Three GCSD incumbents get ready to run

GUILDERLAND — All three school board incumbents here are gathering signatures to run in the May 16 elections.

Board members Rebecca Butterfield and Kimberly Blasiak are certain they will run again. Judy Slack is taking a wait-and-see approach while still gathering names so she is prepared to run if need be, she said.

Ninety-six signatures of qualified district voters are required, to be submitted to the district clerk by April 17. The board has nine unpaid members each serving a three-year term.

Last year, in a hotly contested election, 10 candidates ran for four seats. For the first time in years, some candidates ran as part of a slate. Two slates of four formed while two candidates ran independently.

One slate was formed through a Facebook group called “Taking back our school boards” as part of the national Pro-parent Choice movement that started with parents objecting to their children having to wear masks in school.

The winning slate, which was supported by the teachers’ union, was made up of three current school board members — including Blasiak, who was chosen among six applicants to fill a vacancy in October 2020 — as well as a teacher.

Blasiak came in fourth, meaning she had to run again this year, while the others on her slate each won three-year terms.

 

Blasiak

“I want to be a voice for every student and every community member,” Kimberly Blasiak told The Enterprise this week of her reason for running again. “I care about the community.”

During her two-year tenure on the board, Blasiak said the thing she was most proud of was securing a second school resource officer now stationed at Farnsworth Middle School. One SRO had already been stationed at the high school. The Guilderland police chief had offered to have the town cover the cost of the added officer in a pilot program.

“Hearing our students stating they want to feel safe and this is important to them,” Blasiak said is why she feels good about having the second officer.

Asked about her goals if she is re-elected, Blasiak said, “It’s a board effort not an individual effort.”

Blasiak, who has four children in the Guilderland schools and is a long-time advocate for children with special needs, said her own goal is to develop “a solid strategic plan to make every student feel safe and welcome and to make sure everyone gets the support they need to feel successful.”

 

Butterfield

Rebecca Butterfield said of her reasons for running for a second term, “I’ve been proud to do my part to support the ideals of the GCSD mission — to inspire all students to be life-long learners, able to achieve their highest potential.”

She continued in an email to The Enterprise, “I also think that as a pediatrician I bring a perspective on child health and development, particularly on the impact of early childhood trauma on pediatric health, that is impactful.”

About her accomplishments, Butterfield said, “I am proudest of our work over the last 3 years in diversity, equity and inclusion. When I joined the Board to fill a vacancy in 2019, I was part of a very frank phone call with recent Guilderland graduates on racism that they had experienced in the recent past at school. These conversations have continued for the last 3 years with students feeling more open about calling out these incidents and bringing them to the attention of school officials.

“But we know that so many incidents remain hidden and include those that are not only focused on race but also on gender, religion, disability, and sexual orientation, among others. I was proud to support the creation of a DEI board subcommittee and fund a full time DEI administrator. I look forward to hearing the results of our equity audit done over the last several months. When you look at where we were as a district in 2019 compared to where we are now in terms of DEI, our actions have been decisive and structural and not merely superficial.”

Finally, asked about her goals if re-elected, Butterfield, who has a son at Guilderland High School, said she would like to continue adequate support for students’ mental-health needs.

“There has been a surge in anxiety and depression in adolescents, as well as increasing behavioral difficulties in younger children,” she wrote. “Having adequate counselors and social workers available in the schools is pivotal. Opportunities for mental health professional development for our teachers and staff would support that goal.

“Ways to bolster student mental health — including providing more opportunities for student voices, building relationships, and giving each student a sense of belonging and acceptance — all should be examined and supported.”

 

Slack

Judy Slack has served on the school board for 15 years and previously worked as a Guilderland teacher’s assistant for 24 years. Before that, as a mother with three children in the schools, she served as a volunteer.

Slack told The Enterprise that she’ll decide if she wants to run again depending on who else is in the race.

The thing she is proudest of in her tenure on the board is hiring the current superintendent, Marie Wiles.

“What a difference she’s made — the quality of the people she’s brought in, the support the teachers have for her, the respect the community has for the district,” said Slack.

She added that Wiles “steadied the ship” and “understands all aspects of the district.”

Asked about her goals if re-elected, Slack said, “I want to make sure we stay on a steady course.”

She said the district is facing “a huge blow to finances” due to tax challenges following the town’s 2019 revaluation, causing the school district to refund large tax payments from businesses that have been successful in court.

“I want to make sure we keep the programming,” Slack said of courses and services offered to students.

More Guilderland News

  • “This means a great deal to not only this community, but my family as well,” said Councilwoman Amanda Beedle on flying the pride flag. She said she had brought the matter to the board because she wanted “to show that this town is very open and inclusive and welcoming to all.”

  • “This legislation levels the playing field for hotels and motels by collecting sales and occupancy tax on short-term rentals, addressing an estimated $550 million in lost local revenue over the past five years,” said the bill’s sponsors.

  • Guilderland is on the cusp of forming a District Facilities Committee to map out the district’s next capital project. It will dovetail with work currently underway by a Future Ready Task Force.

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