Salem mom who is small business owner to run for Salem-Keizer School Board

UPDATE: Information about Casity Troutt’s role in a recall effort last year has been added.

A small business owner and mother of five kids, two attending Salem schools, is the second candidate to announce a run for school board director in 2023.

Casity Troutt is running for a seat representing Zone 2 in east Salem, currently occupied by Marty Heyen.

“I knew it was going to take a lot of time and commitment and ultimately decided that if we’re going to make our kids’ futures better, we’ve got to put in the work, too,” Troutt said. “I spoke to some people and realized I had a lot of support behind me, accepted that and decided to go with it.”

Troutt serves on the McKay Booster Club Board and participates in the Jane Goodall Environmental Middle School Parent Club.

Troutt describes herself as an active mom who is also invested in what the school board does, fighting to make sure parents’ voices are heard.

“I’m here to help fix our schools. I know what needs to happen,” she said. “I just need the community’s support.”

Last year, Troutt was a chief petitioner for a move recall board Chair Ashley Carson Cottingham, former Chair Osvaldo Avila, and Second Vice Chair Karina Guzmán Ortiz, alleging they have been dismissive of parents with differing political views and failed to prioritize the education of students. Troutt specifically cited the three board members’ vote to  ban people with concealed carry permits from carrying firearms on school grounds, support for retaining challenged books about gender and sexuality in school libraries and their handling of public comment during school board meetings.

Troutt and organizers fell short by about 2,000 signatures to get a recall on the ballot.

Troutt is a native of Bakersfield, California and attended California College of Vocational Careers to be a certified medical assistant.

Troutt lived in Bakersfield with her family before they moved to northeast Salem in 2016. Troutt’s husband, a former Navy officer, is from the region. 

“We bought a house a couple blocks from his parents’ and his childhood home,” Troutt said.

Together, the couple owns Sherwood-based Elite Fleet Services, a mobile diesel repair business. 

“That keeps us pretty busy,” Troutt said. 

On her campaign website, she noted how being a mom gives her a firsthand look at “how our schools are failing,” citing low literacy rates and the district’s overall ranking among other school districts nationwide. 

“But I haven’t given up hope!,” Troutt wrote in the biographical section of her website. 

The site lists Troutt’s four biggest campaign issues: returning to safer schools, reinstating academic rigor, restoring trust with parents as well as what she calls “reaching for more of what works.”

She explained in an interview that “reaching for what works” means expanding career technical education, “reinstating rigor” means emphasizing math, science, reading and writing after the harmful impacts the pandemic had on classroom learning, “restoring trust” means making sure district officials are transparent with parents about their child’s school progress, and “returning (to) safety” means bringing back school resource officers, who were reassigned after the district did not renew its contract.

Troutt said school safety needs to be addressed the soonest.

“Our campuses are not safe,” Troutt said. “It scares me everyday.”

No matter the priorities of the issues she believes are important, Troutt contends the school board is “failing” in addressing them.

Troutt said she could bring a “difference of opinion” to the board while also being collaborative with other members.

“I think that I can really help advocate for our students and help make them successful and bring our district back,” Troutt said. 

She plans to campaign for the school board seat, but does not have a firm itinerary at the moment

“I’m very involved with my kids through various sports and school activities, so I am kind of all over the place all of the time,” Troutt said. “I don’t have anything on the calendar, but I am definitely going to try to go to community meetings.”

She named neighborhood councils as one constituent group she would visit. 

“We’re just getting all those dates down and coordinating schedules,” Troutt said. 

Zones 2, 4 and 6 are up for election May 16. The winners will be seated July 1.

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.

Satya Chandragiri, who is school board director for Zone 4, announced his candidacy for re-election earlier this year. 

The Salem Reporter could not reach Heyen or Robert Salazar, who represents Zone 6, for comment Tuesday. Heyen won her seat in 2015 and 2019. Salazar was one of 10 applicants who sought the position after former school board director Danielle Bethell resigned her seat in October. Salazar’s term expires June 30.

CORRECTION: Casity Troutt has two children enrolled in the Salem-Keizer School District. An earlier version misstated that all five of her children attend school in the district. Salem Reporter apologizes for the error.

STORY TIP OR IDEA? Contact Reporter Kevin Opsahl by email at [email protected]

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Kevin Opsahl is the education reporter for Salem Reporter. He was previously the education reporter for The Mail Tribune, based in Medford. He has reported for newspapers in Utah and Washington and freelanced. Kevin is a 2010 graduate of Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington, and is a native of Maryland.