Heyen decides against seeking 3rd school board term, citing intense criticism

Marty Heyen will not seek a third term on the Salem-Keizer School Board, saying she is tired of “all the abuse and lies told about me.”

Heyen, who represents zone 2 that covers northeast Salem, was elected in 2015 and again in 2019.

“Even if the lies and harassment did not exist, I probably would not run again,” Heyen said. “I’m 66; there are other things I would like to do.”

She did not want to elaborate too much on her plans, except to say that she will stay in Oregon for now.

If she had filed as a candidate for the May 16 race, Heyen would have run against Casity Troutt, a district parent who previously petitioned to have some board members removed from office.

Heyen said she considered not running for a second term in 2019, but she was encouraged to run by supporters.

Heyen’s current term began with a unanimous vote by the school board to make her chair. But the following summer, she vowed not to serve in that position again.

“With constant attacks I didn’t think I could be effective,” Heyen said.

Those attacks include accusations that Heyen had been associating with members of a conservative militia organization known as Three Percenters. She has denied being part of any extremist groups.

Heyen was also accused of failing to step in when then-board member Paul Kyllo concealed himself with a placard of a Black man during a March 2020 board meeting.

However, during the meeting – one of the first held virtually – Heyen explicitly requests then-board member Paul Kyllo to reveal himself.

“You know, Paul, if you want to ask a question, you can remove your mask,” Heyen said. “I shouldn’t keep calling you because you keep hiding your face.”

Kyllo then removed the placard, showing himself with a face covering, during a roll call vote. Board members, including Heyen, burst out in laughter. 

Months later, during a June 30, 2020, board meeting, Heyen opened proceedings with a prepared statement addressing the controversies.

“Each of us are experiencing pain in one way or another,” she said, referring to the other board members. “My pain is reactionary to the attacks toward me that feel unjust and unfounded. I have stepped up and chosen to be present to work toward building and offering all of our youth a well-rounded education.” 

She also said during her remarks she had been “lumped into extremist groups due to not saying the right thing, reacting in the right way” or being silent. 

With regards to the Kyllo placard matter, Heyen cited board policy which states board members should “never embarrass each other” and “criticize privately, praise publicly.”

“I am far from perfect but I am here, I am serving and I am willing to listen, to learn and to grow,” Heyen said. “There is no rule book on how the perfect leader is to be. There are, however, ideas and suggestions – all of which may or may not speak to success in today’s climate.”

During the same meeting, Superintendent Christy Perry publicly criticized the board – her bosses – for a number of issues, including her belief members had failed to take their commitment to equity seriously.

“If I can’t do this and speak truth to power, how can I expect it of everyone else in our organization?” Perry said. “You’ve centered every conversation around how we will get the voices in the room who share your perspective. So on behalf of our students of color and our educators of color who experience racism everyday in our classrooms – along with their white, anti-racist allies – I actually need you, as a board, to commit to moving forward with anti-racism as your guiding principle.”

At the same meeting, Sandra Hernández-Lomelí, director of Latinos Unidos Siempre, accused Heyen of having ties to “white supremacists groups” and being “openly opposed to having racial equity in the school district.”

“We now know the reasons that we have been ignored,” Hernández said. “Our school board is made up of white supremacists and people who are silent when they see racism occur.”

While not naming groups or people who criticize her, Heyen in her recent interview with Salem Reporter contested the white supremacist label, saying it is not true because she has children and grandchildren who are of color.

“It’s just very upsetting to have somebody say something about you, that is so totally not you, so totally a lie,” Heyen said, “and then people just believe it because somebody said it.”

Whatever the criticisms, she said, “I refuse to be bullied by people who lie about me.”

Heyen said she would be open to constructive criticism if it had to do with her votes as a board member and not her personal political views. Board positions and elections are nonpartisan. 

“If they want to have a civil and respectful conversation, I’m happy to do that,” she said. “But if somebody is just going to go on the attack, then that’s just bullying. I’m not going to listen.”

Looking back at her years on the board, one of the initiatives Heyen is most proud of supporting is Career Technical Education Center, a Salem institution which allows students to work with technical industry professionals to “build a competitive advantage” after high school, according to the CTEC website. 

“It’s something I got to vote for in my first term,” Heyen said. “I continued to support that for the last four years.”

Heyen enjoys speaking to parents who do not feel like the board or district listens to them.

“I take the time to talk to them on the phone or, if they would prefer, in person,” Heyen said. “I can’t always do anything about their issue. But I am a compassionate and caring person who at least wants to let them know they’re heard, that somebody cares.”

Heyen is the latest sitting school board member to make her intentions clear about the May 16 election.

Casity Troutt recently announced she is running for Heyen’s seat.

Dr. Satya Chandragiri, who represents Zone 4, announced his intentions to run for re-election this past Martin Luther King, Jr. day.

Zone 6, the Keizer district represented by Robert Salazar, is up for election this year. Salazar, a longtime educator who stepped in last year to fill a board vacancy, said he is undecided on a candidacy.  

“I’m weighing my options at this time,” Salazar said. “A lot of this process is new to me.”


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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.