Sprague parent and electrician David Salinas seeks school board seat to focus on career education, mentorship

David Salinas (Courtesy photo)

David Salinas grew up in a farm-working family in Jefferson and dropped out of high school before getting his GED and becoming an electrician.

Now a parent of four Salem-Keizer students, Salinas is running for the school district’s board with a focus on supporting career and technical education and expanding mentorship programs in the district.

“Mentors are an important part of growing up. You don’t always have the right input for the decisions you make,” he said.

Salinas would represent zone four, the portion of south Salem which includes Sprague High School. He has three sons at the school and a younger daughter at Crossler Middle School.

His opponent is Satya Chandragiri, a psychiatrist and parent who unsuccessfully ran for state representative as a Republican last year.

Director Jim Green, who represents zone four, has said he won’t seek re-election after two terms on the board.

Salinas became interested in the job after serving on the district’s boundary review task force starting last fall. The volunteer group worked with district staff to finalize a plan to change school boundaries.

Salinas said during those meetings, he found he often had a different perspective than other task force members. Some were interested in using the process as a way to “get diversity into Sprague at all costs,” he said, even if that meant bussing low-income Latino families across Salem against their wishes.

Though he’s part of the Sprague community and values diversity, Salinas said he didn’t feel it was fair to those students and families to put them at further disadvantage by putting the burden of making south Salem’s schools more diverse on them.

“It seemed like it would impact the students more than anything,” he said.

Salinas works as a project manager at Cherry City Electric, a job he worked his way up to after an apprenticeship through the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in 2008.

He attended some classes at Chemeketa Community College and completed his GED there, but never earned a college degree. He began farm work at 14, a choice he said reflected growing up in a poor, blue-collar family.

“Work was more of a priority for us than any education,” he said.

Salinas has been involved in his children’s education, but believes that experience, as well as his current work in the skilled trades, give him a perspective that would be valuable on the board.

At Sprague, he’s helped interview basketball coaches and volunteer at events. He said he talks regularly with Principal Craig Swanson and sees his board campaign as a way to continue serving.

“I just think it’s a great way to give back to the community,” he said.

As a project manager, he oversees cost estimates and budgets for complicated projects. He knows the learning curve for new board members is steep, but said he’s a quick learner.

“I will do my due diligence and research,” he said.

If elected, Salinas would be the first Latino to serve on the Salem-Keizer School Board. He said it’s something he considered before throwing his hat in the ring.

“In general, it’s important to students and the community to see there’s people that look like them representing them so they have something to look up to,” he said.

The election is May 21.

Reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.