Blasiak slated to be named to GCSD board

GUILDERLAND — Kim Blasiak, who became an advocate for her son when he was diagnosed with autism, is now poised to be an advocate for all Guilderland students.
She was among six Guilderland school district residents who interviewed publicly to fill a board post left vacant with Benjamin Goes’s Aug. 23 resignation.

Blasiak is slated to be named to the post by the board on Oct. 5 and would serve until the next school board election on May 17.

“This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” Blasiak told The Enterprise this week. “I’m very approachable,” she said, adding that she believes it really does take a village to raise a child.

“It’s hard today with differing opinions, different ways to bring up children,” Blasiak went on. “Nothing is right or wrong. We all have to come together.”

“Kim stood out because she has already invested so much time in the district,” Seema Rivera, the school board president, told The Enterprise this week, citing Blasiak’s extensive work with the PTA.

Rivera said it was “a great group” of candidates. “We asked them all to please run in the May elections,” she said.

The posts on the nine-member board are unpaid.

A graduate of Syracuse University, Blasiak describes herself as a stay-at-home mother to four children — ranging from a second-grader up to a high school senior — all in the Guilderland schools.

She is active in the Parent Teacher Association on both state and local levels and is co-president of a PTA for parents of special-education students. She is also president of a not-for-profit that helps youth who have been sexually assaulted.

In a 2018 Enterprise podcast, when Blasiak was forming the first PTA in the district for parents of special-needs students, she told The Enterprise that, when her son was diagnosed with autism, it was like being “thrown in the deep end.” She learned to advocate for her son and then wanted to help other parents do the same.

“I’m a firm believer that everything is a partnership ...,” Blasiak told the school board on Sept. 21 as she and the other five candidates answered a series of six questions. “Our job is to be a partner and make sure every single child in this community gets what they need.”

Blasiak said it was a family decision that she would apply for the board. When she sat down with her kids to ask them about it, her oldest said, “Mom, you gotta.”

Blasiak said she’d like to hear more student voices and advocated “getting them involved a little earlier in the process.”

Her biggest challenge, Blasiak said, would “probably be the grocery store.” If people were to interrupt her shopping to ask questions about her stance on school board topics, Blasiak said, “I would intend to work my best as a team.”

She said of being a school board member, “Your job is to make sure every student gets everything they need. You’re working as a group. There’s no agenda.”

She also said, “We need to make sure our teachers and our staff feel supported. We’re supposed to be a soft spot to land …. You keep your opinion aside, at least in public …. Whether you agree or disagree, you are a team …. My kids always say, ‘There’s no “i” in “team,” Mom.’”

Blasiak thinks the district “has made great strides” in recognizing there are issues to be addressed when it comes to being culturally responsive and inclusive.

She believes the district’s response “will constantly evolve.” Blasiak said, “You never want it to be a buzzword … checking a box for the state.”

When it comes to teaching inclusiveness and acceptance of differences, Blasiak said, “We need to start earlier …. Inclusion isn’t just race,” she said. “Inclusion encompasses so many different things.”

In talking to parents from different cultures, she has learned parents want their children to be able to embrace their culture while learning the new, Blasiak said. She advised “honest and tough conversations to make ourselves open.”

The other candidates were:

— Andrew Genovese, who described himself as a husband, father, and a Christian who started his career as an elementary school music teacher, spent years in government creating learning teams, and has a lifetime commitment to learning;

— Norina Melita, a lawyer recently elected a library trustee, who was born in Romania, educated in Canada, speaks English as a second language, met her husband — Guilderland’s town attorney — at law school in Michigan, and currently works as a law clerk while raising two young children;

— Eric Call, who spent many years serving in the United States Navy where he trained as a nuclear engineer, is a Persian Gulf veteran, worked in the Environmental Health and Safety Office at the University at Albany, and has two daughters — a Guilderland graduate and a high school senior;

— Matt Dunagan, a recent Guilderland graduate who worked on student inclusion, creating a quiet café for students with autism and disabilities, and who served on the school start-time task force, which he described as a three-year adventure, getting done last May. He also described himself as passionate about public education; and

— Betsy Schuhle, the mother of a ninth-grade daughter who majored in political science at Siena College and has worked in college admissions, as educational administrator for the New York Lottery, as an associate executive director at the Capital Area School Development Association, and now directs not-for-profits.

More Guilderland News

  • Tears mixed with cheers at Guilderland’s 68th commencement ceremony as classmate Gabe Zullo, who died on May 29, was remembered. The graduates also heard words about the value of courage from their principal, about the value of seeing others’ perspectives from their superintendent, and got this advice from their keynote speaker who had graduated from Guilderland 18 years ago: “You don’t have to prove anything to anybody … You already are ‘somebody’.”

  • “This certification comes at an opportune time as the Town is in the process of updating the comprehensive plan and determining how we want our community to grow over the next 10 to 20 years,” said Kenneth Kovalchik.

  • Guilderland’s new school board president wants the district to do an audit of its special-education program and also wants to focus on curtailing antisemitism.

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