AGENDA: Salem-Keizer board to appoint student representative, discuss plan to zone board elections

Seven high school students are vying for a voice on the Salem-Keizer School Board.

Board members will appoint one applicant to serve as the board’s first student advisor at a Tuesday evening meeting, a position intended to make the board more responsive to student concerns. The student will serve through June 2021.

Applicants must have previously served on the district’s student equity committee or advisory committee.

Board members will hear updates on the district’s plans for returning to in-person school. Salem-Keizer has not yet set a timeline for returning students to regular classrooms after Gov. Kate Brown announced in late December that local districts could make their own decisions. Some of the planning hinges on a revised set of guidelines from the Oregon Department of Education that’s expected to be released next week.

Board members will discuss, but hold off on voting, on renewing the charter for Optimum Learning Environment charter school. The board will vote on a charter renewal for Valley Inquiry Charter School.

They will also discuss a plan proposed by Director Jesse Lippold to have board members elected by the zone they represent rather than by the entire school district, as they are currently.

Currently, board directors must live in the zone they represent. But they are elected by voters across the school district, an area the size of several state legislative districts. Lippold’s proposal cites the rising cost of a board race. The most recent election in 2019 saw an average campaign cost of $25,000 as six candidates competed for three seats. School board directors are unpaid volunteers.

Lippold’s proposal also raises the issue of representation, noting that people of color in Salem are concentrated in several districts and may be reluctant to run for office knowing elections span the entire district.

The board will not vote on the proposal at this meeting.

Board details: Live-streamed at 6 p.m. Jan. 12 on Capital Community Media channel 21, and on YouTube at the links below. The agenda is available here and public comments can be submitted until 4:15 p.m. here.

English: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8GXryMlSXw

Spanish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiXfTgsUC9s

Board members: Satya Chandragiri, Danielle Bethell, Jesse Lippold, Marty Heyen, Kathy Goss, Sheronne Blasi and Paul Kyllo.

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

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.