School board seats are up for grabs
October 14, 2021
Three seats on the Wahkiakum School District board of directors are on the November election ballot.
Shawn Merz has filed for re-election to Position 1; incumbent Susan O'Connor and challenger Season Long have filed for Position 3, and newcomers Bobbie Stefan and Brandie Conrad have filed for Position 5.
The Eagle has asked three questions of the candidates for Positions 3 and 4: Why are you running? How would you define or describe your role as a director? And, briefly, what would you hope to accomplish in the next four years?
Here are their responses:
Season Long, Position 3
As a wife, mother of four daughters, three of whom are school-aged (two at the HS and one who homeschools), I understand hard work and dedication. It's been said, I am a "momma bear," for all children and will stop at nothing to protect and provide for them. I recognized that Wahkiakum is a remarkable place to live and the only way to support it is to be involved. Running for the school board seemed like the perfect next step.
Before relocating to Wahkiakum, from my husband's hometown in Pacific County, I established All Season's Kidstuff in 2001 and ran my small business for 17 years. I learned a lot about the necessary synergy with the community, usually with my young daughters in tow. By 2006, along with my business, I managed two additional small businesses, then, in 2010, I began homeschooling our three daughters with a baby on the way. After moving here in 2019, I jumped in with both feet. Just like in Pacific County, I took an active role in supporting our students and educators through donations and resources.
I decided to run for WSB because I believe our school system needs the attention of parents who wish to advocate for all children, educators, and staff. In this world where we are teaching sex-ed to kindergartners, that the US is racist, and that a person is defined by the color of their skin, I believe the current system is failing our children and our future. Furthermore, requiring Covid tests for unvaccinated student athletes and teachers, and increased overspending and underperforming threaten to sink the waning ship that is public school.
Since running for office, I've had the pleasure of speaking with many parents and community members. They believe they're not being heard by our current board. I can agree. We're facing deep schisms, so my focus will be on bridging the gap between the board and community. I believe transparency, in operations and actions, is necessary to effectively lead. As a parent, we need to know what is coming down the pike, especially if it may conflict with our family's mental or physical health and/or belief system.
In the words of Whitney Houston, "I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way."
Unfortunately, CRT (Racial Equity), Comp. Sex Education, and lowering the bar to help students pass, does not encourage a prosperous future.
I recognize my role as a school board member, from fulfilling my oath to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the state, I will be a voice for the concerned members of our community, which I believe has been forgotten by some of our current leaders. My focus will be to actively encourage open dialogue and seek ways to raise the bar in expectations, accountability, and transparency across the board.
Parents need to understand what "Mature Minority Doctrine" signifies and how it pertains to Covid. They need to understand their rights and which rights have been and are being stripped of them. If you think I'm kidding, search: Mature Minority Doctrine, Intersectionality 101, or 3Rs.org to educate yourself. Knowledge is power and I'm here to remind you that the power is yours, please do your research.
In closing, let it be known that I understand that I'm only as good as the people around me. You the people! Before I'm elected to School Board Director #3, I'd love to hear from you, my constituents. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll respond.
In many ways, what we've been doing hasn't been working, "'Tis the Season for change."
Susan O'Connor, Position 3
We moved to Wahkiakum County in September of 1999. Our son, Kevin, attended Wahkiakum School District from 3rd grade to high school graduation. I volunteered in his classrooms until he reached middle school. I worked at PeaceHealth/St. John for 24 years. In 2013 I started working in the auditor's office in the courthouse.
I also was appointed to the school board in 2013 and I have been on it ever since. I have enjoyed being on the board so much. There are a lot of things we deal with like curriculum and transportation. Last year was our most complicated time because the covid pandemic had hit. I am so proud that we were able to keep our district open the whole school year. We were the only public school in Southwest Washington that was able to do this by following all the precautions necessary (masks, handwashing and extra cleaning throughout the buildings made this possible).
We have renovated our fleet of buses. We are awaiting the arrival of a new bus. We have added four buses since we started the new program.
The school's Compass Garden and Greenhouse provide produce for summer lunches. Community producers also provide food for the Fall Festival and Spring Celebration. Children are learning how to grow food and prepare it. Our fish building is another way to learn about food production. I think it is important for kids to know how to feed themselves!
Our CTE program allows students to learn skills they can use for future jobs. We have welding and natural resources programs. Not all students are going to want to continue on to college so it is important to have other options available. We are hoping to add more as time goes on.
We have also gotten new scoreboards for sports in the past year. We needed these badly, especially for the softball field. In order to comply with Title 9, the girls needed to have a scoreboard. This has been needed for decades!
These are just a sampling of what the school board is doing. We also want to continue to explore the curriculum needs for each subject.
We also need to be sure our buildings are in good repair. There is a lot of work to do! Being on the board is a big job that encompasses so much!
The future of our country lies in our students. Education is more important than ever as we face so many challenges in the years ahead.
Brandi Conrad, Position 5
My name is Brandie Conrad, my husband and I have five children. Our youngest is a fourth grader at JA Wendt Elementary School. I have been volunteering in schools for the past 26 years as well as being part of youth activities.
My husband and I currently own and operate a small family business. My duties as office manager include FEMA Contract Bidder, Bookkeeping, Payroll, and Safety Management. We were successful in receiving multiple contracts and worked throughout California.
I am running for the position of School Board Director #5 because I have a personal interest in preserving and improving the quality of our schools. Not only does my son attend, I also have four grandchildren living in Cathlamet that will be school age within the next five years.
I want to accomplish a solid line of communication between parent, community members, and the board ensuring all voices are heard when making decisions concerning our children.
The current issue that I have on my mind is financial. I see that all three schools are in drastic need of repairs and updating. Although nobody wants higher taxes, we need to find a way to improve our schools without hurting our small community.
I believe in quality public education for current and future students.
Bobbie Stefan, Position 5
My name is Bobbie Stefan, and I am running for the Wahkiakum County School Board, Position No. 5.
I wanted to take the opportunity to let you know a little bit of my background and why I will be a good addition to the school board.
I come from a family of teachers. My path was a bit different and I started with a degree in business, then working full time, put myself through law school at night.
I received my J.D. at Seattle University School of Law.
I served as a corporate counsel for two major corporations prior to moving to Cathlamet. During my time as counsel, I dealt with state and federal regulators and regulations. I made sure our operations complied with the laws in multiple states as well as complied with federal law.
I solved complex problems and brought parties with competing agendas together to find resolutions. I served as a secretary and co-chair of two statewide boards of directors and am familiar with their dynamics.
I love Cathlamet and want it and Wahkiakum County to continue to be a wonderful place to live. A community is only as good as its school system. We need to prepare our students to be contributing citizens to our community. Whether they eventually take an academic route or a vocational route, both types of students deserve the best education we can provide.
The past year was unprecedented in our lifetime, but our schools remained open unlike many in the state. That is a major accomplishment that should be applauded and continued. I would be honored to help continue that tradition.
My goal is to be a voice of reason and not let personal agendas distract from the educational needs of the students. By focusing on providing our students with educational and socializing opportunities we provide our community with its future leaders.
Whether you have children in school, all residents of Wahkiakum County have a vested interest in the success of our school system. The future services and businesses we need for a thriving community will be staffed by the students coming out of our schools. By focusing on providing our students with a broad range of educational opportunities we provide for the success of our community.