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Letter: Praise for Slate of Democratic West Hartford Board of Ed Candidates

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To the Editor:

What a relief to see a slate of Democratic candidates with diverse backgrounds, experiences and passions. As I have researched Latoya Fernandez, Jason Gagnon, and Shannon Marimon I have breathed a sigh of relief. As a parent of a student of color and an active community member, volunteering for various programs and events that have taken place around town to increase the education and awareness around social and emotional learning, identity, support and resources for marginalized communities as well mental health resources for our kids, it is so refreshing to see three passionate candidates running for a seat on our Board of Education. Candidates that truly believe in equitable education. Candidates who are committed to ensuring every West Hartford student feels like they belong and are supported. If you haven’t had a chance to educate yourself on these candidates here are a few things I feel are important to point out:

Latoya Fernandez, a nationwide leader in restorative practices, a former administrator and an educator who found creative ways to empower her students while she taught language arts in California. A recipient of various awards, most recently Fairfield County 40 under 40 and Community Kindness Hero as well as, Special Congressional recognition for community service and social justice curricula that empowered students to close the achievement gap.  She has devoted her life to uplifting youth and has been an advocate for ALL families. With all that said, Latoya is a dedicated parent to her child and partner. While Latoya’s educational background alone deems her qualified to be a representative for our town on the Board of Ed., that is not her most endearing quality. Latoya, represents a new era of public servant; one who is willing to fight for every child, one who pushes politics aside when it’s in the best interest of our children, and one who speaks up for what she believes in. LaToya is here to represent and advocate for our children’s right to a safe, equitable and supportive education.

Jason Gagnon, a son of a life-long educator, a passionate advocate for the best interest of our students, a believer in civility at the table. Those are just a few things that drew me to learn more about Jason. As a decorated attorney and dedicated father, Jason stated he could no longer sit on the sideline and wanted to dedicate his time back to the school system because of his upbringing and belief in the importance of education. Jason, like many of us who have school aged children have the same goals, and that is that they grow and learn in a safe place, build lifelong relationships, and are able to navigate adversity because their social and emotional learning skills are a priority just like math and reading. Jason will make a great Board of Ed. member, not only because of his pragmatic thinking but because he has his two children to answer to at the end of the day that keep him on his toes.

Shannon Marimon, a life-long advocate for education. Shannon’s professional background spans over 20 years on every educational level. Her background in the non-profit sector has allowed her to see educational achievements and gaps from a different perspective, which will be beneficial to our district. Throughout her career she has worked with every facet of education; from providing students with access to enrichment programs to developing evaluations and professional development for teachers. Her background speaks for itself. But most importantly, like her counterparts, Shannon is a mother of two school aged children who believes in validating and acknowledging our students’ lived experiences and also ensuring that students of any ability have access to the resources they need and deserve.

As you do your own research on these candidates, I hope that you take a moment and recognize how fortunate West Hartford is to have individuals who are willing to step into an environment that hasn’t been friendly in the past few years. I am voting for Latoya, Jason, and Shannon because each of them comes from backgrounds and experiences that represent West Hartford values, but also at the end of the day OUR CHILDREN and their well-being are the most important issue to them. They all believe that lived experiences and validation of children’s journey and identities is beneficial to learning outcomes. They all believe that this can be done by working together and by governing responsibly. Because at the end of the day ALL of our children’s educational journey is their priority.

Thank you, Latoya, Jason and Shannon, for your commitment to public service and I look forward to voting for you all in November.

Good luck,
Patricia Billings
West Hartford

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    • The author has such a balanced perspective. The silent majority suffer while the radicals on both sides divide and destroy us

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