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From Policy Project to Statewide Task Force Leader

Posted By Sarah McCann, Monday, January 8, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, December 20, 2017

 Jenna Masone

CT EPFP 16-17

Principal, Wolfpit Elementary School & Legislative Task Force Co-Chair

As I sat in the EPFP seminar one fall evening in 2016, the Connecticut Chapter Facilitator, Leslie Abbatiello, relayed a story about a determined citizen who worked for seven years to pass legislation designating a state polka song.  It struck me as a triumphant example of the potential impact one citizen could have, and inspired me to consider what I might be able to accomplish to positively impact my community.  

As part of the ten month program, fellows were charged with completing a project.  Left intentionally vague for our group of accomplished professionals, there were no parameters, deadlines, or grades.  What was presented was a simple invitation to engage in public service as related to education.  Diverse perspectives and areas of interest led all of us in different directions.  As the Principal of Wolfpit Elementary School in Norwalk and an avid swimmer most of my life, I was interested in public policy as related to water safety awareness.  Preliminary research revealed the rates of unintentional drowning for children ages birth to eighteen have remained relatively stagnant both nationally and locally for decades.  Drowning continues to be a leading cause of death in children.  Of note is the disproportionate representation of African American and Hispanic children that comprise two-thirds of all deaths.  In addition, ninety percent of deaths of children on the autism spectrum are due to unintentional drowning.  

There has been relatively little legislative response or public policy in Connecticut pertaining to the general issue of water safety awareness.  Given the number of preventable deaths and their profound impact on families, I was inspired to take action.  Though I had never heard of a legislative policy brief before EPFP, a quick internet search provided several templates and in two snow days’ time it was written.  I connected with the Connecticut Commission on Women, Children, and Seniors.  The Executive Director read the policy brief and was enthusiastic about raising awareness at the state level.  As a non-partisan arm of the general assembly, the commission arranged for a round table discussion and press conference with legislators from both sides of the aisle.  I connected with several family foundations and state agencies, and invited additional participants.  We followed with a press conference to announce the Governor’s declaration of May as Water Safety Month across the state.  

The participants’ interest in and commitment to the issue at the round table discussion was clear and broad-based. As a result, the Commission used its statutory capacity to create the Connecticut Commission on Women, Children, and Seniors Water Safety Awareness Legislative Task Force.  At the annual board meeting, I was appointed Co-Chair of the Task Force and charged with appointing members, developing a draft set of deliverable objectives, developing a schedule of meetings, and producing a year end report.  The Task Force is comprised of individuals representing the House, the Senate, the Department of Education, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Office of Early Childhood, the Department of Public Health, the Department of Public Safety, the YMCA, the American Red Cross, the American Association of Pediatrics, the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Stew Leonard III Children's Charities, and the Zac Foundation.    

The Task Force serves as a forum for water safety awareness experts and legislators to exchange their expertise, and to take meaningful action on behalf of children.  The members’ collective efforts are evolving into a statewide response with the goal of reducing the number of unintentional drownings and hospitalizations.  The path is forged and the process has begun.  What started as a fleeting idea evolved into public action in less than one year.  The EPFP experience provided the foundation, the context, and the tools for me to initiate what I hope to have a profound, positive impact on children and families.

Tags:  alumni  leader  principal  public service  water safety 

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