Bethell resigns from Salem-Keizer School Board

Danielle Bethell has resigned from the Salem-Keizer School Board a little over three years after taking office.

School board Chair Ashley Carson Cottingham announced Bethell’s resignation at the start of Tuesday’s school board meeting, saying Bethell had informed board leadership of her decision Monday night.

“Effective immediately I resign as Director for Zone 6 of the Salem Keizer School Board,” Bethell’s email read. It did not elaborate further on her decision. School district spokesman Aaron Harada provided the email in response to a request from Salem Reporter.

Bethell did not respond to a call and text from Salem Reporter Tuesday night about the reasons for her resignation.

She was elected to the school board in 2019 and represents the Keizer area, zone 6. She also serves as chair of the Marion County Board of Commissioners, and was elected commissioner in 2020.

She’s part of a more conservative slate of school board directors who have been in the minority on the board since the 2021 election and has at times clashed with board leadership publicly during meetings over the past year. Bethell objected to Superintendent Christy Perry’s decision in the spring of 2021 to remove police officers from local schools following pressure by activist groups.

Last November, Bethell posted on her personal Facebook page saying she was considering withdrawing her two children from the school district. She told Keizertimes at the time that she was frustrated by what she saw as an excessive focus on identity in local schools, and discussions about race, seuxliaty and gender. 

She also told Keizertimes she’d been frustrated by an inability to make the changes she’d hoped to when she ran for the board.

“I literally have no power as a school board member,” Bethell told the newspaper. “The only authority that we have as a school board is to hire and fire the superintendent and pass a budget.”

Under state law, the rest of the school board will appoint a new director to serve the remainder of Bethell’s term. That director would need to live in zone 6, which covers Keizer, and have lived there for at least a year to be eligible. Applicants must also be registered voters and not be employed by the school district. 

Carson Cottingham said the district will develop an application for the board seat.

Applications will open Oct. 14 and close Oct. 31.

The board would interview candidates and take public comment at its Nov. 8 meeting, and post applications for all qualified candidates ahead of the meeting. The board may hold a special meeting Nov. 15 to finalize the decision, she said.

The seat will next be up for election in May 2023, along with the seats for zone 2, northeast Salem, currently held by Marty Heyen, and zone 4, southwest Salem, currently held by Satya Chandragiri.