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Seat on School Committee only contested race in Belchertown

Phaneuf, 69, has been on the School Committee for nearly seven years, having served two full terms and part of the term of a member who resigned.

“It’s a way to give back to the town that gave me my first job,” said Phaneuf. She was hired as a first-grade teacher at the Cold Spring School in Belchertown in 1973.

Phaneuf has worked in public education for 33 years, the last 13 of which she served as principal of the Woodland Elementary school in Southwick. A native of Springfield, she lives in Belchertown. She decided to run for the Belchertown School Committee after retiring in 2006.

“I’m interested in curriculum,” said Phaneuf, who chairs the curriculum sub-committee. “We’re close to having an established K-12 curriculum, which wasn’t there before.”

Phaneuf said she enjoys working with committee members. “We have an excellent group right now,” she said. “We come from different backgrounds and have different opinions, but we still manage to come to an agreement and get things done.”

Soja, 70, says he decided to run so there will be a “senior rep” on the committee. Soja is a retired machine operator for Savage Arms Inc., a sporting arms manufacturer in Westfield. A lifelong resident of Belchertown, Soja is a member of the Council on Aging and was involved in the Belchertown Housing Authority in the 1990s. He also has a granddaughter in the school system.

Myndi Bogdanovich, 41, is a photographer who lives in Belchertown. She is the founder of Myndi B. Photography, and has a son, Ty, who attends Swift River Elementary School.

Bogdanovich was unavailable for comment Friday, but in a flier for her candidacy, Bogdanovich said if elected to the committee she would work to improve communication among parents, committee members and educators.

With a son in the school system, Bogdanovich said she can bring a unique, on-the-ground perspective of the school system to the committee. She is an active member of the Cold Spring School Swift River Elementary Parent Teacher Organization, served on the Cold Spring School Council and is a board member for the Belchertown Stingrays Swim Team.

“Our School Committee is in dire need of parent representation,” Bogdanovich said in the flier, which is posted on the Facebook page Myndi B. for School Committee.

Being a parent who is in the schools, who knows the teachers and sees the needs of both staff and students first hand, I will bring an invaluable perspective to the committee as I am open, honest and committed to ensuring that our system serves our children and educators in the best way it can.”

Runner-ups in this election will have another chance in July, when Committee Vice Chair Eric Weiss is scheduled to resign. Weiss, who announced his resignation in a meeting Tuesday, is leaving with one year left in his three-year term. A replacement for Weiss will be appointed by the Select Board and School Committee to serve out the remainder of his term.

Thaneus, Soja, or Bogdanovich will have the option of re-submitting their names at that time, and then to run for the full-term position in the 2014 elections.

There are no other contested races in the Belchertown elections this year. The candidates for other town positions include: George d. Archible and William R. Barnett for Board of Selectmen; Louis A. Faasen for the Planning Board; Chantel M. Mallalieu for the Housing Authority; Raymond G. Goff for the Board of Assessors; William Barnett and Kyle Vincent for councilor’s positions on the Hampshire Council of Governments; and Gail L. Gramarossa and Gary R. Racicot for the Board of Health.

Chantel Mallalieu is the only other candidate running who is not an incumbent.

Another matter before voters is a question that will decide whether the town will continue to provide additional life insurance for town employees.

Town Clerk William Barnett said this question is a housekeeping matter because the town has already been purchasing additional life insurance for town employees since the option because available in 1962.

“This question should’ve been put on the ballot in 1962. We’re already doing it, but voting yes will make it official,” he said. Barnett said that if the question doesn’t pass, it would mean the town would have to find a new way to provide insurance for more than 400 employees.

“If it doesn’t pass, it could be a problem,” says Barnett.

Belchertown elections take place in the Belchertown High School gymnasium from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday.

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