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Blixt: Schools need collaboration, respect

GREENFIELD — Wesley Blixt is running for School Committee to preserve the sanctity of the classroom environment and change the way he believes the administration treats its teachers.

Blixt, 61, of 39 Orchard St., spent a decade-and-a-half as a journalist before transitioning into teaching and public relations. He is running Tuesday against ballot candidate Margaret Betts and write-in candidate Donna Gleason for one of two vacant three-year school board seats.

He said there’s something “magical” that can happen in the classroom when there’s great collaboration between teachers, students and parents — something he contends the current administration hasn’t supported.

“There has to be both collaboration and mutual respect. That respect is what is largely lacking under this administration,” said Blixt.

“Right now fear, intimidation, manipulation and cronyism have replaced basic professional respect and cooperation,” he argued. “Let me say this clearly: (Superintendent) Susan Hollins is, or behaves like, a bully. She is an anti-union bully.”

Blixt, an eight-year resident, worked for years in the town as a reporter for The Republican of Springfield. He has worked in UMass communication offices since 1999, most recently as associate news editor for internal communications for the past three years.

He has also taught writing and journalism for the university, both on campus and in the state prison system, and has taught classes at Deerfield Academy and Bard College.

Blixt said that in all the jobs he’s had in his life, including lifeguard and construction worker, none were as difficult as being a teacher. He knows some Greenfield teachers well, but considers all teachers his “brothers and sisters.”

And for the students, his “younger brothers and sisters,” Blixt believes that the classroom must be protected from private companies like K12 — a for-profit curriculum company that Greenfield contracts with for virtual school curriculum services.

“Free, universal public education is a cornerstone of this republic,” he said. “It is our most valuable resource and cannot be sold off to profiteering thieves and private corporations in the manner that our prisons have been sold off.”

“Education is not, I repeat not, a business,” he said. “Sure, some aspects may benefit from business models, like buying copy paper and potatoes. But anybody who sees education or our schools as a business simply does not understand learning or the life of the mind.”

If elected, Blixt said he will follow the lead of members Maryelen Calderwood and Francia Wisnewski in fighting for the rights of every student, regardless of background, to have a quality education.

After Gleason announced her last-minute write-in campaign this week, Blixt posted on her campaign Facebook page, criticizing her decision to run.

He has since said — and contends that he’s attempted repeatedly to apologize on her Facebook page — that he regrets that his comments were disrespectful and that he questioned her competence and motivation.

But, he added that his comments should show his passion for the race and his willingness to speak out against the current administration’s track record.

“If you are for the status quo, you are part of the problem,” he said, in his follow-up comment to Gleason. “Yes, I’m passionate and I won’t apologize for my passion. Our schools are crying out for change and accountability.”

And he said part of the reason he took issue with her last-minute entrance into the race was because he said it exempted her from doing what Betts and he have done in the months leading up to the election — researching, reporting, talking, taking signatures and attending school board meetings.

Blixt and Betts have campaigned at events together and posted lawn signs around town that contain both of their names. The Democratic Town Committee has endorsed both Blixt and Betts.

He has attended Greenfield school board meetings since April and spoke out against K12 at a public hearing in Malden on Greenfield’s virtual school proposal.

Blixt has lived in town for eight years with his wife, Sarah Hawrylak. His 26-year-old son, Nicholas, attended public elementary and middle schools in Deerfield and graduated from Deerfield Academy.

You can reach Chris Shores at:
cshores@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

1) If "free, universal public education" is the cornerstone of this republic, how come you chose to have your child educated at a private academy? And chose to teach at one? 2) If I have seen any bullying or lack of respect in this campaign, it has come from your remarks. Ironic given the headline of this article. 3) I get what you stand against--what do you stand for? What will you do for Greenfield, personal vendetta aside?

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