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School board candidates share their views--Patty Anderson

There are four candidates competing for two positions on the Wahkiakum School District Board of Directors. Next week we will hear from the other two candidates. One incumbent has a challenger, and two are vying for a position being vacated by outgoing Director Paula Culbertson.

What did I learn? They may all have different definitions for critical race theory or different ideas about how to help local students, but they all care about the kids.

Interviews were edited for length.

After four years on the Wahkiakum School District Board of Directors, Patty Anderson is hoping to be re-elected this fall. A member of this community since 1974 and a Wahkiakum High School graduate, Anderson went on to Centralia Community College, where she played volleyball and received an associates degree. After getting her bachelor's degree from Western Washington University, she earned a Masters in Education at the University of Portland. She spent 40 years coaching volleyball to young kids all the way up to college level and recently retired after 38 years as a teacher. Her daughter Kayli Hurley teaches at Wahkiakum High School and continues Anderson's legacy of coaching volleyball.

Why are you running?

"Several reasons. I have grandchildren in the school district, and I have teachers in the building, and I have a lot of experience, a lot of knowledge about what happens in the trenches," Anderson said. "I've been there and I know what's going on. This is a great way to finish and round out my career. Having been on the board for the last four years, I'm just getting into it and we're doing some fantastic stuff and I'd like to see that finished."

"Because my philosophy basically is that I don't have an agenda, I'm there for the kids, making sure the kids are advocated for because that is important to me," she said. "They need to have a voice and I'm the person that will give them that voice, I think."

What are the top needs of the district?

"Facilities. Big time," Anderson said. "We've got to get our facilities up to par. I don't want that school to shut down. I went to school there, it still smells the same to me. Making sure our kids get the facilities they need to so they can have a chemistry lab, and they can experiment and do those things they need to be able to do to succeed. We just don't have it. We're putting together little things and oddball stuff just to keep things going. Bandaids like crazy."

This includes the gym floor, which is need of "big repairs," she said. "That gym is special. It is one of the oldest in the state and it's pretty cool and I would hate to see us have to tear it all out, and that's a possibility."

While the bus fleet is improving thanks to a depreciation program offered by the state, Anderson would also like to update the district's vehicle fleet.

"I think we need new school cars. We need to see how we're going to update our vans and suburbans," she said. "It's cost effective to use those."

On the lawsuit:

"I've been part of that," she said. "It's been kind of a groundbreaking thing. And to be in on it and say yes let's do it, what do we have to lose, and to take it this far? I want to see it through. Absolutely."

"I want to be able to make sure that we are using it properly, that we are getting our facilities done correctly," Anderson said. "Okay, so what happens if we don't win, what are we going to do now?"

What do you hope to accomplish?

Along with the lawsuit, Anderson would like to see the safety and security project at the district completed, and continue to make sure that curriculum is up to standards.

"We are in the middle of some safety stuff that is going on," Anderson said. "We got a grant for that and now we are starting Phase 2. Being in the school system and knowing how dangerous it can be, you can never say it's never going to be you. I like some of the things we are doing, to make sure the first point of contact is safe. So we have one entry, one easy lock down, maybe so they can see who they are letting in and out."

"I love that we are moving in that direction and I would like to accomplish that," she said.

"Making sure our curriculum is up to standards, because the standards always change," Anderson added. "One thing that is important to me and another reason I'm running is that our teachers need to know that our board supports them and believes in what they are doing and also trusts that they are the experts in their field. Making sure they have the resources they need to teach the standards. Those resources can change to keep them fresh and up to date. Of course they have a checklist of things they need to go through to make sure they hit everything and that they are not too controversial especially in our community."

What is critical race theory and is it being taught at WSD:

"In my mind critical race theory is anti-white rhetoric that creates hatred," Anderson said. "The anti-white rhetoric that I'm talking about is that we're so predispositioned we don't even know it. That's where people get angry. You're telling me I'm a racist when I'm really not exhibiting any of these behaviors, just because I'm white."

"We can't not teach history because you know, we will end up repeating," Anderson said. "I think it is important that we teach it."

"There is a quote I always go back to," she said. "I was watching Oprah Winfrey years ago, and Maya Angelou was on there. They were talking about something controversial and she said, 'Do you know, when you know better, you do better.' That's why history is important. Because now we know better and we should be doing better."

"I think we have to be really careful. We teach lessons at our high school that are based on the standards that are sent down from the state, the resources that are used are to meet those standards, and we have to trust that our teachers are the experts and they know what they are doing."

As for critical race theory? "That's not what we teach here," Anderson said.

Sex education:

"It is important that all of these things get taught, but it needs to be age appropriate," she said. "This curriculum is important. We can't ignore that there are things out there that are happening, that we need to make sure that we hit all parts of the population."

"When I taught it, it was systems," Anderson said. "This is how the body works, irregardless of how you want to identify. I taught every body system in the body. I taught all the parts and how they work. I taught about fertilization and gestation and they witnessed a birth. That's at a seventh grade level, totally age appropriate. But some people are not comfortable with that and good for them. They also have the opt out option. You can totally take your kids out if you're not comfortable with it. Some kids are not ready for it at that time. Parents know their kids better than anybody else."

"I also think that they need to know there is transparency," she added. "if they want to come up and see the materials. They totally can. We're not trying to hide anything. They just need to make appointments."

Diversity:

"Irregardless of my ideology, I don't have an agenda," Anderson said. "There are laws that are being brought down that the state says this is what you need to do. We as a school board need to take that policy and make sure that we can put it into our school and our community where everybody is comfortable, but the bottom line with any kid that is different than anybody else, is that they need to be safe within our building. That is the most important thing. It doesn't matter how you identify, our children's safety is of utmost importance. They need to feel safe."

"We are there to teach them," she said. "But you know schools aren't that any more. When people say just teach reading, writing and arithmetic, well, sure I love that and I think it's great, but we're no longer just the school for education, we're the school for food. We feed kids. That's the only place they get a good meal. Our schools sometimes, are the only place they have any social interaction. Our schools are the only place they get an adult connection or they feel safe. It's a safe place for them to go. We are not just education any more. We are so much more than that. I don't know if people agree with that or disagree with that. It's just what it is. That's why I think there is a lot more to school than just education."

"I'm not opposed to home schooling," Anderson added. "There are some people who do a phenomenal job of it. They make sure their kids are active and they get them out there and do great things. In my experience it is a very low percentage."

"When parents pull kids from the public school system," she said, "Some are super successful. Others come back and they are so far behind. If covid-19 taught us anything, it's that not everybody can learn at home. And that's even with a curriculum and when they have access to teachers all day long."

Anderson is not being funded by any group or organization.

 

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