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In Massachusetts, a forum where school superintendent candidates answered to the community

In a school auditorium in Springfield, Massachusetts, Wednesday night, three finalists vying to become the city's next superintendent of schools were each given an hour to take questions from members of the public — teachers and students among them.

On stage with each candidate was Glenn Koocher, the executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, who moderated the community forum.

The first to respond to questions was Sonia Dinall, who currently works in the district as chief of family and community engagement. She was followed by Rene Sanchez, the superintendent of schools in the Champlain Valley School District in Vermont. At the end of the evening, Kimberley Wells, Springfield's chief schools officer, took questions.

The candidates were asked how they would handle poorly preforming schools, add more music in each building, engage with families in the district, and about their experience working in a large district in a city.

Students asked questions about substance abuse in schools and how officials could respond in non-punitive ways, and about equity in a district that is made up of largely Black and Hispanic students.

At its peak, about 60 people were in the audience, including a group of teachers from the Frederick Harris Elementary School, where Jake Donald teaches music.

To all three candidates, Donald asked the same question about their budget priorities. Donald said he is thinking about the district's future.

"I'm a very young teacher. I've been teaching for just a year and a half," Donald said. "I do I plan on being in this district for a long time, so I want to know each candidate's vision for what it's going to look like going forward."

On Thursday evening, the Springfield School Committee will interview each candidate and is expected to make a decision on who will lead the district of 23,000 students.

Outgoing Superintendent Daniel Warwick is retiring at the close of the school year.

The selection has been rocky and delayed, with disagreements between some School Committee members and Mayor Domenic Sarno over the selection process and issues of transparency.

Jill Kaufman has been a reporter and host at NEPM since 2005. Before that she spent 10 years at WBUR in Boston, producing "The Connection" with Christopher Lydon and on "Morning Edition" reporting and hosting. She's also hosted NHPR's daily talk show "The Exhange" and was an editor at PRX's "The World."