Candidates lining up to make run for Salem-Keizer School Board as deadline nears

Voters will have choices in all three races for the Salem-Keizer School Board and more candidates could join in before next week’s filing deadline.

So far, only one incumbent is bidding for re-election.

And so far, only a single candidate has filed for the four seats open on the Chemeketa Community College Board. Three are incumbents who face no challenger as of Wednesday.

The board positions are all volunteer and nonpartisan. The directors on these two boards have the final say on their organization’s budget, address school policies, and work through the chief executive.

The deadline to file for the office is Thursday, March 16. Election Day is May 16. Winners take office July 1.

The one incumbent seeking another term on the Salem-Keizer School Board is Satya Chandragiri, a self-employed psychiatrist who has been on the board since 2019. He holds the Zone 4 seat in south Salem.

On his campaign website, he takes credit for reforms to make the school district more open.

“Despite extreme pushback, I’ve persisted on breaking the code of silence by insisting on transparency and accountability, demanding access to data and obtaining a real time data dashboard for the board directors,” he wrote.

Contesting his re-election is Kelley Strawn, associate provost for institutional research at Willamette University and a sociology professor. He has been at Willamette since 2005 and lists no prior government experience.

In Keizer, two have filed for the Zone 6 seat. It is now held by Robert Salazar, who was appointed to fill out the remaining term when Danielle Bethell, also a Marion County commissioner, resigned last year. Salazar has not made public his intentions.

Seeking his seat is Krissy Hudson, who lists herself as a customer service representative for the Oregon Department of Justice.

She said in her filing with the Marion County Clerk’s Office that she has no prior governmental service but she “volunteered at Salem-Keizer elementary schools for eight years where I also lead groups of students in instruction in a kindergarten classroom three days per week.”

Legislative records showed she testified against legislation that would require school districts to have students participate in surveys regarding health and well-being, House Bill 2656.

Hudson said that the bill is part of “an aggressive attempt to groom children” and “provides yet another example of the overextension of the rights of our children’s innocence and futures.”

She faces Anthony Rosilez of Keizer, who has served as executive director of the state Teacher Standards and Practices Commission since 2018.

He previously served as vice president at Klamath Community College in Klamath Falls, an assistant professor at California State University-San Marcos and was superintendent of the Romoland School District, south of Riverside, California.

Last year, he ran for the Democratic nomination for the state Senate district that includes Keizer. Campaign finance records show he self-financed the run by loaning his campaign committee $11,000 and donating another $2,100. He entered this year with $4,628 in cash on hand but the loans remain outstanding.

In the seat in Zone 2 representing east Salem, incumbent Marty Heyen has decided against re-election and two candidates so far have filed to replace her.

One is Casity Troutt, who is a partner in Sherwood-based Elite Fleet Services, a mobile diesel repair business.

Last year, Troutt was a chief petitioner seeking a vote to recall Chair Ashley Carson Cottingham  and directors Osvaldo Avila Karina Guzmán Ortiz. Her petitions referenced their votes to ban people with concealed carry permits from carrying firearms on school grounds, board members’ support for retaining challenged books about gender and sexuality in school libraries and their handling of public comment during school board meetings.

Troutt said they were dismissive of parents with differing political views and failed to prioritize the education of students.

The petition drive fell 2,000 signatures short of putting the recall before voters.

A school district executive has filed for that seat as well.Cynthia Richardson is the director for student equity access and advancement.

She lists 22 years of experience as a school administrator in Texas, Nebraska and Oregon. She was the first Black principal of a high school in the Salem-Keizer School District, leading McKay High School from 2003 to 2010. She then was principal at North Salem High School.

In the Chemeketa Community College filings:

•Iton Udosenata, an assistant superintendent in the Salem-Keizer School District, has filed for the Zone 1 seat representing south Salem. Incumbent Ed Dodson had not filed for re-election as of Wednesday, March 8.

•Incumbent Diane Watson, a retired community college dean, has filed for re-election for the Zone 6 seat representing Keizer and north Marion County. She has served on the board since 2012.

•Incumbent Neva Hutchison, a small business owner and former events manager at the Oregon State Fair, has filed for re-election for the Zone 3 representing central Salem. She has been on the board since 2016.

•Incumbent Betsy Earls, public affairs manager in Oregon for Weyerhaueser, has filed for re-election for the Zone 7 representing Polk County. She has been on the board since 2012.

No challenger has filed against any of the incumbents as of Wednesday, March 8.

Contact Editor Les Zaitz by email: [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.