New BOE candidate seeks transparency, communication

Alex Fitz Blais, a candidate for one of two open Shenendehowa Board of Education seats.

SUBMITTED PHOTOAlex Fitz Blais, a candidate for one of two open Shenendehowa Board of Education seats. SUBMITTED PHOTO

By Kassie Parisi

Gazette Reporter

CLIFTON PARK — A new name will appear on the ballot of the Shenendehowa Central School District this May.

Alex Fitz Blais, a former Shen student, is making her debut run for the school board. A lifelong district resident, Blais grew up in the town of Halfmoon and currently lives in Clifton Park with her husband and young children. With a master’s degree in public health, Blais  works as the director of public policy at the Home Care Association of New York State.

Blais said that the decision to run for the school board has been a long time coming, and that she has a “vested interest in the strategic direction the school will be taking.” Unlike the incumbent board members who all have children who have either graduated from Shen or are currently enrolled, Blais’ children are not yet school aged, and she said that on the board, she would stand for the population of young parents in the district who move to the town with the intention of sending their kids to the district in the future.

“I think that I have a new perspective to offer,” Blais said. “I think that there is a place for established relationships and experience and history, but somewhere between that and new ideas and a new voice is where we make progress.”

Top issues for Blais include the implementation of a full-day kindergarten program into the district. She also believe  that, in order to best decide how to move forward purchasing new property to expand the district, that the board should reexamine the report issued by the Shen Futures Committee in 2011.

Blais said that she would also like to see a bigger push for more direct line of communication between the school board to the public. Touching on the issue of the recent referendum regarding the sale of 32 acres of undeveloped district owned land to BBL construction, Blais said  in that instance, the board originally voted to make the sale without sufficient input from the public.

“That’s a real problem,” she said. Blais added that watching the board’s process in dealing with the land sale issue energized her to run, and that, though she would like to see the district reach an agreement to sell the land to the town as fast as possible, for any and all issues, public outreach needs to be increased. She suggested holding monthly open informal forums in which the public can talk directly to board members.

“It has more of a free form and open dialogue,” Blais said, noting that if she is elected to the board, she plans to make herself available to the public on a regular basis anyways. She would also like to see the board create an advisory committee that consists of residents, which would allow for a constant, non-board member voice, and would also like to adopt a resolution in which a supermajority would be required for any significant proposal, such as the original land sale vote, that the board wants to introduce and also vote on in the same meeting.

“Things like this would really improve decision making,” Blais said. Despite her issues with a perceived lack of communication, Blais said that her problems lay in board’s process of functioning, not with individual actions or positions.

“The services that Shen offers are unrivaled, and I have tremendous respect for the district, the staff, the teachers, the administration, and the board,” she said. “I am proud to say that I will be sending my kids there.”

The school board election will be held on Tuesday, May 16. Blais seeks to fill one of two board seats that will be vacated in June.