropped out because once they turn 16, they're expected to help the family economically... we need to create paid opportunities so that students can remain in school while still earning money to be able to earn their graduation.”

Sheedy expressed pride in being part of the committee over the past year.

A 2014 Milford High graduate, he has been on the board for seven months, negotiating the most teachers’ contract and helping to secure funding for a new high school building project.

He stressed the importance of maintaining the school’s infrastructure and pointed out the need for renovations in the arts department.

"I'm just there as a community member to listen and help how I can,” said Sheedy. "My parents would come here for student-teacher nights and they walk around going ‘Wow, this place looks exactly like I did when I came here.'

"One of my main focuses is trying to improve the facilities and I want our buildings to look as nice as they can.”

The two candidates who are elected on April 5 will become part of the seven-member School Committee, which writes and maintains policies, approves and monitors the budget, and hires and evaluates the superintendent of the district.

The board meets at 7 p.m. every other Thursday in the Teachers Resource Center at Milford High School.

Toni Caushi is a multimedia journalist for the Daily News. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @tcaushi.