Board approves student investment account spending despite protests

An estimated $35 million in Student Investment Account funding, with minor adjustments in funds from the first reading a week earlier, was approved by the Salem-Keizer School Board on Tuesday. Feb. 25.

The vote followed a series of protests by audience members that the funding would be used to add support staff where more teachers were needed in order to reduce problems of unfair treatment of students by reducing class sizes.

As approved by the board, the plan calls for adding 84 licensed teachers in classrooms and 98 licensed and classified staff supporting students.

All board members, except Paul Kyllo, voted for the staff-recommended plan.

Those who spoke from the audience urged that more of the added personnel be teachers, and Kyllo agreed with them.

Superintendent Christy Perry had reminded the board of the April 15 deadline to submit the application for state funding and had recommended action at the Tuesday meeting.

Director Satya Chandragiri said the board had its first such opportunity and needed to approve it at once.

“I would like to look at this next year,” he said. “We have to start somewhere.”

Jesse Lippold, board vice chairperson, argued that the board was going to receive a limited amount of money to solve big problems.

Director Danielle Bethell said, “Next year, we’ll do this again with more money available than there is now.”

Breaking down the Student Investment Account, 35 percent will go for instruction and content supports for teachers, 28 percent for building-based licensed staff (teachers, counselors, and special education instructors), 13 percent for direct service to students, 12 percent for direct service to families, 9 percent for curriculum materials, 3 percent for administrative support at the district level and 1 percent for administrative support for buildings.

In other business, the board held the first reading of a transportation infrastructure proposal. Mike Wolfe, Chief Operating Officer of the district, recommended that the board authorize general obligation bonds up to $65 million to build a new transportation facility and replace 195 small and large buses. He said that the recession had forced the district to severely reduce vehicle replacement from 2009 to 2014.

Wolfe said 70 percent of the costs of the vehicle would be spread out over 10 years and 70 percent of all interest expenses related to purchased vehicles would be reimbursed annually.

The new facility, he said, would be a 33,000-square-foot area on Gaffin Road and hold the large buses, with the small ones on the current Hawthorne Avenue lot.