Board of Education Candidates

Meet your candidates!

Dana Philbin – Incumbent

Why are you running?
My family chose Tolland for the community charm and strong school systems. I chose to get involved to assist in the forward progression of Tolland, to support and advocate for a strong school system and to simply be involved in the community I’ve come to know and love.

Previous service to the community:
Current member of the Tolland BOE, subcommittee member of the Birch Grove Building Committee, Finance and Facilities Committee, COVID Response Committee and Negotiations Committee. Tolland DTC member, proud parishioner of St. Matthew Roman Catholic Church, proud mom of a Tolland Wolf Scout.

Tell us about your background and how these experiences and your perspective add value to Board of Education – 4 year term? 
I’m a manager with over 25 years of leadership experience. My career has been focused on the operational and sales aspects of construction management, retail management, and budget and operational efficiencies, as well talent development and team growth. Throughout my professional career, I’ve dealt with a variety of operational budgets, ranging from $26 million in revenue to $80 million, where accurate accounting, budgeting, proper distribution of funds, and teamwork across different departments were primary goals to successfully grow the business and continue to provide resources to teach, train and develop current and future talent. This experience has helped me understand the impact of the town budget process, and how the BOE and Town committees, together, can support the school system. As a BOE member I’ve focused my time advocating for quality resources and continued support of our Superintendent, ensuring Tolland has a strong educational system available for all students, and long-term planning for Tolland Public Schools growth. Achieving these goals reflects  my leadership and mentorship qualities in my professional life as well as an incumbent on the current BOE.

What is your vision for Tolland? Do you see any pressing issues facing the community right now? Are there projects or initiatives you hope to focus on or initiate while you serve?
Every Tolland child deserves a quality education. We make this happen by ensuring that our professional staff and faculty have all the resources they need in order to provide the highest level of education for all children, so that they can prepare for the future. Short-term and long-term planning, Lighthouse programs as a way to potentially mitigate costs, and prudent investment are necessary for Tolland to sustain and continually improve our educational system.

Considering the office that you are hoping to be elected for, how is Tolland #WORTHIT to you?  Our students, our faculty, our staff are #WorthIt. Tolland needs quality and equitable education for all, through ensuring the proper resources for our staff to provide quality education, prepare for the future, and engage in short-term and long-term planning. Looking out for the well being of all of Tolland’s children is #WorthIt. Their futures are #WorthIt.

What are some of your hobbies? How do you enjoy spending your free time?
Running; playing soccer; being with my family; watching my children do karate, play with their friends and swim; and playing with our four dogs!

What are one or two ‘fun facts’ about you or your life?
California girl, born and raised. Enjoys all genres of music, especially Fleetwood Mac, Ozzie Osbourne, Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow and George Strait.

Do you have a favorite quote or song lyric?
Say what you wanna say, and let the words fall out, honestly I want to see you be brave.” Sara Bareilles “Brave”Any additional comments?
We must work as a team and across party lines to ensure Tolland’s future. We can and will create a strategic plan to recover from this pandemic, together. Let’s do this Tolland! We are Tolland, and Tolland is #WorthIt!

Sophia Shaikh – Incumbent

Why are you running?
I believe our school system is Tolland’s greatest asset. As an incumbent, I have had the wonderful opportunity to serve our community. I would like to continue to work collaboratively to ensure our students receive a quality education that equips  them with the skills to succeed. I am truly dedicated to the best interests of every student within our district and will advocate for our students at every opportunity. Investing in Tolland’s students is a direct investment in our town.

Previous service to the community:
I have served on the Board of Trustees at the Oak Grove Montessori school.

Tell us about your background and how these experiences and your perspective add value to BOE? 
I am a mother of four children. I have a 20-year-old at UCONN, an 18-year-old at Mount Holyoke, a 15-year-old who is a sophomore at THS and a 14-year-old who is a freshman at THS. I am an attorney who owns a practice located in Vernon. As a small business owner, I understand what it takes to manage a budget and to allocate time and resources in the most efficient way. As an attorney, I have learned to listen, work collaboratively, and seek out the best possible outcome. I work primarily in child protection law where I serve as a public defender. I represent parents and I also represent children. For families in crisis, the school community is often the most consistent and stable element in their lives. I have directly seen how fundamental education is for the fabric of a family and a community at large. Part of my practice includes advocating for the intellectually disabled. This vulnerable population is dependent on the school system to help find their place within society. My perspective is unique and my understanding of the needs of our students is unique. Working every day with children ensures I will always have a fresh and relevant point of view.

What is your vision for Tolland? Do you see any pressing issues facing the community right now? Are there projects or initiatives you hope to focus on or initiate while you serve?
Just making our school system really badass. Okay, you can’t put that in there. Maybe you can.

Considering the office that you are hoping to be elected for, how is Tolland #WORTHIT to you?  Our students are #WORTHIT and deserve the highest quality education and opportunities.

What are some of your hobbies? How do you enjoy spending your free time?
see below

What are one or two ‘fun facts’ about you or your life?
I love to crossfit. I love to knit. I am a YouTube knitting personality; check out my channel, The Knitter’s League at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOPxrJdP8LXqR3WvvlJ1Z5w

Do you have a favorite quote or song lyric?
I have to think about it.

Michelle Harrold

Why are you running?
I’m running for the BOE because I’m passionate about the education of Tolland students. Tolland Public Schools need leaders on the BOE to be proactive in anticipation of constantly evolving educational needs of every student. I’m familiar with the issues facing the school district and am committed to finding solutions that continue to move the district forward.

Previous service to the community:
TEPTO Volunteer (current Board member)

2015-2019: BOE

2011-2014 MOMs Club (Board member)

Tell us about your background and how these experiences and your perspective add value to Board of Education (4 Year)? 
I’ve spent countless hours volunteering in the schools, as a room parent and through TEPTO. I’ve created valuable relationships with staff that help to provide insight into their perspectives. My experience in previous terms serving on the BOE provided me the opportunities to understand the roles and responsibilities of a BOE member. I have chaired the Negotiations and Policy Committees and served as the BOE liaison for the Birch Grove Building Committee.

What is your vision for Tolland? Do you see any pressing issues facing the community right now? Are there projects or initiatives you hope to focus on or initiate while you serve?
First and foremost, Tolland needs a strategic plan. Without a road map, we have seen reductions in services. We have been left with dollars that end up squirreled away with no clear vision of how to use them. If we had a multi-year, strategic plan, we could increase resident buy-in on referendums and use unspent funds to move our community forward to be more inclusive and attractive. My priority would be to have workshops with the other elected boards and the community to create a strategic plan.

Considering the office that you are hoping to be elected for, how is Tolland #WORTHIT to you?  Educating our students; creating an inclusive and welcoming community; strategic planning and long-term community goals: all are worth it.

What are some of your hobbies? How do you enjoy spending your free time?
I enjoy dancing, crafting, and skiing.

What are one or two ‘fun facts’ about you or your life?
In high school, I drove 100 miles one way to Chicago to take dance classes after school multiple nights a week. (In my 1986 Chevy Camaro with no AC or cruise control. Only ticketed once, which was really good for a “habitual speeder.”)

When I was 16, and again at 17, I spent 6 weeks tooling around Berlin with my best friend. We were there to perform, but outside of rehearsals and classes, we had free reign to do as we wished. At 17, we stayed together in a tiny apartment with a German who didn’t speak English.

Jennifer Gallichant

Why are you running?
I am running for the Board of Education because I would like to continue to work with and for the students and staff of Tolland schools.

Previous service to the community:
I have served on the Tolland Elementary Parent Teacher Organization for 9 years, serving as President for the last four years.

Tell us about your background and how these experiences and your perspective add value to Board of Education? 
When I stopped working, I wanted to do whatever I could to make the most of my time with my children, and diving into their school community was the best way I thought I could do so. I immediately fell in love with working inside the schools, getting to know the teachers and staff, and most of all, working hands-on with the students. Birch Grove and Tolland Intermediate became like second homes for me; I truly care about the people who work inside of them and the hard work they do consistently for our students and parents. I think the perspective I bring is just that, I care about this community. I have spent many years working with the students, parents and staff that I will be helping to make important decisions for, always putting their needs at the forefront.

What is your vision for Tolland? Do you see any pressing issues facing the community right now? Are there projects or initiatives you hope to focus on or initiate while you serve?
I think right now, like so many places, Tolland has become very divisive. I find however, that no matter what different beliefs people may have, at their core most have the same concerns and hopes for their children. My hope is to bring people together to ensure our main focus as Board of Education members is about what’s truly best for the students, parents and staff of Tolland schools.

Considering the office that you are hoping to be elected for, how is Tolland #WORTHIT to you?  Our students are #worthit. Our parents are #worthit. Our staff is #worthit. Providing Tolland students with the best education and experience possible is #worthit for everyone who lives and works within our community.

What are some of your hobbies? How do you enjoy spending your free time?
I spend my free time with my kids. I spend a lot of time at sports with my youngest son and I am a member of Tolland Crossfit with my oldest.

What are one or two ‘fun facts’ about you or your life?
I went back to finish my degree a few years ago and graduated with my children cheering in the audience. Do you have a favorite quote or song lyric?
In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”

Jayden F. Regisford

Why are you running?
I am running for the Board of Education because I care about the students’ futures as if their future was my own. I am running for the Board of Education to prove the worth of investment in our community and its schools. I am a product of Tolland schools. Along my journey in our schools, I was fortunate enough to have been supported and taught by dedicated, insightful, courteous staff members who were teachers, para-professionals, principals, office staff, guidance counselors – you name it. The schools and their extracurriculars gave me purpose and opportunity. Our superintendent was, and still is, willing to listen and embrace students’ opinions. This school district has much to embrace, but we also have problems to solve and resources to provide. 

Previous service to the community:
Although I do not have any political experience, I have experience serving in this community. Being only 20 years old, I do not have anything remotely near the level of a resume as all of my fellow candidates. However, I take pride in the work I have done in our community so far. A few of my most valued opportunities, personally, include my time as a Little League and youth basketball coach, advocating for a new sound system for Tolland High School’s stadium, and announcing high school sporting events. I hope that these acts of service  continue to have a lasting impact on the community.

Tell us about your background and how these experiences and your perspective add value to Board of Education, 2 yr term? 
Being a Little League baseball and youth basketball coach might not be what all 20 year olds look forward to every season, but I would not trade coaching those kids for anything. Even now, I have a difficult time seeing myself not coaching in the next few years. There is no other place I would rather be than on the field, teaching kids not only how to throw and catch a ball, but how to handle adversity, sharing  what I learned from my mentors and coaches.

I have worked both as an office manager and a caregiver-transport driver. Both jobs provided me experience in leadership and managerial skills. I worked as an office manager for just over two years and a driver for just under two years. My ability to work with folks – both that I know and do not know, agree with or disagree with – comes from a lot of time spent simply understanding people’s opinions and beliefs, especially since the 2019 election.

What is your vision for Tolland? Do you see any pressing issues facing the community right now? Are there projects or initiatives you hope to focus on or initiate while you serve?
My vision for Tolland starts with a common goal among many residents in this town: That we get to a point in time where we are not arguing about a political topic over a Facebook group or at a local game and causing more and more division between one another. That is my first and most important vision. Everyone has the ability to listen in order to better benefit the students in this community. Without some form of cohesion and unity we will continue to struggle to find common ground. One thing I am extremely focused on is the well-being of the students and families of this town, regardless of political affiliation.

Considering the office that you are hoping to be elected for, how is Tolland #WORTHIT to you?  The kids of this community are #WorthIt. I say this because I was just in their shoes. It is my opinion that we forget what kids deal with and handle on a day to day basis. High expectations, anxiety, cliques, divorce, bullying, school work – whatever it may be – all while not knowing how to deal with all of these different situations. Providing the kids with the space and the staff to support them during whatever trouble that the child might be going through is the extra mile that every district should be taking in order to truly care for every student in Tolland. Expanding on that, though, not only are the students worth it, but the staff in our district, too. As a recently graduated student of the Tolland school system, I know how many people are in our schools working day in and day out to ensure the best possible learning experience for every student.

What are some of your hobbies? How do you enjoy spending your free time?
I am absolutely fascinated with space. Rockets, planets, other solar systems. It is odd, I know, but I enjoy spending my free time quite literally learning rocket science at the most basic level. 

A lot of my free time is also spent on looking up drills and strategies for my baseball teams. I constantly want to change things up each season, so learning new tricks from different people helps accomplish that.

I do not see my friends as often as I would like, but as a 20 year old I do still enjoy playing on my PlayStation when I get the chance. No further elaboration needed!

I enjoy watching local Little League and youth sports games. As a Little League coach, many of my former players play soccer, football, basketball, baseball, and so on. So when I can, I always make an effort to go watch their games because (A) I enjoy being at the games, but (B) because they are my former players and I want to watch them ball out!

What are one or two ‘fun facts’ about you or your life?
I am a New York Jets fan. Please, attack me based on my words or my actions; just do not mention my Jets. They will win a SuperBowl within the next 10 years.

I absolutely love bands like Queen and ACDC, and artists like Elton John, Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson. Then there are the more recent artists from my childhood like Bruno Mars, “The Weeknd”, and Kanye West.. If you are wondering what my teams’ pregame playlists are, now you know.

Do you have a favorite quote or song lyric?
“Many mickles make a muckle.” George Washington giving his spin on the phrase, “Many a mickle makes a muckle.” 

Basically… The little things add up.