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SED hosts mayoral debate to involve, educate students

Boston University School of Education Dean Hardin Coleman said SED officials hosted Thursday’s mayoral debate to try to encourage BU students to share perspectives on education and to answer questions that BU students have about the upcoming election.

More than 100 students gathered Thursday at the Tsai Performance Center to watch six of the 12 current Boston mayoral candidates discuss and debate topical issues in education at SED’s Fall Convocation.

“In the past [at the Fall Convocation], we’ve had speakers, movies, books — but this year, given the fact that it is a mayoral campaign and education is one of the items that many of the candidates have put as one of their primary goal … we thought it would be a good opportunity to combine this event with a mayoral campaign,” Coleman said.

Coleman said he wants students to have a better understanding of the type of people the mayoral candidates are and of their respective education values. He wants students to understand the types of challenges educators face when attempting to improve the education system.

SED Director of Student Services Jacqueline Boyle  said even if students are not active in the voting process, it is still important for them to know what the current issues are as well as to engage in dialogue about it.

“It [the mayoral debate] was a really important thing to have here at BU,” Boyle said. “We’re located in the City of Boston … and this [mayoral election] has a direct impact on BU students. It is important that BU students participate in the civic life of the city of Boston.”

Boyle said since education is an important topic for everyone, she was happy to see people from all different parts of the BU community attend the debate.

“It was this really cool collective of all of these different people, and people were having all of these great conversations and teaching each other about politics and about education,” Boyle said. “I just loved it, it was beautiful.”

Boyle said she is proud of her students for asking questions that challenged the candidates and for engaging in intelligent conversation.

“They [students] got up and asked questions, and they were so nervous but did a brilliant job,” Boyle said. “Students asked questions … about what candidates thought about special resources for special education students. Somebody also asked about Teach for America in Boston Public Schools.”

Boyle said although her office helped facilitate the debate, Alyssa Sarkis, a SED senior, took a major leadership role in organizing this year’s Fall Convocation.

“I was just so proud of Alyssa … she did a fantastic job,” Boyle said. “There is something really beautiful about Alyssa helping to coordinate this event and run this event, because she went to Boston Public Schools herself and she is currently this semester student-teaching at Boston Public Schools. She really cares deeply about the city of Boston.”

Carolyn Michener, a Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences sophomore, said her favorite candidates were John Barros and Felix Arroyo, as the two of them seemed to know the most about the city’s education programs.

“John Barros had made explicit mention of the IEP [Individualized Education Program],” Michener said. “… It is basically is how educators and therapists come up with a plan to best allow the children with different needs … to best incorporate them to the school systems.”

Molly Pratt, a College of Arts and Sciences senior, said while it was disappointing that not all candidates were present at the debate, she enjoyed watching the discussion.

“Really loved that we had 6 candidates, and I wish we could have had more,” Pratt said. “I think it really shows the [candidates’] dedication to working with populations that may or may not actually be voting in the elections.”

Pratt said it is important for some students to vote in the city of Boston, because although most may not be from around the area, the outcome will still affect nine months of their lives.

“It [the debate] really shows the dedication to working with populations that may or may not actually be voting in the elections,” Pratt said. “I guess I expected to have more worked out plans of attack, which was hard to say in a minute response question, but they all seemed to be passionate about changing the school system.”

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