Tensions high once again Salem-Keizer board meeting

Audience accusations of white supremacy positions and arguments over masking continued at Tuesday’s meeting of the Salem-Keizer School Board.

Twenty-three people spoke remotely, a few calling for the resignations of board members Marty Heyen and Danielle Bethell. Heyen replied that the allegations of racism resulted from her husband’s business associations with people whose views he did not hold.

Board member Karina Guzman Ortiz commented that reverse racism does not exist. Heyen disagreed, defining racism as presupposing something because of race. Bethell was absent.

Some callers complained that there were teachers who did not wear masks correctly. Grace Caldwell, student adviser to the board, said she had found consistent wearing of masks throughout McKay High School. Superintendent Christy Perry said she had seen masks everywhere except for a few students whose families did not allow them.

“We find spots for them,” she said of the students not allowed to wear masks.

Board member Satya Chandragiri urged people to get the third COVID-19 vaccination booster, and compared them to slices of Swiss cheese, with three slices covering a greater area than two.

On other matters, Perry noted that nearly 41,000 students were enrolled for the 2021-21 school year. She praised the work of contractors who had just completed a media center and new gymnasium at McKay and the new auditorium and commons at South Salem High School. She said the administration wanted to have full crowds at athletic events.

In other business, the board approved proclamations of Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 as Hispanic Heritage Month and Sept. 15-22 as Safe and Welcoming Schools Week.

Grants accepted by the board included $5,699,868 from the Oregon Department of Education as a continuation grant for the district’s Head Start kindergarten program. It will allow the district to serve 898 students in 15 Head Start classrooms.

Other grants from ODE are $1,324,125 for the Preschool Promise Early Childhood Program, enabling the district to serve an additional 107 pre-kindergarten students; $105,000 for Head Start/pre-kindergarten summer programming; and $80,000 for early childhood summer programs.

Still more grants are $354,920 from the Marion & Polk Early Learning Hub, Inc., to increase children’s readiness for kindergarten; $175,000 as a collaboration program between Mountain West Investment Corp. and the district to help increase student achievement and outcomes; and $168,927 from the US Department of Education for support services for American Indian and Alaskan Native students.

Personnel actions approved by the board include the following in the McNary High School attendance area:

Temporary part-time: Ann Andrews, Whiteaker Middle School; Angel Carter, Gubser Elementary School; Josie Macklin, McNary.

Temporary full-time: Dezarey Deerwester, Whiteaker; Emily Frazier, Claggett Creek Middle School; Kelsie Leverett, Clear Lake Elementary School; James Litchfield, McNary; Sarah Phillips, Gubser; Kezra Presleigh, Forest Ridge and Kennedy elementary schools; Joshua Riddell, Claggett Creek; Linda Rogers, Weddle Elementary School; Angela Sommer, Gubser; Andrea Stroup, Keizer Elementary School.

First-year probation part-time: Sherrin Landis, Whiteaker; Pippa Randolph, Gubser.

First-year probation full-time: Emilie Andersson, Cummings Elementary School; Kira Bowers, Claggett Creek; Ashley Brand, Gubser; Audrey Creager, Weddle; Marisa Eaton, Claggett Creek; Said Gonzalez-Ruano, McNary; Toni Harvey, Claggett Creek; Marissa Hawk, Forest Ridge; Matthew Hirshblond, Claggett Creek; Ma Gabriela Paniaga Garcia, Weddle; Silvia Rodriguez-Alvarez, Claggett Creek; Jennifer South, Gubser; Robert Spurling, McNary.

Second-year probation full-time: Desiree Fink, Gubser.

Third-year probation full-time: Laura Wagstaff, Claggett Creek.

Contract part-time: Matt Kuerbis, McNary.

Resignations: Nichole Fox, Weddle; Beth Gibbins, Gubser; Tonya Hodson, Kennedy; Sara Koenig, Forest Ridge; Karen Van Vlack, Keizer.

Retirement: Rick Ward, McNary.

Status change from contract full-time to contract part-time: Sandra Krause, Claggett Creek, choir.

Heyen expressed concern with the large numbers of resignations in recent months. Perry called it “super hard to be an educator right now” and suggested that the school system have a program on hiring.

The board elected directors Maria Hinojos Pressey and Ashley Carson Cottingham to the legislative policy committee of the Oregon School Boards Association.