2 new faces vie in SKSD Zone 4

In Zone 4, Dr. Satya Chandrigiri and David Salinas are seeking to replace outgoing board member Jim Green. While board members represent pre-determined district, they are elected by the district at-large.

Chandrigiri is a psychiatrist and small business owner. Salinas is a project manager with Cherry city Electric.

Keizertimes sent both candidates the same questions to give readers a sense of their priorities and qualifications for the role. 

Keizertimes: What skills and expertise do you bring to the role of school board director?

Satya Chandrigiri: I have served in three countries in my 30 years’ experience as a psychiatrist. Between my wife and I, we speak nearly 9 languages, came to this country with bare minimum with a wife and a kid in 1996, became proud citizens of our country in 2010 and today I serve all the way from Harney County to Douglas County and helped create over 300 jobs in the places where I serve. I have been educated in different educational systems in India and US. As a physician and psychiatrist, every day, I am in the trenches and the frontline taking care of patients and save lives in all ages from womb to tomb. I have started mental health programs in our state and abroad, I serve children whose education is impacted by serve adverse childhood experience, toxic stresses, mental illness, bullying and suicide risk.  

David Salinas:  A school board is intended to be composed of community members as part of a team guiding our school district. I bring experience working in a team environment, knowledge of the community and experience as an active parent of four school district students. In my International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) career throughout my adulthood, I have worked extensively as part of a team to identify issues, resolve those issues and accomplish goals. Also, I am currently on the IBEW Credit Union board of directors. Finally, I am a very hard worker dedicated to learning the issues and supporting student-centered policies and practices.

KT: What motivated you to seek election?

SC: I have borne witness to what mental illness has done to people in the last 30 years. I can not be a bystander anymore and decided to speak up. Last year, there were 16 youth suicides in Marion County. Sprague High School lost three kids to suicide. One-in-four girls and 1-in-5 boys are sexually abused by age 18 years. Children have severe emotional and behavioral problems which is as a result of adverse childhood experience and this disrupts education. Teachers are suffering as they are in the first line of this tragedy. Yet our Salem-Keizer schools don’t even have a suicide prevention policy in place. Until this is addressed, our children can’t feel safe, engaged and we can not have meaningful uninterrupted educational pipelines that lead to good jobs or higher education. We have poor graduation rates and school dropouts. I have the experience, education and the skills to do my share and make a difference. Hence, I decided to run for this position.

DS: I have always believed that actions speak louder than words. I understand that achieving student success from the board level takes a very strong board, a very strong administration and active support from the community, parents and students. Following my recent involvement in the district’s Boundary Task Force, I was motivated to become more actively involved in the school district’s future direction. As a parent, at times it is difficult to feel like your voice is heard regarding district practices and I heard this same feeling echoed directly from parents in our community as we held open house events to seek input on our progress with the boundaries. It is my hope we can work toward being as transparent as possible while bringing more community engagement into board decisions and the district’s future direction.

KT: What do you feel is the most important issue facing the school district as a whole?

SC: Safety, health and learning. Teen suicide and bullying, children not feeling safe, emotional and behavioral issues causing room clearances are the most critical issue that should get top priority. We cannot lose another child to suicide. Cyber bullying and bullying prevention go hand-in-hand with suicide prevention. Addressing adverse childhood experience and toxic stress and its impact on emotional and behavioral problems will take longer time to address. The schools cannot do it alone. Other agencies have to work collaboratively with the school. 

DS: I think the most important issue facing the district as a whole is how do we most effectively use the resources that are available to provide optimal educational opportunities for all students attending our schools. Equitable educational opportunities are difficult to achieve on a student-by-student basis. It is the board’s responsibility to ask the difficult questions when adopting budgets, curriculum and policies to ensure we are focused on maximizing optimal classroom conditions for our educators and children.

As a board, we have to accept responsibility for the areas in which we are underachieving and find solutions that are accountable. This will be difficult because we have an uneven distribution of attendance areas, facilities that require maintenance and updating, and we are continuously understaffed. 

KT: What can be done at the school board level to address that issue?

SC:  Ensuring that within 30 days of my election, The board will develop a suicide prevention policy. This has to be addressed urgently. This will get all stakeholders both within and outside the district to align their efforts. Initially, the fundings may include pooling funding and resources from local CCO, local health care, nonprofit, OHA etc. Later, this needs to be part of the school budget. 

DS: At the board level, we can clarify the board’s role in the district’s governance, policy development and community engagement. Once clarified, the board should be able to develop short and long-term goals that are dynamic and assist the district in effectively using all the available resources for student success.

Moving in this direction may require significant board development as a team so that we can assert a joint effort toward improving opportunities for our students. In order to be effective as a board, we need to build a quality working relationship with each school’s administration and view the administration as a contributing member of the team.

Finally, opening communication channels with all levels of the community, especially parents and students, should inform our direction in major policy decisions. I have been told it is difficult to engage the community, but we have to proactively do more than just issue invitations. We have to make the engagement meaningful which may require more me, some facilitated open forums, and treat members of the community who do a nd with absolute respect.

KT: What issues, if any, would you like to see the school board address with greater urgency in the next four years?

SC:  Suicide prevention and bullying prevention, develop a trauma-informed school system to make our schools a safe place for learning and healing, children feel safe, have stability and a nurturing and responsive engaging adults to help the students. This is important to address the challenges due to emotional and behavioral problems by students which is disruptive and impairs learning.

DS: Fully implementing the Career and Technical Education mandate. There is potential for business-education compacts, higher education partnerships and other opportunities to expand current student access. Expanding mentorship programs. Mentorship is also a meaningful way to acclimate new teachers into the district. Supporting comprehensive counseling and mental health services. In a district the size of Salem-Keizer, we must work harder to ensure students feel safe in all aspects of their life. Improving communication to engage parents in their children’s education: We must change environments and methods we have used previously to obtain parental engagement. Perhaps we can use live-streaming, electronic survey, community forums and other methods to allow parents to safely provide input into district directions. We have to value the input we receive by showing it has respectfully been considered.