Interview Series: Angela Blaising
First in a series of posts where I interview Evanston residents who have spent time in the local limelight.
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This is the first in a series of posts where I interview Evanston residents who have spent time in the local limelight and publish their thoughts. Given we’re in the middle of an election, I thought my readers would enjoy hearing about someone who ran in the last election. Ms. Blaising ran for the District 65 School Board in the 2021 election.
Tom: The last election in 2021 was a notoriously spicy one. What was your experience running for School Board?
Angela: I decided to run a week before the filing deadline in Dec. 2020. I ran because I had a deep finance background years and did not see that experience on the board. At the time, both of my kids were in in D65 middle school and had been fully remote for close to a year due to the pandemic and I was losing hope the district had any desire to get them back in school. I didn’t agree that the board was doing a great job on that or much else. School board meetings basically didn’t even discuss getting kids back in classrooms. I remember listening to one in Nov. of 2020 and all Biz was talking about was discipline reports from two years before and I remember thinking “oh my gosh, they have no clue”.
In general, the “Evanston” specific parts of the campaign were very frustrating. I went into this somewhat naïve as to what “racial equity” meant to those supporting the incumbents…thinking this was about finding resources to educate the disadvantaged. I did not realize that, to many, it meant unwavering support for a Superintendent and a philosophy that had little to do with finding solutions to raise academic performance. The true mandate of a school board is pretty basic – they hire/fire the Superintendent and approve the budget. I was dismayed by the lack of knowledge and focus on anything budget related. And since the Superintendent had been recently hired, the board believed strongly in their job to support his policies instead of question them.
Tom: Evanston, a town that voted more than 90% for the same presidential candidate last cycle feels like a very divided place to me. What’s your take on why this is?
Angela: Evanston is hugely divided. Before the election, I really did not understand the extreme that has enveloped both ends of the political spectrum – I really thought it was a right-wing problem. The saddest part to me is that most people are aiming for relatively the same thing and that many people chose to live in Evanston for the same reasons. That path to success in the schools looks different for different people but the end goal is relatively similar. The challenge in Evanston is hugely socio-economic and no one is talking about that. Evanston also has a virtue problem it needs to get over it which is largely adult psychology that does not translate to good problem solving. When you drill the district’s policies down to actual kids, it’s hard to believe they are better off than 3 years ago.
Tom: Do you think things have cooled down since 2021?
Angela: Not at all, unfortunately.
Tom: What’s your take on some of the reporting that you’ve seen lately on this substack and in other places, like the Evanston Roundtable?
Angela: It’s great. I think there are some huge red flags with the board and administration of D65 and that’s putting it nicely. The fact that most of our board members have active consulting gigs is not normal! Why is this okay? Why does our Superintendent also get paid by other districts as a consultant and give jobs only to his former colleagues in CPS and have private security? Why the vast majority of the district principals and vice principals left in the last 3 years? Where is ESSER money going? Why isn’t the board questioning this? Without local journalism, we don’t know any of this. Hopefully, people subscribe and read – that’s my hope.
Tom: Who are you endorsing this cycle and why?
Angela: I am endorsing John Martin, Ndona Muboyayi and Omar Salem. John has amazing leadership and financial experience – he was head of AYSO during the pandemic and is a tax accountant. He gets data and numbers and is not afraid to ask questions. He also believes that equity and education are both priorities and it’s not a zero-sum game as some believe. And, he cares deeply about teachers. Ndona is a 5th generation Evanstonian. She’s whip smart, funny and has experience as a young girl growing up in Evanston schools during a time of family instability. She honors Black excellence and is looking for ways for kids to achieve their full potential. They are both great candidate who I have faith will be great school board members and will speak their own minds. I have not met Omar Salem but I heard him speak recently at a small gathering and he’s super impressive. My only real concern with him is that he seems to appease both ends of the spectrum which his dangerous on this board. I don’t want to waste my vote on someone who will not challenge the status quo but I will take a chance on him over the incumbents.
Thank you Angela for such an honest assessment of what is happening in school district 65
I was a supporter of Angela's in 2021. By far she had the most relevant experience needed for a Board member, so I was very surprised at how poor she showed. I am not trying to throw shade on Angela, but--to use Obama's phrase--she and the other "independent" candidates were shellacked.
If Angela is reading this, I would be curious to hear your thoughts about why you lost and what, if anything, could you have done differently? My main reason for wanting to know is that I am seeing the same tactics that were used on you being deployed this time around at an exponentially higher volume.
This time around, the incumbent supporters seem to be doubling-down on a Trump-style politics of grievance, conspiracy theories, and a cultish devotion to District leadership. It seems to be much more aggressive this year. I'm concerned we are going to see John and Ndona at the bottom of the leaderboard again. (Not sure what to make of Omar. The fact that he's stopped campaigning is weird.)