Chuck and Krina Lee give a speech upon accepting the Service to Education Award on  Jan. 31. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

Chuck and Krina Lee give a speech upon accepting the Service to Education Award on
Jan. 31. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

Pillow talk in the Lee household revolves around children.

No, Chuck and Krina Lee aren’t talking about their children at 3 a.m. They are talking about all students in the Salem-Keizer School District – a district Chuck has wanted to be called Keizer-Salem for years.

That dedication to students led to the local “education power couple” being jointly awarded the Service to Education Award at the Jan. 31 Keizer First Citizen Awards Banquet.

The Lees received their clock award from Ron Hittner, the 2013 recipient of the award, who noted the service both Lees have done individually over the past decades. That includes Chuck’s time at Blanchet Catholic School, which saw large growth under his leadership.

“I had a front row seat to his commitment,” Hittner said. “Chuck’s decisions were always made with children as the top priority. It always came down to what’s best for the kids.”

Hittner pointed out the Lees continue to be committed to education, even after all they’ve accomplished. Krina, executive director of the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation, was instrumental in getting the Crystal Apple and Awesome 3000 awards programs going, while Chuck is a longtime member of the Salem-Keizer School Board.

“Even with all they’ve accomplished already, they both continue to spend countless hours leading our community constantly to improve our educational environment,” Hittner said.

Chuck joked about why he joined the school board seven years ago.

“My only real goal has been to change the name from Salem-Keizer School Board to Keizer-Salem School Board,” he quipped. “In all seriousness, this is an incredible award. Thank you very much. I love Keizer. I love representing Keizer on the school board and being involved in education.

“What happens at home is reinforced at school and what happens at school is reinforced at home,” he added. “In Keizer we’ve got that. We’ve got a great community that is really tied into what we’re talking about.”

Krina joked “pillow talk” in the Lee household revolves around testing assessments, SAT scores and bond measures – at 3 a.m.

“Every child, every day deserves the opportunity to be awesome,” Krina said. “Thank you to each and every one of you for acknowledging that and knowing that. We love you, we love each other and we love so much advocating for our children.”

Other nominees for the award were Keizer Heritage Center’s JoAnne Beilke (the 1990 Keizer First Citizen), Whiteaker Middle School teacher Scott Coburn, McNary High School teacher Jim Taylor (a President’s Award winner last year) and former MHS principal John Honey, now the principal at the Career and Technology Education Center (CTEC).

Chuck paid homage to his fellow nominees.

“They deserve it as much as I do. I personally nominated JoAnne Beilke for this award four years ago for her service and commitment to Keizer and Chemeketa Community College,” Chuck said afterwards. “I currently am working with John Honey on CTEC. I’ve only heard amazing things about the Whiteaker teacher. He’s a kid magnet. These are all brilliant, brilliant educators. It was an honor to be recognized. It’s a shame because all of them would have been very worthy of the award.”

Chuck figured marrying Krina in 2013 raised his chances.

“My acknowledgement as a Service to Educator was only enhanced by marrying Krina, with her background and what she brings to the table,” Chuck said. “She touches all 41,000 kids in the Keizer-Salem schools with her foundation.”

Krina said getting the award wouldn’t lessen her resolve or mission at all.

“Our work, independently and collectively, we care deeply about the kids in this school system,” Krina said. “These awards are wonderful and they give credentials to the organizations we represent. But I’ll wake up tomorrow still thinking of every kid, every day.”