Elections Government Politics

Meet the Candidate: Shannon Marimón

Shannon Marimón. Courtesy photo

We-Ha.com is offering our readers the opportunity to meet the candidates running in the Nov. 7, 2023 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 2023 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. 7.

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: Shannon Marimón

Party affiliation: Democrat

Family information: My loving and supportive husband of 18 years, Michael, is a professor of geochemistry at UConn, Storrs campus. We have two daughters, Adelaide (11) and Eloise (9) who have attended Charter Oak International Academy, Braeburn Elementary School, and Sedgwick Middle School.

Primary occupation: Executive director of ReadyCT, a statewide nonprofit organization focused on addressing the achievement gap and providing career-connected learning opportunities for K-12 public school students across Connecticut.

Previous political experience: I am a first-time candidate for public office.

Other relevant experience that may be related to your desire to serve the community, and further qualifies you for the office you are seeking: In my personal capacity, I have been a committed and active board member for a number of organizations – e.g., Social Venture Partners, Yale School of Management Alumni Advisory Board – in addition to working with various industry advisory boards in support of high school career pathways. I also served as the PTO co-treasurer while a parent at Charter Oak. In my professional life, my willingness to collaborate and serve have led to appointments with impact. For example: I was a member of Governor Lamont’s transition committee, and I served as the co-lead for the Career + Education Committee of the Governor’s Workforce Council, which resulted in significant contributions to the Governor’s Workforce 2020 Strategic Plan focused on K-12 public education.

I have an MBA in nonprofit management from Yale University and 20+ years of experience in the field of education.

Why are you running for office? West Hartford has one of the best school systems in Connecticut. Families choose to live here for the strength of our schools and the resources available to our children. However, maintaining this level of quality requires sustained collaboration among stakeholders. Yet, when school boards of education become politicized (which is far too common), students ultimately pay the price. I believe that keeping our schools strong and continuing to prepare our students for the 21st century requires a measured and student-centered approach.

Board service is a full circle moment for me. My first school was Morley Elementary School, and my mom was a paraeducator at Whiting Lane. My daughters have benefitted from the opportunities afforded them by our public school system. Collectively, serving my community as a Board of Education member is a deeply personal prospect for me.

On a professional note, my entire career has been dedicated to the field of education. I believe strongly that education is the engine of opportunity, which is why I have held positions at the CT State Department of Education, TNTP, and the RISE Network as well as at institutions of higher education. Today, the nonprofit I lead continues to attract statewide interest based, in part, on my personal conviction; which results in strong collaborations that keep students and educators at the fore. I hope to bring my broad knowledge of Connecticut’s education system to the work of ensuring we maintain the quality and rigor of the learning that every West Hartford student deserves.

What issue(s) are your primary area of focus? I am committed to fulfilling our collective duty: the promise we make to students that we will prepare them for their futures and help them reach their full potential. While WHPS is recognized for its high caliber schools, it is imperative that we never become complacent. Fortunately, we have data to guide our pursuits. Like other similarly situated school districts, WHPS struggles with persistent achievement gaps, and I think we need to have data-driven, honest conversations about where these gaps exist and how we plan to address them. While there are many factors that contribute to this current reality, one thing I can say for certain is that public education, at large, tries to be too many things at once which often results in being spread too thin and/or challenges with implementation. With a menu of priorities (e.g., early literacy/numeracy, mentorship, and career-connected/project-based learning) we could, as a district, ensure adequate resource deployment and impact. I don’t claim to know all of the answers in education, but I would like to engage in robust discourse with educators, families, students, and the broader community to identify these priorities and see them through with a sense of urgency and commitment in pursuit of honoring our collective duty as stated above.

West Hartford Public Schools, like districts throughout the country, has had the benefit of ESSER funds for additional services and staff to assist students with learning loss and other pandemic-related issues, but those funds will soon disappear. How should the BOE prioritize which, if any, services to continue to maintain and to fund in the future? In my professional capacity, I have been engaged with school systems across the state that are contending with the funding cliff that will result when the lifespan of the ESSER funds come to an end. West Hartford put forward a very thoughtful plan for the use of the $15M that was received, knowing that these funds were intended to address the acute aftermath of the COVID pandemic and recovery process. Of course, it is always difficult to remove something once it has been provided, so I expect that the school district, Board of Education, and Town Council will have to work in concert to conduct a true cost-benefit analysis of how these funds (and other funds) have been spent to determine what has had the greatest impact on addressing the learning challenges posed by COVID. It will require significant scrutiny of the finances to ensure that the budget is being leveraged in order to optimize learning outcomes for all students. In doing so, we can build the case for the continuation of high-impact investments while reallocating resources from areas where the impact has been minimal.

An ongoing commitment to educational excellence and fiscal responsibility will benefit not only our current student body but also the future of our community as a whole.

What is your opinion of the role of parents in shaping curriculum for West Hartford Public Schools? I believe in the professionals we hire at the district and school levels to ensure that the curriculum being provided by WHPS meets or exceeds learning standards as set forth by the CT State Department of Education, as well as the rigor required to challenge and motivate our students. While most individuals have had direct experience as a student within a public school setting, most have not dedicated their career to designing, writing, and delivering high-quality curriculum. Curriculum development should be objective and based on research and best practices from the field, and it should address the needs of all students, including those from diverse backgrounds, abilities, and learning styles.

Families, of course, also play an important role in learning, particularly in terms of providing feedback and raising concerns/questions through appropriate governance structures. It is also important that families are aware of curriculum changes, which requires an effective communications plan to share about the current state of the curriculum and to provide context on why certain updates may have been made. This balanced approach helps to ensure that (1) curriculum decisions are well-informed and standards-aligned, rather than being influenced by personal preferences or biases, and (2) families are recognized as integral to the academic success of their students.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing West Hartford Public Schools today, and how do you plan to address it if elected? WHPS has an incredible sense of community that has been cultivated across all levels of the system. Residents are typically very proud to be a part of such an open-minded and considerate community. However, coming out of the pandemic, the negative impact this period of our history has had on the mental health and engagement levels of our students is common knowledge. Students are looking for a sense of purpose and an understanding of the direct application of their learning. We cannot continue to deploy an outmoded educational model for a world that is rapidly changing around us. Given the aforementioned sense of trust and community WHPS has established, we have an opportunity to lead the state in designing the next frontier of public education. Lastly, I think WHPS has the potential to lead the way as we enter the brave new world of artificial intelligence (AI). With thoughtful design and implementation, WHPS can leverage AI in ways that bring more access to students (e.g., customized student-centered learning plans).

What do you feel differentiates you from the candidates from other parties also running for this position? While I spend my days dedicated to the broader ecosystem of public education, I’m a West Hartford resident and a West Hartford parent. What we have is special, and I do not take that for granted. I hope to bring my unique experience and knowledge of Connecticut’s education system to preserve and amplify the quality and rigor of the learning we owe our students so that every student can succeed and thrive.

When it comes to more nuanced/complex matters, I strive to be an active listener and observer who takes into account the perspective and context of all parties involved. I never want to jump to conclusions, and I tend to ask a lot of clarifying questions, followed by more probing questions in order to get a full picture of the situation. Throughout this process, my communications style comes from a place of deep compassion and curiosity, but I am also comfortable with being direct and to the point. I see time as of the essence when it comes to advocating for young people – especially when they don’t always have access to certain platforms for expressing their voice – and I will always put students and their needs first.

Finally, I’ll share that my guiding value is optimism. In all things. You can expect that I will bring my penchant for believing in what we can do together on behalf of the students of West Hartford.

Anything else you would like to share relevant to earning votes on Nov. 7? As a member of the West Hartford Board of Education, I expect to be a continuous learner. I will remain eager to hear from students, families, educators, and community members about what matters most to them, and why. Our collective voice can shape a brighter future for our children and our town. Together, we can ensure that West Hartford’s schools continue to strive for excellence, that our children receive an inspired and engaging education that meets the needs of the future, and that our community remains a vibrant place to live. Thank you for reading, and I hope to have your support!

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