Perry review sparks heated conversation

Christy Perry

The Salem-Keizer school board meeting got heated Monday, March 15 while discussing the annual evaluation of Salem-Keizer Public Schools Superintendent Christy Perry.

The school board has a contractual obligation to evaluate Perry’s performance on an annual basis no later than March 15 — Perry is the lone employee of the board.

The board received information in the form of Executive Limitation reports, graduation rates, dropout rates and other data points regarding school progress — data collection was hindered due to COVID-19 limitations and conditions. The evaluation summary states that Perry’s performance for the 2019-20 school year is consistent with all Executive Limitations and the Results Policy. While the board commended the Superintendent in the summary, the summary also stated that Perry is “has been apprised of concerns and issues.”

The details of Perry’s evaluation are confidential, which is why board members did not discuss specifics during the meeting. However, there were board members that were outspoken in their support of Perry — who was named Superintendent of the Year in the state of Oregon and was one of four finalists for National Superintendent of the Year.

“I think I speak for a lot of our community and our district when I say thank you for the work that you did during the evaluation period, which did really cover some tough times,” board member Sheronne Blasi said. “I just am always so impressed with your focus on the students and their families and your focus on equity … We are so blessed in this community to have you at the helm of this district.”

“Superintendent Perry is the best superintendent I have ever worked for,” board member Kathy Goss added. “Being the best superintendent I have ever had does not mean we always agree, because as you know, sometimes we don’t. But that’s just a perspective difference. That doesn’t change for two seconds what I think of your ability, your drive and your representation for not just our kids, but our entire city. I admire you a great deal.”

Both Blasi and Goss, however, took issues with what was in the evaluation. Blasi told the Keizertimes after the meeting that she voted no on passing the evaluation summary because the evaluation “doesn’t accurately reflect (Perry’s) performance.” Blasi also shared her frustrations with the board not acknowledging Perry’s award recognition over the past year.

“Christy’s awards have never been discussed and have never been acknowledged and I don’t appreciate that from board leadership,” Blasi said.

Director Jesse Lippold Peonne also stated his approval of Perry as a Superintendent but voted against the passing of her evaluation, saying that he plans to request that the board review its evaluation process.

While directors Danielle Bethell, Paul Kyllo and board chair Satya Chandragiri voted to accept the evaluation summary, Goss and Marty Heyen voted against it, meaning that the summary failed.

When it became known that the summary had failed, Blasi said “Good. It fails,” which was followed shortly by an expletive from Blasi. 

When asked if the expletive was directed at Chandragiri — who Blasi has taken issue with in the past — or was said as a side comment, Blasi declined to answer.

Heyen told Blasi that her mic was on, to which Blasi responded “Good. I’m terribly sorry, but good.”

“I don’t think cussing in a meeting is appropriate,” Heyen then told Blasi.

After at first being glad that the board heard her explicit comment, Blasi apologized.

“My sincere apologies. It showed that it was on mute. I just continue to be appalled. I am very, very sorry that you heard that. But I am just appalled with this,” Blasi said.

Blasi told the Keizertimes that she was “mortified” about the incident and also released a statement about the matter.

“I regret the use of an expletive during Monday’s school board meeting. I’m not proud that I let my emotions get the best of me, after witnessing the continued, public and private disrespect of our superintendent by members of our school board. The issue being discussed at this point in the meeting was the Superintendent’s evaluation, that four of us voted no on because it does not convey the Superintendent’s performance in a fair manner. The Salem-Keizer community is blessed to have at the helm, the Oregon Superintendent of the Year, who was also one of four finalists for the National Superintendent of the year. Under her leadership, the district has tackled the issue of inequity for our students of families of color, our LGBTQ students, and our students living in poverty,” the statement read.

After the expletive, Perry addressed the board with obvious frustration.

“It has been the toughest leadership of a lifetime, and it is made tougher when we don’t have a high functioning board,” Perry said.

“I am just so frustrated by this public display on behalf of our kids,” Perry added moments later while getting choked up. Even though it didn’t pass, the summary was received by Perry and met timeline requirements.

The district’s legal counsel will work with the board to go over the next steps regarding the evaluation summary — all employee evaluations are confidential.

“I will be meeting with board leadership to discuss (the) options moving forward. I will choose not to do that in public,” SKPS attorney Paul Dakopolos said. “We will have to discuss the board’s next steps.”

Matt Rawlings: [email protected]