SKEA packs the board room in protest to mediation

Because of the filing for mediation from the Salem-Keizer Public School district, the Education union protested outside the district board room on Tuesday, Oct. 10. 

At the “Pack the Board Room” event by the Salem-Keizer Education Association (SKEA), members rallied outside of the board room on Commercial Street to show the Salem-Keizer Public Schools (SKPS) that they would not be silent. After rallying, as many members as possible went inside the room for a public-described “heavy” SKPS school board meeting. 

SKPS Superintendent Andrea Castañeda addressed her reason behind filing for mediation from the contract bargaining sessions between SKPS and SKEA. That reason is the amount of time it will take to work out the budget, especially with having to reduce next year’s budget by an absolute minimum of $38 million. As a candidate for her position Castañeda knew a difficult year was coming. Since having the job the district’s budget has been a daily priority. 

“The longer I’m in it, and the more that I see it, the more that I reluctantly but confidently can tell everyone that we have a very difficult school year 24–25 coming,” she said. 

During public comments, numerous concerns were expressed regarding various events that took place over the past weeks for SKPS, including a former district teacher, budget cuts, teacher needs and safety concerns, student safety concerns with weapons and school shooting threats, advocates for teacher’s wages, and academic focuses. 

SKEA Vice President Maraline Ellis spoke sharing words from a colleague on the experiences and feelings of being a teacher currently. 

“I am one of many who are so completely and utterly unable to understand why the powers that be are, even for one moment, unwilling to extend us the financial means by which we can just simply stay afloat,” she said. 

Ellis says that the bargain for the SKEA members is about more than financial issues. SKEA has included proposals they believe would make teachers and educators better resulting in student success. 

“I challenge all of you to look at those proposals and think about it as more than a matter of money,” she said. 

President of SKEA Tyler Scialo- Lakeberg also spoke on behalf of school licensed members. 

“Last June, the district had Mr. Silva present a document to SKEA showing projected gaps in revenue and expenses for the 2023–24 and 2024–25 school years as being $60 million and $69 million, respectively. The very next day the school board adopted this budget,” Scialo-Lakeberg said. “Now the superintendent is stating and sharing projections with the board and making it clear that if SKEA and Ask ESP is offered a cost of living that is comparable to what our administrators and Cabinet members have received, then they will be responsible for this large gap.” Scialo-Lakeberg says that if SKEA cannot sell this bargain for the cost of living, then the district will not only have a budgetary gap but a mass exodus of district staff, leaving classrooms without licensed and qualified educators.