School board appoints new leadership amid controversy

Danielle Bethell will be the Vice Chairperson for the Salem-Keizer School Board (Submitted).

After serving on Salem-Keizer School Board for one year, Danielle Bethell, the Keizer Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, was elected as the Vice Chairperson of the school board for the 2020-21 school in a meeting on Wednesday, July 1.

Bethell will be working alongside Satya Chandragiri, who was elected as the board’s Chairperson during the meeting — both Bethell and Chandragiri were elected to the board in 2019.

Over the last couple weeks, the school board has endured immense criticism from members of the community for how they handled calls to the district to remove Student Resource Officers from schools, and for not being proactive when board member, Paul Kyllo, held up a cardboard mask of Cliff Robinson, a former Portland Trail Blazers player, during a March 30 meeting — there have been numerous calls for Kyllo’s resignation.

Marty Heyen, the former chair, has also been asked to resign by a great number of people after she was accused on social media of having ties to white supremacist organizations. Fellow board member Sheronne Blasi also criticized Heyen two weeks ago for what she called “a repeated failure of leadership.”

After receiving four of the seven votes for Vice Chair, Bethell gave an emotional speech to the board about the state of the school district’s leadership and addressed the need for overall improvement.

“This is an emotional time for everyone in this room. At least I hope it is. Because this is a really important decision for all the children in this community, including my own. So, I apologize in advance for my emotions because I never thought in my life that I would live in a community that is in such disarray,” Bethell said as she was tearing up.

“Difficult times and difficult decisions need thoughtful, reflective leadership. Our community, like I said, is in disarray, students and families are hurting. Fear and anger are present in all of us. Our school board is the ears and voice of our community. It is our responsibility as members to be present and aware of the needs of all our students. The diversity of our district is beyond amazing and we have not honored it since I have been a parent here.”

Bethell additionally stated that over the last few weeks, she has come to realize that there is more work to be done than she first anticipated when she first ran for a seat on the school board, but that she promises that she will serve every student in the district to the best of her ability.

“I have watched, listened and learned more about my own opportunities for growth. Through reflection and processes of conversations with friends old and new I have come to the conclusion (that) the work that needs to be done is much greater than I thought when I wanted to be a voice a year and a half ago for parents, teachers and students and to be an advocate for all of them on this board,” Bethell said. “I am far from a perfect leader. I am passionate and committed; and I strive to always share my authentic self and I work hard. More than any of those descriptions, I am willing. I am willing to be here today. I am choosing to be here to sacrifice things that matter to me as a mother. We need to push together to be better. We owe it to our children. So, I promise to all of you to show up at every opportunity, to listen to you, and to work towards a partnership to make sure that we’re serving each kid on our district.”