Students, alums call out schools for discrimination

A succession of students and recent graduates of the Salem-Keizer School District spoke to the School Board from the audience on Tuesday, Dec. 10 about their experiences with discrimination.

The general agreement among the speakers, nearly all of whom were Latinx, was that teachers and administrators singled them out on misconduct issues. The young speakers claimed that they had been punished out of proportion to the students as a whole.

Jesse Lippold, board vice chairperson presiding in the absence of Chairperson Marty Heyen, responded that even though school officials were working on implementing the district’s equity lens, board members were not in a position to give an immediate reply.

On matters relating to the equity lens, administrators gave a progress report earlier in the meeting on the Student Investment Account Task Force. Lillian Govus, director of communications, spoke on communications with different groups in the district. Kraig Sproles, assistant superintendent, discussed processes for determining priorities. Robert Silva, director of technology and information services, discussed the internet safety policy.

Board member Danielle Bethell noted that students can get around the district’s internet block. Silva said that although technicians are working on the problem, there was no absolute guarantee that students could have no way of getting around it.

In other business, the board approved an amendment to Superintendent Christy Perry’s contract to allow her to use the recently enacted state law on rehiring certain Public Employees Retirement System retired employees within a specified time frame. Should she retire and seek to be rehired, she could decide whether to keep the terms of the original contract.

One board member, Paul Kyllo, voted against the amendment. He said he had no problem with Perry’s performance but considered such a policy wrong in principle by making it possible for PERS retirees who did not have good records to use it.

The board held first reading of a proposed agreement with the city of Salem to let local governments establish a program for property tax exemptions to stimulate construction of multiple-unit housing in certain urban areas to improve the balance between residential and commercial natures of the areas.

Perry reported that the district had just had its first completely clean audit in five years.

Two presentations in the Spotlight on Success portion of the meeting involved the McNary High School attendance area.

Christine Bowlby, principal of Keizer Elementary School, honored Amy Beasley from Lake Point Community Church as Community Partner of the Month. She had managed the donations of food and bottles of water for the school’s open house at the start of the school year.

Julia DeWitt, principal of Whiteaker Middle School, introduced the eighth-graders who are members of the Whiteaker National Junior Honor Society. They had to maintain cumulative grade point averages of 3.5 or better and complete at least 10 community service hours each semester.

The board accepted four grants, the largest $1,367,325 from the Oregon Department of Education for supplemental services to identified migrant students and families. Other ODE grants were $894,030 for supplemental services to English learners and $25,905 for Stride Academy, an online learning tool for migrant students. The remaining grant was $2,735 from the Siletz Tribal Charitable Contribution Fund for Indian Education’s annual Graduation Celebration Ceremony.

Personnel actions approved by the board included the following in the McNary attendance area:

• Louisa Finley, Gubser Elementary School; Larry Keeker, McNary; and Corina Sanchez, Clear Lake Elementary School, temporary full-time status.

• Brad Dixon, Claggett Creek Middle School, temporary part-time.

• Brad Dixon, Claggett Creek, and Larry Keeker, McNary, retirement.