AGENDA: School board will hear updates on fall reopening, discuss standing committee on school climate

School board member Satya Chandragiri listens as Rita Glass, president of Salem-Keizer’s classified employees union, and Carlos Ruiz, an assistant principal at North Salem High School, share their experiences as Latino educators at a Dec. 17, 2019 work session on equity (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Salem-Keizer’s school board will hear the latest on the district’s plans to reopen schools in the fall during a Tuesday evening meeting and has pledged to hear public comment for one hour after recent meetings have included hundreds of submitted remarks.

Newly elected board Chair Satya Chandragiri is also asking Superintendent Christy Perry to complete a review of the district’s school resource officer program and present recommendations for any changes to the board by August 31.

In a July 8 email to Perry, Chandragiri said he would recuse himself from the meetings Perry and district administrators are holding with community groups like Latinos Unidos Siempre and the Salem-Keizer NAACP, who have called for an end to police in schools.

In an interview Monday, he said he wanted the board to consider a fully-formed set of recommendations and respect the wishes of some groups that have indicated they would only speak with Director Sheronne Blasi as a board representative.

Chandragiri said Blasi would work with Perry on the process.

“This will allow the stake holder in the community to feel safe to share their experiences and suggestions,” Chandragiri wrote.

Chandragiri in an interview reiterated his hope that everyone in Salem-Keizer felt they could honestly share their opinions with Perry and board members during the process. He said that so far, he’s felt that only those asking to remove police from schools have been heard in the boardroom and hopes district recommendations would include a variety of voices.

“It is important our community understand all the pros and cons,” he said.

The board would still vote on any changes, he said.

At the Tuesday meeting, board members will consider, but not yet vote on, creating standing committees to advise the district and board on issues related to “school climate and academic outcomes” with a goal of dismantling structural racism in schools.

Chandragiri said he put the idea forward based on conversations with other board members, district leaders and community groups that have long pushed for a more formal role in evaluating schools’ performance and suggesting changes.

The committees would meet regularly with Perry or other district administrators to review data and suggest improvements, reporting their findings quarterly to the school board.

“Parents are asking to sit and understand the process and help and take ownership of the system. To me this is the best way in which we can start,” Chandragiri said.

The board will meet virtually at 5 p.m. for an update on school reopening, then take a brief break before a 6:30 p.m. business meeting.

The agenda includes no action items aside from the monthly approval of new district grants and personnel actions. But recent meetings have drawn hundreds of public comments, most calling on several board members to resign or listen to students expressing concern about racism and policing in schools.

The meeting will be broadcast live on CCTV and on YouTube.

People can submit written or video comments or sign up to call into the board meeting using this form, or email written comments to [email protected]. Comments must be submitted by 4:15 p.m. Tuesday.

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