COMMUNITY, SCHOOLS

First candidate announces for Salem-Keizer School Board races coming in May

The opening bell of the 2023 election for Salem-Keizer School Board came this week as Dr. Satya Chandragiri announced he’ll seek a second term.

Chandragiri, a psychiatrist who represents a portion of south Salem, used Martin Luther King Jr. Day to declare his bid.

He was elected in 2019 and has in his first term served as chair of the board.

“Salem Keizer students and parents are coping with three years of lost learning and social unrest,” Chandragiri said in his statement. “Now students are dealing with serious safety concerns with the removal of law enforcement officers from school campuses and complete breakdown of our safety and threat assessment protocols and policies. I believe the Salem-Keizer School Board needs to put aside divisive issues, outside agendas, and instead focus on keeping our kids safe and returning rigorous academic standards.”

Chandragiri is the first candidate to announce for the three seats that will be decided in the May election. He represents zone 4.

The seat representing the Keizer area – zone 6 – is also up. Robert Salazar was appointed in November to finish Danielle Bethel’s term after she resigned in October.

Voters also will decide on the seat representing parts of east Salem, which is zone 2. That seat is held by Marty Heyen, a retired state IT worker who won a school board seat in 2015 and was elected to a second term in 2019.

Incumbent directors whose terms are not yet up include the current chair, Ashley Carson Cottingham, Osvaldo Avila, Karen Guzman Ortiz and Maria Hinojos Pressey.

The new term for the three open seats starts July 1.

By then, the board is expected to have hired a new superintendent to replace the retiring Christy Perry, who leaves at the end of the current school year. The board expects to hire her replacement in February to take over in July.

And by July, the Oregon Legislature will have finished its state budget work, including setting the amount of school funding.

The first day to formally file at the Marion County Clerk’s Office to run for one of the school board seats is Saturday, Feb. 4. The deadline to make it on the ballot is Thursday, March 16.

The election will be Tuesday, May 16.

In his announcement, Chandragiri said among his goals in a second term would be “ensuring authentic family engagement by the entire school board, parents, and students” and changing school board policies “to ensure full accountability and transparency to the community and to ensure the district is responsive to the whole board, not just its leadership to ensure no students or families have been harmed or left behind.”

Contact Editor Les Zaitz: [email protected]

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Les Zaitz is editor and CEO of Salem Reporter. He co-founded the news organization in 2018. He has been a journalist in Oregon for nearly 50 years in both daily and community newspapers and digital news services. He is nationally recognized for his commitment to local journalism. He also is editor and publisher of the Malheur Enterprise in Vale, Oregon.