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School board candidates share their views--Kandice Merz

Kandice Merz is challenging incumbent Patty Anderson for the Director 4 position on the Wahkiakum School District School Board.

Born and raised in Cathlamet and the daughter of a dairy farmer, Merz is a local business owner who is now raising her own family here. She attended Wahkiakum School District until the 10th grade before transitioning to home school, where she earned her diploma at age 18. Simultaneous to starting home school, she began taking classes from a beauty school, and also graduated from their program at 18. She's been doing hair for the last 18 years.

Merz and her husband are raising five kids. One recently graduated, and the other four are in home school.

"A lot of people have asked me why I want to be on the school board when I home school," Merz said. "I love kids. I love that I have the opportunity to spend all day every day with my kids and I know not everybody has that. And so people who don't have that still need a safe place where they can send their kids to get an education."

Why are you running?

"I'm running for school board because I think that our parents in the community need to be represented well and they need a voice," Merz said. "I feel that there are a lot of parents not being heard. I want to make sure that information is being relayed to the parents accurately and that the school is actually being transparent with the parents and community members."

"I've seen some policy that I don't think is in the best interest of our children or our community," she added. "I realize it takes a lot of work to change policy and a lot of it does come from the state, but if we don't start here at ground level, we'll never make any change."

For instance:

"I think teachers should be completely honest with parents with anything regarding students," Merz said. "There is a policy that says if a student decides to go by a different name, gender, or pronoun at school, the teachers do not have to tell the parents that."

"Even if my child were with a babysitter and I knew that that babysitter was going to lie to me, that would make me not want to choose that babysitter for my child," Merz said. "So when I think about anyone's children, if you know that a teacher, by law, has to lie to you, that's wrong. No teacher should be put in that situation either."

"To intentionally withhold information from parents in my opinion, that's a lie," she clarified. "And by definition, omission of truth is a lie."

"That is a state policy, so I know just changing our school board policy probably wouldn't be enough," she said. "We have to change the State Board of Education, and the only way to do that is to get in here at ground level, go to the state, and make changes at a state level, which would benefit all the kids of the state, not just our community, which would be great."

She also wants to see students getting a quality education.

"I think a quality education is going to look different for each student," Merz said. "It depends on what pathway they are on, but it definitely involves a general knowledge of reading, writing, and math. When I look at our test scores for math, we are at 31.8 percent, which was most recently updated in 2022. To have 31 percent of our students understanding the standard set for math is not a quality education. It's actually concerning that they are graduating. Science is at 43 percent when last updated. I would not consider that quality. Everybody moves along. It does a disservice to those students. They probably could understand more, maybe they just need to be taught from a different angle. We are a small enough community, we really have a great opportunity to work more one on one with kids to make sure they are all understanding completely before they are moving forward."

Top needs of school district?

"Obviously the school facility is a huge need," Merz said. "I agree with that. I'm sad I don't know the solution to that. It's a huge tax burden which I would never want to wish on anyone. This is a retirement community. We can't tax people out of their homes. That is a need I don't know the solution for."

What do you think of the lawsuit?

"I think that [Superintendent Brent Freeman] is doing everything that he can do to get some of our immediate needs met," Merz said. "I don't know enough about the lawsuit at this time to say like how it's going, or if it's going to be enough. I'm sure it's not."

"If things go the way they want with the lawsuit, that actually changes a lot of things for a lot of people in the state," she added. "This is just a small piece of a big picture."

What do you hope to accomplish?

"I would love to see parents getting more involved," Merz said. "If there is anything I can do to help, I know being a voice for parents is a big deal. A lot of times, parents don't know the chain of command to go through. So if they are having an issue, they might talk to their teacher, thinking that something will be resolved and then it doesn't go anywhere from there. They might even go to the principal, they could go to the superintendent, thinking something might get resolved, but it's not. So I just want to make sure they know they are not the only one and that we are here to help them and support them. I want to hear what they actually have to say. I realize I'm one vote on a school board, but I'm going to be there listening to what they say. It might take time, but we have to start somewhere."

What is Critical Race Theory and is it taught at Wahkiakum School District?

"Critical race theory is basically the ideology if you are a race other than white, you basically have the short end of the stick, so the white person would be privileged, and everyone else would be less privileged," Merz said. "CRT is not a text book. It is not not one book, there are little bits of information put into history books that guides the way a child thinks. It's basically teaching young white kids that they are inherently racist whether they think they are or not. It's taught in a way that is so passive, children don't even realize it's happening."

"Something shifted that along the way. I think teachers are doing the best they can," she added. "I don't think all teachers are intentionally teaching this information, I think they were taught that in college and they are trying to do the best they can do.

Sex education:

"I'm all for teaching biology and anatomy," Merz said. "I don't think we should be talking to children about sex. At any age. I think that parents should talk to children about sex. And because every family's view on sex or anything sex related is so diverse, that it is not the school's place to talk to children about sex."

Diversity and safety:

Merz wants all kids to feel safe in school.

"Whatever I think is right for my kids is important to me, whatever you think is right for your kids is important to you," she said. "Nobody should be able to come in and try to change that. That's not what public school is for. It is for learning how to read, write, do math, setting kids up for their future. Not trying to change family morals or values. That's what I really want to see school get back to."

She also wants them to feel safe in their homes. She would like to see the district utilize a counseling program, Wraparound with Intensive Services (WISe), that takes a team approach that includes parents in their child's mental health care.

"If we can foster these relationships between children and parents, instead of dividing it, we would see all around improvement. We'd see improvement in our families, in our community, in our academics. Because kids that feel safe and secure in their home are going to be doing better in every realm of life," Merz said.

"I want to be a voice for the parents in the community," she said. "When I'm on the school board I'm not going to hide information from the parents. They need to know. Not just parents but taxpayers. They need to know how the school is spending the money that they pay. I want to see it done wisely because none of us can afford for our money to be wasted."

Merz has received campaign contributions from the Wahkiakum Republican Party and the Family Policy Institute of Washington.


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