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Democracy was in action at Branford High School (BHS) last week, during the height of the election season. On Oct. 24, a group of juniors and seniors turned their current issues honors class into a live debate, featuring two of the town's first selectman candidates.
Candidates Andy Campbell (D) and Jamie Cosgrove (R) were on-hand to talk a bit about their background and experience as well as to answer questions put to them by the students. Candidate Jacey Wyatt (I) had also planned to attend, but as she explained to The Sound later that day, her debate invitation unfortunately contained a time communication glitch. At press time, Wyatt was waiting to hear back from faculty as to whether there might be another chance for her to meet with the students and to answer their questions.
In less than 40 minutes' time on Oct. 24, several students took the chance to ask a range of questions of the visiting candidates, who stopped by their classroom at 7:30 a.m. during first period. Topics covered included the pros and cons of economic development in areas such as Exit 53 and Exit 56; bringing a business such as Costco to Branford; the need to address cleaning up and/or re-inventing the former Atlantic Wire industrial site and other brownfields; how Branford's social service programs can be enhanced; how to improve the town's current approach to education; and, as asked by student Jake Swanson, "What can you do to ensure our taxpayer dollars will be used efficiently?"
The class is co-taught by BHS social studies faculty members Joel Hinrichs and Nicholas Rizzi. Following the live debate, the teachers and the candidates said they were impressed by the thoughtful questions delivered by the students.
"Even though they can't vote, we think it's important for them to actually have a say on what candidates they would endorse," said Rizzi, adding, "They asked good questions. It shows they're in touch with what's going on in the town."