District plans to add counselors

Room was found for an additional counselor at each comprehensive high school in Salem-Keizer Public Schools, Superintendent Christy Perry told the district budget committee Tuesday.

The lack of counselors has been a concern for the school district, especially with the rise in student suicides, and Perry said administrators have made cuts in various places to add money for the counselors.

Other adjustments, Perry said, have made room for a full-time equivalent of three more English language learner teachers, added time to make translation services available year-round, increase social work services by one full-time employee and focus more on students of Native American and Alaskan heritage.

Still missing, she said, are desired funds for additional trauma-informed classrooms, behavior specialists, base-level administrative staff, teachers and operational support. The last, she explained, consists of custodians, maintenance workers and clerical support.

Perry claims that much of this depends on the Oregon Legislature. The House of Representatives has approved the proposed Student Success Act, which focuses on behavior and mental health supports and early learning opportunities, but the Senate has postponed action on it.

Perry then answered questions from committee members:

Q: Is more health assistance available?

A: We have been able to gain nursing support.

Q: With the athletic realignment by the Oregon School Activities Association, what are the added transportation costs?

A: Costs have gone up $30,000.

Q: How does the district compare with the state in spending per student?

A: Salem-Keizer spends $11,916 per student and the state $11,843. The reason is that the district has more students in poverty and special education per capita.

There were comments from the floor from students at different levels, mostly from West Salem High School. The only elementary student to comment said the quality of cafeteria food should be better.

Several West Salem students involved with the school newspaper said proposals to eliminate the paper were dangerous because such activities were needed to keep students interested in school.

Audience comments were followed by more questions from the committee. Marty Heyen asked who decided on offering and cutting electives. Perry said ultimately the principals. Linda Myer, director of academic achievement, said administrative and counseling teams make recommendations to principals.

Jim Green urged working more effectively with Sodexo, the company that supplies cafeteria food, on the quality of lunches. Jesse Lippold agreed.

The committee’s next meeting will be May 20.