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Iron County School Board District 5 Debate Transcript

Updated: May 26, 2022

Iron County School Board District 5 Debate

This is an edited Transcript. Edited by Steve Merrill and modified by Dan Kidder.

RECORDED OPENING Dan Kidder (Host): Welcome to "What's Really Happening in Southern Utah: The Podcast." I'm your host, Dan Kidder. Our podcast is all about issues facing southern Utah. Here we will announce your upcoming events, talk with movers and shakers in our community about important issues facing Beaver, Iron, Kane, and Washington Counties, and make sure you are kept in the loop with interesting news and commentary of local interest. While we welcome folks from all over, our goal with this podcast is to give residents of southern Utah a place to find out about issues that affect them. You can find us on Apple Podcasts and also on our Facebook group: "What's Really Happening in Southern Utah" and online at

Dan Kidder (Host): Okay, we are back in the studio today for our fourth and final candidate debate. Today in the studio we have with us Mr. Billy Davis and we have Mr. Steve Merrill who are running for the fifth district seat in the Iron County School Board. Now for those who are not aware we have some new districts coming in. We have had five seats and now we're gonna have seven seats. We have two candidates who are running unopposed and then we have two districts, district four - which we had that debate yesterday - and district five, which both have three candidates running for those seats. In the studio today I have Steve Merrill and I have Mr. Billy Davis who are both running for that district five. There is one third candidate - Tiffiney Christiansen - and she has declined to participate in the debate because, quote, "some things may be taken out of context," so you can do with that what you will. But, we will have a very good debate today with these two candidates, so gentlemen I appreciate you coming into the studio and being part of this process. I think I know this is a tough place to be, I used to do the same thing myself. I used to be involved in politics in Washington, D.C. and many debates and it's never fun and never comfortable, so I give you mad props for coming in. Mr. Davis has won the coin toss and so he will be starting off. And the way this will work: We have a series of questions and we will start off with three minute candidate introductions. You see the timer, both of you can see the timer there, that's kind of why I see that you kicked out on the sides here so you can see that, okay. So we're gonna put three minutes on the clock, each of you will have three minutes to introduce yourself and then we will get into the questions, and I'll have a series of questions for each of you. So if I ask Mr. Davis a question he'll have two minutes in which to answer that question and then his opponent, Mr. Merrill, will have one minute to rebut, and then you will get a question and have two minutes and so on. And at the very end there is a question that you both will answer and you'll both have two minutes to answer that question without rebuttal. And then, at the end of that time, you will have two minutes to give a closing statement: let people know where they can find your website, how to contact you, all that good stuff.

Steve Merrill (Candidate): Great.

Dan Kidder (Host): All right, here we go. Let's get started. Mr. Davis, introduce yourself to us.

Billy Davis (Candidate): Thank you, Dan. My name is Billy Davis. I am a long-time resident of Cedar City, probably about 48 of the last almost 51 years. I have attended East Elementary, South Elementary, I attended the junior high that's no longer here - it's now a parking lot next to the SUU P.E. building - and I attended and graduated from Cedar High. I have, I met and married my beautiful wife, Jennifer, here in Cedar City. We have five awesome children: I have three boys and two girls. My three boys have all attended and graduated from Cedar High. My two girls are currently attending Cedar High - they will be a senior next year and a sophomore. I, myself, have spent most of my working life working with and for my beautiful wife Jennifer in real estate. That's my background, my experience and work. I attended college rather late in life. I graduated from SUU with a bachelor's degree in accounting in 2010. And, I, the reason I'm running, I'm running for school board because of my deeply held concerns over what I am seeing in the news nationally over the last couple of years. I have watched as parents have outed their local school districts for inappropriate reading materials and curriculum. These materials put forth ideologies that do not agree with our community values, in fact they probably don't agree with most people's community values. To be honest, I believe most parents would be horrified to learn what thoughts and ideas are accessible to their young, innocent children. For those that are unaware but interested, it is not difficult to discover the dangers of programs like SEL, CRT, and identity politics with just a little research. I've found that these materials and ideologies are present throughout the entire nation, and I would say this, combined with less than acceptable performance academically, are very good reasons to be concerned and get involved. The success of our students, which equates to their ability to read, to write, to do arithmetic, and have basic knowledge of science, are what will allow our children to be able to think for themselves. We do not want to allow for outside influences to take up time in the classroom, to tell our children how to think, when they should be making advances on basic academics. And that's me, Dan. Thank you.

Dan Kidder (Host): Thank you very much! Short, sweet, and to the point. All right, Mr. Merrill, you're up.

Steve Merrill (Candidate): Thank you, Dan. My name is Steve Merrill. I am originally from Michigan. My wife and her father and our three plus kids moved here in 2019. I grew up in a small farming community - very conservative - and I met my wife there, though we didn't get married at first, we split up after high school - kind of went our separate ways for a while. But we were able to reconnect and ended up, I, when I married her, I chose to take in a three-and-a-half-year-old boy who is now going into his senior year at Cedar High, and we have added two more beautiful children. We also, about seven years ago, took in a kid who was 18 and, through no fault of his own, ended up in a position where he was homeless and trying to get through college. So, we took him in, gave him a place to stay because we had an extra bedroom, and he was able to complete his bachelor's degree and is now looking into getting into a full-time career. I'm, I guess I'm getting into the the school board race for the exact same reasons as Billy with the exact opposite interpretation of a lot of what's happening. You know, the the concerns that, that he has of CRT being taught - I have concerns that history is not going to get fully taught in order to, to try to protect people from things that might be embarrassing, and I, I want to make sure that the kids, when they, when they get out of school, are prepared to work in our world and, actually as Billy said, to think for themselves and to learn for themselves. I just have a hard time with the concept that thinking and learning for themselves is going to come about by taking away opportunities for them to learn in the schools by, by removing education on, on what has happened in our history and by removing access to materials. I, I just, I want to make sure that the choices being made by the school board are what's best for the students.

Dan Kidder (Host): Okay, well, you guys are gonna love some of the questions that are coming out. And the first one's for you Mr. Davis: Iron County is currently drafting policies regarding transgender students, including: sharing restrooms and locker rooms with students who were born to a different gender; and participating in sports that are reserved for students of a specific gender when they were not born to that gender. What do you believe should be the approach taken by the Iron County School District to address the issue of transgender students?

Billy Davis (Candidate): Thank you, Dan. I, I'm vehemently against the sharing of locker rooms and bathrooms by anybody other than the specific sex to which they're addressed. This is much of the reason why I'm involved in this race. I, you know, I want to accommodate those who might have confusion in this direction, and I think that a possible idea for doing that would be single party bathrooms, you know, specifically for unisex, whatever. But I, I'm adamantly against allowing for someone of the opposite sex to come into a girl's locker room and take away from their innocence, to embarrass them, to, to cause them, you know, any kind of consternation, frustration, you know, from them being there. So, yeah, that would be my stand on that.

Dan Kidder (Host): Okay. Mr. Merrill, your rebuttal, sir.

Steve Merrill (Candidate): Honestly, I, I fully agree. I think that the areas where any parts of the body that could ruin innocence might be exposed should not be exposed, which is why I would also be in favor of unisex changing areas - which is the impression I got from listening to the the work meeting - that when, when a student who is gender non-conforming comes along that there would be a discussion with administration and with parents to work out how to allow that student to live as who they are while not imposing anything unnecessarily ruinous to the other students. So I, I have no issue with the idea that the areas where, where innocence would be ruined are not shared. But, I also think that that works for the sex that they were assigned at birth because there's also innocence to be ruined there and they don't need to be forced around people that they don't match with.

Dan Kidder (Host): Okay, Mr. Merrill, This question is for you: How would you accommodate gender, I'm sorry, how would you accommodate gender non-conforming and LGBTQ students without forcing other students and families to compromise their belief systems.

Steve Merrill (Candidate): So some of what we just talked about - the, the locker rooms. There's also been a lot of discussion about how to refer to people, and, and whether, you know, someone who was assigned male at birth but is a female should be called him or her. I feel like the idea that I was born "Steven" but I go by "Steve" is acceptable, but I was born "him" and decide that I want to be called "her," or that's what my comfort is, is not acceptable is, is anathema to me. It, it just seems like basic respect to be able to address people the way that they're comfortable, and, and handle them the way that, honestly, puts them in the best position to learn. Where, where, in their everyday opportunities to go into class, they don't have to focus not only on whether they're learning the material, but also whether they get to be who they are. So the, the working with the administration, working with the principals and staff, to make sure that gender non-conforming students are accepted and respected and given the same respect as gender conforming students doesn't seem like it's that far out of reach. And, and if someone is uncomfortable with a gender non-conforming student being called a nickname then I have a hard time not saying that that's kind of that person's own thing to overcome, because what you call me, or what I want to be called, doesn't affect you.

Dan Kidder (Host): Okay, Mr. Davis. Billy Davis (

Candidate): So, Dan, on this I, I believe there are policies in place to address this, and, and I think that for the most part they're adequate. But I, and I'm a believer that we should try to have compassion for, for every student in the challenges and difficulties that they face in their lives, And I, I believe that this is, these are some of those challenges that, you know, where bullying could be present or whatever the case may be, and I, I absolutely abhor bullying - I do not think that it has any place in our schools - so I would do whatever I could to confirm that those policies are effective. You know, we did talk about this in the first question a little bit, as far as what we would do to, you know, both Mr. Merrill and I kind of agree that unisex bathroom single use would be a good solution to this problem. You know, the problem of basically not having, you know, girls in boys bathrooms and vice versa in locker rooms. I, well, I guess I'm…

Dan Kidder (Host): All right, you're out of time. That's right you can never discuss the tough issues really fully in two minutes and one-minute rebuttals, but that's what we've got to work with. All right, this question is for Mr. Davis: Our nation is working every day to better its future and continue to secure our democratic republic through a robust teaching of our founding documents in the american dream. This also includes the social studies standards in civics and character education, economics, geography, and history. Do you believe that Iron County Schools should be a place where students are taught the concept of "American Exceptionalism"?

Billy Davis (Candidate): Absolutely. Like, no questions about it. This is very important to me. I am a patriot through and through. I believe that you can't necessarily judge our, our founding fathers or, or any other historical figure from our position in our current day. What we can do is we can take the good that they did do and we can appreciate that and we can learn from it. We can also learn from the mistakes that they made, and I think it's very important that we do that as well. But there is definitely something special about the country that we live in and how it was founded and the ideals that they came up with to institute into our Bill of Rights, and I believe that, that our children need to be taught that. They need to believe in that. They need to know the history of that. So that is very important to me.

Dan Kidder (Host): Okay. Mr. Merrill.

Steve Merrill (Candidate): You know, I believe America is exceptional, but I don't think that it's unique in being exceptional. I think there are a lot of exceptional countries. And when you look at our country's history, we have times that America was, was far above and beyond any other nation in the world. And we also have times when we were well behind every other nation in the world. I, I have no issue with teaching the, that America is founded on principles that today are still critical to be taught. I just have a hard's very easy to slip from "American Exceptionalism" to "We don't need to continue to improve because we're so great" and I want to make sure that any teachings of how good America are also allow the opportunity to improve and be better.

Dan Kidder (Host): Okay. This question is for you Mr. Merrill: We've seen schools adopting policies that withhold pertinent information on students from their parents. We've also seen policies nationwide that prevent parents from accessing curricula or sitting in on classes. To what extent should parents be involved with behaviors, discipline, curricula, and values where their children are concerned, and what role should schools have when it comes to addressing these issues?

Steve Merrill (Candidate): So, I think the idea that, that parents are barred from curriculum is foolish. I also think that the idea that a teacher needs to plan six months ahead is, is foolish. My wife had a student unfortunately die in a tragic car accident, and her curriculum for the next week with her students was coloring books and being able to just process their emotions, and, those students at that time - she was a psychology teacher - they were not going to remember what, what she talked about about Freud or Jung. She, they weren't gonna have any idea what she taught. So, at that point, getting locked into a curriculum was foolish. That said, her classroom was open for parents. If they wanted to come in and sit in on a class, they were welcome to. I think that that's important - that, that parents have that opportunity - because there, there can be a check and balance that's perfectly reasonable. Withholding pertinent information: the, the biggest thing I've heard about with that is transgender/gender non-conforming students and, the, to me that's, the, the danger there is the same thing as the danger of going to parents with students complaining about something at home. Where if the student is going to go home and the parents are told something that is going to end up causing the parents to bully their, their child, that's not healthy for the student. The student should be allowed the respect and rights to choose what their parents find out and when when it affects them personally, and how their parents are going to respond to them. So, you know, if they're getting bullied, the parents should know they're getting bullied, so they can be there for them, but they may not need to know that it's because they're going by a different pronoun.

Dan Kidder (Host): Okay. Mr. Davis. Billy Davis (

Candidate): Dan, I, I believe that parents have every right to know everything and almost anything that is going on within the schools. I think that's, that's, as a school board, that's our responsibility to make sure that that is happening. I can see Mr. Merrill's point on the curriculum. I, I understand that. I do, I disagree with Mr. Merrill as far as his point in, you know, certain information being withheld from parents. I, I don't think the school has the authority, or the, or the right to withhold any information from parents, and I, I think it's wrong to assume that parents would take the position of bullying their children because they find out something about their, their children that they're not happy about. I think it's the parents' first responsibility and ultimate responsibility to speak to their children about decisions they're making, and if the parents aren't aware of those decisions, they can't do that.

Dan Kidder (Host): Okay. This next question is for you Mr. Davis: Student bullying has been a real problem nationwide and has even resulted in a suicide at Cedar High. What specific actions would you take as a school board member to raise awareness of the harm that bullying causes, and what corrective actions would you implement for those who engage in this behavior?

Billy Davis (Candidate): This is a great question. Actually, I, I heard this on your debate yesterday, and, and it was one that threw me for a curve. I wasn't sure exactly how to answer this question. I, I actually went to what most of us go to nowadays - which is Google - punched in a search on, you know, how do you prevent bullying in school. Came up with a lot of options. I did find some material that seemed very interesting to me. I think, as a school board, we should look into different programs that are available to help with these kind of things, because I don't think any one of us is specifically capable of, of, of addressing this on our own. I did find a program that seemed very interesting. It has had some great results. I'm not going to name it at this time because I haven't been able to really research that or vetted enough, but it has had great results, and, and I think that we need to look into these type of things. We need to create some empathy on the part of, of students that may witness bullying or that, that are a part of it. We need to, we just need to do a better job of, of, of teaching our children, and, and if that falls on the schools to some degree then, then so be it. We need to take that responsibility with a great amount of concern.

Dan Kidder (Host): Okay. Mr. Merrill.

Steve Merrill (Candidate): So, I'm going to start by taking an opportunity to clarify a little bit from my previous answer. The, I don't want to imply that all parents would bully their children. But I will say that because I wouldn't, and because Billy wouldn't, that no parent would is also not the right position to take. So we need to rely on the student's impression of their parents, because it shouldn't be up to the schools to try to figure out what parents are, are good or not. If that needs to go to a point of calling in state services, then so be it, that's a discussion with the student. As for the, the bullying question: I don't know the students that well outside of my students and their friends. I don't expect the board members to know all the students and what they're going through. So, I think the only way that we can develop any kind of approach to this would be working with the teachers and the administrators and the professionals in the school that are with these students, so that they can help develop something targeted to our students.

Dan Kidder (Host): Okay. This next question is for you, Mr. Merrill: The Iron County School Board receives the bulk of all property taxes collected within the county and oversees a $114 million budget. There was recently a bond of $69 million for the construction of a new elementary school passed by voters, as well as talk of additional bonds in the near future. As elected officials entrusted with wisely spending taxpayer funds, how will you safeguard the taxpayers while also ensuring the core mission of the Iron School District is achieved?

Steve Merrill (Candidate): So, this is a challenging question, because the taxpayers approved a bond that was specifically outlined to replace East Elementary. And East Elementary needs replacing. Unfortunately, that's not where the student growth in the area is happening, and the area is growing extremely quickly. So to take away classrooms for a period of time, in order to build a building that gains us no capability to handle students, at the expense of other buildings having to turn different rooms into additional classrooms, significantly impact student-to-teacher ratios, sending buses significantly farther, I think we need to, in order to honor the community's willingness to give money, we need to make sure that the choices we make are the right fiduciary choices, even if they're not what was approved on the bond. In this case, I think, I think that there needs to be a consideration of putting East off, getting repair funds in place for East, but building out to the, to the west of town where a lot of the growth is happening. I, I'm concerned that after East is built we're going to get another bond, but by then we're going to need to expand on the the middle schools, or the high schools, and we're still not going to have room for the elementary kids, and by the time we get around to building a building for the elementary kids, we're going to need two or three, because we've just fallen behind.

Dan Kidder (Host): Okay. Mr. Davis.

Billy Davis (Candidate): You know, it's interesting, I find myself agreeing with a lot of what Mr. Merrill has to say about this specific bond, and, and how that money is spent. I, myself, come from a business background and an accounting degree. I, I look at budgeting and expensing and these things quite seriously, and I think that is where I would, I would be able to create some value on the school board is, is being able to look at things in a very specific way, and, and being sure that the money that is being spent is being spent responsibly. So I feel that I would, I would add a lot of value in this way.

Dan Kidder (Host): Okay, this question is for you, Mr. Davis: More and more school boards are being mandated by state and federal law to include identity politics, such as "transformative social and emotional learning," "critical race theory," "queer theory," and "transgender theory" into their curricula and policies. What do you believe is the role of a school board member when it comes to implementing these policies into our schools, and should our schools be places of social justice or academic learning?

Billy Davis (Candidate): Well, as, as I've kind of already stated in my intro, I am, I'm a believer in the, the academic learning. That's what our schools are there for. Now I understand that there are issues within the schools, behavioral issues, that need to be addressed, and that is, that's where the origins of, of SEL come from. I would, I would argue that the programs that are handed down to us from on high are not best, they're not the best option for our children here in our community, and we can address this better at a local level. There's already the instance of the "Iron Stories," I don't know if you're familiar with that, but that's a program that's been put forth as another version of SEL here in, in Iron County. I think that we can do much better than nationally. And, and again, I understand the need for it, however, I would go so far as to say that this is another thing that takes away from the time that our students have to learn what they really need to learn. Our students are lacking on test scores, and we need to be focusing on that first and foremost.

Dan Kidder (Host): Okay. Mr. Merrill.

Steve Merrill (Candidate): So I'm one that disagrees with the premise of, "should our schools be places of social justice or academic learning," because I think our schools should be places that prepare children for adulthood. To some degree that's academic learning, I don't know that social justice is any degree, but social understanding and social empathy so that you can get along with people in the real world is, is critical. So, you know, one of the things that, that I’ve been thinking is our schools, for most of our kids, are the largest community they are going to be in for, the, 12 of the first 18 years of their lives. That, that they don't spend six or eight hours a day, five days a week, you know, eight months a year, in a 500 or a thousand-person environment. So it's really important that the kids understand how to interact with others, and if that means that we need to get a program in place to teach them how to interact, then that's what we need to do.

Dan Kidder (Host): Okay. This question is for you, Mr. Merrill: Recently we had a social studies teacher within Iron County who expressed on social media his wish that Republican lawmakers would be killed by rioters. This was in response to the events of January 6, 2021. Do you believe that teachers should have the freedom to express thoughts like this on social media, where they are seen by their students, or should they be held to a higher standard of behavior?

Steve Merrill (Candidate): I believe that everyone has a freedom of speech and should be allowed the opportunity to exercise their freedom of speech, but that freedom of speech does not protect them from freedom of consequences. So, if you're a teacher, and you need for, for parents to trust you and for students to trust you, you kind of got to be careful with what you're going to say publicly. It becomes a case-by-case basis on, on what to do in response. So, I don't know the person who, who expressed these thoughts. I don't know if it's someone who, with some talking with principals, talking with administrators, some, you know, redirective training, some appropriate classes on, well, social empathy and how to interact with people in the society, can, can get them to where they understand why this was bad and would not do it again? I think there's an opportunity to help someone grow, then. If they are not responsive, then the idea that someone in your community is publicly vouching for people to be killed is not someone who needs to be in a position where parents need to trust them, and, and parents need to be able to trust teachers.

Dan Kidder (Host): Okay. Mr. Davis.

Billy Davis (Candidate): Very much same thoughts here. I, I'm a big believer in the first amendment and the freedom of speech, and, and it even extends into social media. However, there should be consequences for speaking in the way that this person did, and hopefully they suffered some of those consequences. I also believe that teachers should be held to higher standard behavior, just like a lot of professionals, not just teachers, I mean anybody who's in the public eye, really, but especially teachers where they can be, they can be heard from by their students, whether, you know, social, whether their students are on social media or not, there's definitely an expectation of a higher standard of behavior. So, very disappointing that this would happen.

Dan Kidder (Host): Okay, this question is for Mr. Davis: A previous school board in Iron County was the target of much ire from residents over the changing of the Cedar High School mascot. Do you feel that the school board should have removed the "Redmen" as the mascot, and do you have any plans regarding changing it back?

Billy Davis (Candidate): You know, I, I was against the changing of the the mascot from the very beginning. And not so much because I'm, I'm emotional or, or attached to that mascot for any reason. I did graduate from Cedar, I am a Redman. But the, the concern that I have over the removal of that name is more from a freedom of speech aspect. It's more from political correctness, you know, stomping all over our first amendment rights. I don't think that the name was offensive in any way whatsoever, and I'm, I've communicated with Native Americans in the area who feel the exact same way. Now, there's always going to be somebody who's offended, and that being the case, I would say, for the most part, people need to ease up and, and get over it. This was never meant to be an offensive term. It is, in fact, meant to be something to inspire pride. Would I bring it back? I've been asked this since I decided to run, and the honest answer to this question is, is I don't know that I would unless I could get the community, the community behind me and help with the financing of it, because my understanding is that it was very expensive to change the name, and to go back and spend that money again seems like a waste of money. So, let bygones be bygones and let's move on.

Dan Kidder (Host): Okay, Mr. Merrill.

Steve Merrill (Candidate): For me this, this feels like we just said that students shouldn't be bullied, and, and then if there are students who are Native American and offended by the name, they're bullied by having to use the name. So, I don't know that anyone is negatively impacted by, by removing the name, and if there were people who were negatively impacted by having the name, I would have a very hard time saying that was the wrong decision, with the hesitation of there is a significant financial impact, so, so I guess that would come down to...I have a hard time with the idea that, you know, we should spend $100 million to make one person feel better, but I don't have a hard time with the, the thought that hundreds of people are, are upset by it, and we need to do what's necessary to stop it. I wouldn't change it back, or to anything else, because of the financial, the fiduciary impact.

Dan Kidder (Host): Okay. This question is for you, Mr. Merrill: Iron County School District is being sued currently over a student being released to someone other than a parent and the child was kidnapped. Do you believe we need tougher security in our schools, and, if so, what does that look like?

Steve Merrill (Candidate): You know, the school districts that, that I came from in Michigan had been working on locking down security, and the simplest answer is, is at the front doors, the, the front doors are all locked except one, and that one goes straight into the office, and no adult can get through without someone in the office having an opportunity to stop them. I mean, the, the question here is that they were released - that means that someone had the opportunity and didn't stop the inappropriate person from taking the student. So, I, I think there are some basic steps that can be taken. I don't think we need to go to a point of, you know, 10-foot tall concrete walls with, with barbed wire on the top, because there's a, there's a point where it's more than what's reasonably necessary. But I don't think the idea that, that we would funnel any visitors through the office and make sure that someone interacts with them before they can get into the schools, and that students aren't let out to anyone who's not on a specific list or hasn't had a parent or guardian call in to give them permission for that day, those seem like basic steps that we can take to, to protect the students. And then, you know, when, when kids are on playgrounds that are somewhat opened up to the community, making sure that there are adults out there that can keep an eye on all parts. If, if it's, you know, an L-shaped playground, we need to have enough adults out there that they can see around the L, that we have them stationed so they can see if someone decides to try to jump a fence, or grab a kid from a fence, or just is hanging out around the fence kind of inappropriately, just to keep an eye on them. But, I, I think that there are basic steps that cost very little that we could take without, without really impacting our, our students' experience at school.

Dan Kidder (Host): Okay, Mr. Davis.

Billy Davis (Candidate): You know, I, I've had kids in the school system for a lot of years now, and I, I know that there are policies in effect to address this very situation. I, I know that I've had to put my mom or my, my wife's mother on a list of people with, you know, able to pick up my, my children. So, I, I don't know what happened here. I'm not, I guess I'm not entirely familiar with how this came to be. It is disappointing, and it is very, very concerning that this would happen. So, obviously, we need to go back and look at this situation if I was on the school board and, and take into consideration where the mistake was made and maybe go over this with, with the different school, the different schools in our area to make sure that something like this never happens again.

Dan Kidder (Host): Okay. This question is for both of you, so you will each have two minutes to answer and there will be no rebuttals: Many parents have expressed concern with how Iron County deals with special education students and whether they are in full compliance with federal law regarding individual education plans, or IEPs. How would you ensure Iron County complies with federal and state law where special education students are concerned? And Mr. Davis, go ahead.

Billy Davis (Candidate): Whoa. I'm just kind of checking over that question again real quick, because this is one that throws me for a curve to be quite honest. Obviously, we need to, as a school board and a school district, make sure that we're in full compliance with federal law regarding these things. I, I don't know the specifics as to what we may or may not be complying with, but I would do my best as a school board mem, as a school board member, to assure that that we're following whatever statutes are there. Dan Kidder (Host): Okay, Mr. Merrill.

Steve Merrill (Candidate): Yeah, probably somewhat similar answer, this is, this is not where my job is. This isn't where my, my focus is. So, I would rely on the professionals. Anything, not just special education, but anything that involves federal and state laws, we need to make sure that a legal counsel reviews any policies that are put in place, and we need to rely on the people who are trained, that are specialists in those areas. So, you know, we have wonderful special education teachers and staff, and, and the administrators are, are very good to work with, and, and they need to kind of develop our plans for us. And then we need to review with legal counsel to make sure that we're fulfilling everything, and, and if we are, then I'm going to trust our, our people who are trained in these things to take care of our students a lot better than I’m going to trust, you know, my programming capabilities to take care of the students.

Dan Kidder (Host): Okay, each of you will have two minutes to make a closing statement. Mr. Merrill, you are up.

Steve Merrill (Candidate): You know, I, a lot of these debates are to try to find the differences between candidates, and I think it's pretty clear that there are differences between us. What I, what I appreciate from Billy, and, and other people that I've had some often heated conversations with online, is everyone in these conversations is, is coming from a perspective of, "What can we do best for our kids? How can we take care of our students? What do they need from us?" Now, I have a different perspective than Mr. Davis has. I have a different perspective than a lot of the people I go back and forth with online have. But, but I think that it's valuable to have both perspectives involved, because I, I am not so egotistical to think that I am always fully right, or, or that someone that I'm going back and forth with, who I disagree with, is always fully wrong. I, I think that the, the best for our students is probably somewhere in between. I think it's in...intensely valuable to have both sides work through any conversation, any policies, any decisions that are made that are affecting our students so that any of the, you know, the, the policies we would put in place - whether it's SEL, or transgender, or, or teaching CRT, or teaching anything else in our schools, the decision is made with a, a fully thought out and well-rounded perspective from all angles and, and I, I appreciate Mr. Davis going back and forth with me here on some of these, because it's good to get a perspective that's not mine. I hope he feels the same way.

Dan Kidder (Host): All right, Mr. Davis.

Billy Davis (Candidate): Thank you, Mr. Merrill. I do. I truly appreciate your comments, and I, I see the value in those things as well. I'm going to use this opportunity just to, to give some of my own comments, and, and talk about what I'm running for. I believe that parents know what is best for their children. Not the federal government and not the institutions seeing, seeking to indoctrinate our children with their ideologies. I believe that our teachers hired locally have the talent, the skills, and the love for teaching to do just that: teach. I believe we need to get out of their way, to remove whatever hurdles we can, and let them do what they've been trained to do. I believe that we can, that we live in what is still probably the greatest country on Earth, but to continue to be that, we need to lead in academics. And currently, we do not. More specifically: Utah's not a leader in academics. This should be our focus: get rid of the noise and hone in on creating an atmosphere and curriculum that sets our children up for success. I believe we can accomplish these things with the values we hold dear in our community. We need to work together with teachers and parents to give our children the best environment and education possible. For any that hear this message today: my hope is that, along with other members of the school board, that we can encourage and invigorate our community to take an even more active interest in the success of our students. I am Billy Davis, and my contact info is available at I welcome your questions, your comments, and your support. Thank you.

Dan Kidder (Host): All right gentlemen, thank you both for coming in. Like I said, this is...that was a good debate. That was. We really got into some meaty issues there, and really looked at those from some, some good angles. I, I'm really happy with this, this episode. But, you know, this has been fun. We've been lacking in, in Iron County and in Cedar City any kind of real debate. We have these forums and these nice little fluffy questions get thrown out, but we don't ever really have any head-to-head debate, and I, I think we've been missing that for a long time, so I was excited to be able to do this, and I appreciate you guys participating and all the candidates who participated, and everybody except for one candidate participated. So that's, that's pretty amazing, especially for a nascent program like this. The, the first commissioner's debate was our first episode of this podcast, so I'm real thankful for that, and I hope the community will continue to stay engaged, and, and we can continue to provide some really great content. But gentlemen, thank you for coming in, and as for Miss Tiffiney Christiansen, well, you missed out on an opportunity for people to, to feel and understand where you come from. But I think you also demonstrated that you just can't be accountable, and I, I will encourage anybody listening to this podcast: any of the candidates who participated who align with your worldview and your beliefs - they deserve your vote. Any candidate who can't be accountable doesn't deserve anybody's vote. They won't be accountable to you. They'll be nothing but a petty tyrant who just wants to be looked upon and, and worshiped, and, and I don't think we have any place in our democratic republic for that type of person. So, yeah, I'm gonna put my opinion in on that. And I, I thank you guys for coming in. And we got some great news! We finally have a phone line, so if you have events that you would like us to announce on upcoming podcasts, you can reach us at 435-238-6045. Leave all the details you can in your message so that we can share that with our listeners. And you can also check out all of our podcasts, all of the debates, everything that's been going on on Thank you all for listening, and you all have a great day.

DAN KIDDER RECORDED CLOSING: Thank you for listening to What's Really Happening in Southern Utah The Podcast. We hope that you found this content to be worthwhile. We want to hear from you so if you have any upcoming event that you'd like to share with our listeners or if you represent a local group we'd love to have you come into the studio. Just email us at We're also working on streaming this podcast live and have the ability for folks to call in and ask questions or share items of interest to residents of Southern Utah. Be sure to share this podcast with your friends and again thanks for listening.


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