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Meet the Candidate: Deb Polun

Deb Polun. Courtesy photo

We-Ha.com is offering our readers the opportunity to meet the candidates running in the Nov. 2, 2021 municipal election.

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 the 2021 municipal election.

Identical questionnaires have been sent to all 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 voters in being informed and prepared when they go to the polls on Nov. 2.

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

Name: Deb Polun

Age: 48

Party, position seeking: Democrat, Board of Education

Family information: My husband, Ian, is a long-time educator and is currently the principal of Fields Memorial School in Bozrah. Our two kids went to Aiken (including the WHEE II after-school program), King Philip, and Hall. Our son Jordan is a 2020 graduate of CCSU and works as a software developer. Our daughter Megan is a junior at Bryant University, majoring in Leadership & Innovation Management and Literary & Cultural Studies.

Other occupation, if applicable: Executive Director of the CT Association for Community Action (CAFCA)

Political experience: I was elected to the Board of Education in 2017.

Other relevant experience: I have been working in the field of public policy for over 20 years, both at the State Capitol and in nonprofits. Most of my work has focused on health care and social services.

I have also been active in our community, serving on the Jewish Community Relations Council (2008-present), the West Hartford Advisory Council for Persons with Disabilities (2016-2017), as Vice President of the League of Women Voters of Greater Hartford (2014-2017), as a mentor in the West Hartford Public Schools (2010-2015), and several positions on the Board of Directors for Congregation B’nai Tikvoh Sholom (previously Tikvoh Chadoshoh) (2000-2016).

Why are you running for office? Serving on the West Hartford Board of Education has been an honor over the past 4 years. My children both attended West Hartford Public Schools, and I would like to continue my service to give back to our community – to ensure a successful school system into the future.

What issue(s) are your primary area of focus? Primarily, I would like to focus on continuing the excellence of our school system. West Hartford Public Schools are nationally recognized in virtually every area: academics, music education, computer science education, writing, equity and inclusion efforts, and more. Our strengths are in our leadership team, our 1,000+ staff members, our students and families … and importantly, our community’s support of and commitment to education. West Hartford residents realize that our schools are instrumental in molding our next generation of citizens and leaders.

Another strength is the growing diversity of our district. Over 75 languages are spoken in homes across our district, and the number of children of color grows every year. I am so proud of the efforts we have made in creating a welcoming environment for families from all backgrounds. We have done this through a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion – including with a fully staffed diversity advancement office, who outreach to families across the district, work in partnership with formal and informal groups of parents, and work quietly to improve the lives of all of our children.

But, we have work to do: for example, our test scores continue to show disparities by race. I was proud to support our Board’s Equity Policy, that puts our long-standing commitments in writing and will hold us accountable moving forward. This includes diversifying our teaching staff, targeting proven academic interventions to those who need them most, and broadening the perspectives taught through art, history, and literature.

What do you feel is the biggest issue facing West Hartford today, and how do you plan to address it if elected? No doubt the biggest issue facing the West Hartford Public Schools is moving forward from the pandemic, and the resultant academic losses, as well as social/emotional issues. Our district has received about $15 million in federal funds to address these issues, and the Board and school administration have put together a plan that targets those funds to areas in need. These initiatives include: more teachers (for smaller class sizes); more instructional assistants, interventionists, and academic coaches; and social workers to address mental health needs. I was proud to lead the effort that uses this funding to suspend “pay-to-play” and other activity fees, to help all of our students re-engage in their school communities and nurture their passions.

If re-elected, I pledge to stay on top of these issues, including addressing new needs as they arise, to position our students and staff for a successful future.

What do you feel differentiates you from other candidates also running for this position? I bring experience, diplomacy, an open mind, a curiosity of learning, and pragmatism.

Specific to the Board, my experience includes serving on the Policy Committee, as a Financial Examiner, as Vice Chair, and I am currently the Chairperson. I’ve also had the opportunity to hear from so many residents, and engage in conversations with people from many different backgrounds and with many different perspectives.

I strive to build, strengthen, and maintain positive relationships, including with people with different ideologies. I try to listen carefully and ask questions, as I aim to understand people’s perspectives and hear their concerns. I am a straightforward person and certainly will share a differing view. When possible, I aim to find common ground.

Anything else you would like to share? I believe the way a school district is led is both a reflection of and a glimpse into the future for a town. I am proud to have served on the Board of Education over the past four years, helping to lead our district through some of the most challenging times, and it would be my honor to continue to provide steady leadership to our schools into the future.

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