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Meet the Candidate: Deb Polun

Deb Polun. Submitted photo

We-Ha.com is offering our readers the opportunity to meet the candidates running for election on Nov. 7, 2017.

Compiled by Ronni Newton

We-Ha.com is offering our readers the opportunity to “Meet the Candidate” – designed to help them get to know the candidates running for office in West Hartford’s Nov. 7, 2017, municipal election.

Identical questionnaires have been sent to all major party candidates, and each profile received has been submitted directly to We-Ha.com by the candidate or the candidate’s campaign management. The responses have not been edited but have been formatted to match our publication style. Questions left blank have been deleted.

As profiles are received, they will be published on We-Ha.com under the “Government” tab. We-Ha.com is not making endorsements of any political candidates but we are publishing this information in order to assist West Hartford voters in being informed and prepared when they go to the polls on Nov. 7.

If you are a candidate and wish to submit a profile, please return it by email to Ronni Newton at [email protected] by Oct. 18.

Name: Deb Polun

Age: 44

Party, position seeking:Democrat, Board of Education

Family information: Married to Ian, an Assistant Principal & Curriculum Director in Thompson; two kids – Jordan (19) and Megan (16).

Other occupation, if applicable: Senior Director for Policy & Outreach for the Community Health Center Association of Connecticut

Political experience: I worked at the State Capitol for 13 years, and I have been active in voter education through the League of Women Voters, but this is my first time running for office.

Other relevant experience: Member of West Hartford Advisory Commission for Persons with Disabilities, Jewish Community Relations Council and League of Women Voters; former President of Congregation B’nai Tikvoh-Sholom; former WHPS mentor

Why are you running for office? After 19 years of public policy and advocacy experience, as well as voter education efforts, I am excited to run for the West Hartford Board of Education. My husband and I moved to West Hartford in 1999, in great part, because of the high quality schools – and we have been thrilled with that decision ever since. Our two children have attended Aiken Elementary, King Philip Middle and Hall High School; Jordan is a 2016 Hall graduate and a sophomore at University at Albany, and Megan is a Junior at Hall. These are difficult financial times for West Hartford and the state. I am eager to bring my experience working in state government and in a nonprofit to the West Hartford Board of Education. I want to be sure that young families are still choosing West Hartford for its schools in three years, in ten years – in twenty years!

What issue(s) are your primary area of focus? My priorities for the Board of Education are:

1) thinking creatively and leveraging partnerships to maintain critical programs;

2) integrating health and wellness into the school day; and,

3) promoting civic engagement among students, their families and the broader community.

Several topics are likely on the minds of West Hartford voters this year. Please provide a brief statement regarding your opinion about:

  • The Town of West Hartford budget: This past Spring, hundreds of West Hartford residents advocated for specific town and school programs, sending emails and letters to local elected officials and providing comments at public meetings. This input – part of the democratic process – helped the Town Council and Board of Education determine spending priorities. I expect and hope that we will continue to engage in these listening sessions as we craft next year’s policies and budget. All of our residents should feel empowered to express their views during budget season – and throughout the year! My priority on the Board of Education, specific to budget, will be to maintain critical programs that help make our schools so enriching. Partnerships with businesses, community-based organizations and institutions of higher education may yield innovative solutions that do not rely on additional taxpayer funding. Maintaining high quality schools will preserve home values as well, benefiting community members with and without children.
  • The State of Connecticut budget situation: We must continue to work with our legislative delegation and the governor’s office to ensure that West Hartford receives the funding it deserves. West Hartford should not be punished for having sound fiscal management; we already use funding more efficiently than almost any school system in the state – ranking 128th in per pupil education spending, while maintaining high rankings in every educational outcome. I have every expectation that a budget resolution will be achieved in the next few weeks. However, projections are that the state will continue to face these same challenges each year for the next few years. We will remain vigilant in protecting our residents and the programs that serve them. Our schools can play an important role in helping students and their families learn how to participate in government at the state level, as well as the local level. Having hundreds of West Hartford residents show up at the State Capitol to fight for our share of Education Cost Sharing funds would send a strong message!
  • Regionalism: West Hartford has already consolidated core services with the town and schools, which has produced savings. Regional cooperation might make sense for certain services and purchases, as long as we do not compromise our priorities for West Hartford’s children and families. For example, we should explore bulk purchases of school/office supplies, books and, potentially, transportation contracting.

What do you feel is the biggest issue facing West Hartford today? West Hartford’s schools are among its greatest assets and continue to be one of the top reasons people move to town. No doubt, budgetary challenges will continue to dominate for the next several years. That’s why it is so important to have people at the table who will commit themselves to learning residents’ priorities and who will think creatively to preserve critical programming.

What do you feel differentiates you from other candidates also running for this position? All of the candidates running for the Board of Education share a dedication to our town and its children. Both because of my personal values and my professional experience, I am a collegial, pragmatic problem solver; I am used to seeking many perspectives and working with a variety of stakeholders to resolve issues and implement new ideas and programs.

Anything else you would like to share? Thank you for the opportunity to share a little bit about my background! I would love to hear what is on your mind – feel free to email me at [email protected]. And remember to vote on November 7th!

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