Updated story, Wednesday, Sept. 13:
Members of the Salem-Keizer School Board on Tuesday unanimously approved a new results policy outlining the measures the board will use to evaluate superintendent performance, and approved a renewed resolution committing the board to antiracism in a split vote.
The goals set include improving the share of students who read at grade level by third grade to 34% for the 2027-28 school year, up from the current 26.3%. Other goals target regular attendance, graduation rates and students’ self-reported sense of belonging in school.
Superintendent Andrea Castañeda said the goals were ambitious, and that if the district is able to hit its targets, it would be a model for others in the U.S.
“They are broad and they are bold,” she said.
Board members unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding to establish a youth day treatment center to provide mental health care to students.
The board voted in a 5-2 split to approve a policy renewed annually expressing the board’s commitment to antiracism. The resolution says that “we collectively acknowledge that racism is real and is a threat to students’ and employees’ physical and psychological well-being; and the systems of structural racism have historically oppressed Black and African American, Latino/a/x, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American and Indigenous students.”
Board Chair Karina Guzmán Ortiz, Vice Chairs Osvaldo Avila and Ashley Carson Cottingham and Directors Cynthia Richardson and Maria Honojos Pressey voted for the resolution, while Directors Satya Chandragiri and Krissy Hudson voted no.
Chandragiri said that while he opposes racism and white supremacy, the board needs to focus on unity and not trying to divide people based on “immutable characteristics.”
“We can’t continue this divisiveness and segregation,” he said. “Children cannot be held responsible for historic trauma.”
Carson Cottingham said she was disappointed by the controversy and said the resolution has been used as a place for board members to grandstand on unrelated issues.
“There’s no way we can police how people use terms in our community but we can hold ourselves accountable,” she said. “If we can’t agree as a board to a definition of what white supremacy is and be in support of fighting it together, locking arms, I think that’s a very sad statement to this community.”
The board also nominated Carson Cottingham as a candidate for the Oregon School Boards Association’s board, position 11, and Maria Hinojos Pressey and Osvaldo Avila as candidates for the legislative policy committee.
Original story below:
The Salem-Keizer School Board meets Tuesday to consider establishing a center providing intensive mental health care for children, and a policy outlining academic achievement goals for the district.
The meeting starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 12.
The board will meet virtually because construction is not yet completed at the Student Services Support Center, where school board meetings are typically held. Members of the public may watch the meeting online or give public comment. Public comment sign-ups close at 3 p.m. the Monday before the meeting.
The meeting will be streamed on CC:Media, channel 21, and on YouTube at the links below.
Board members will consider approving a memorandum of understanding with MWIC-Epping, LLC for the purchase of a former school building north of Salem to house a mental health treatment program.
The day treatment center would give students age 5 to 17 intensive mental health treatment. Students would attend the center during the day rather than attending school, with stays intended to be short and focused on helping students develop skills to be successful in regular school.
Mental health treatment will be provided through a contract with Portland-based Trillium Family Services, while the Salem-Keizer School District provides classes on-site.
The goal is to address the severe shortage of mental health care options locally for students, and provide a place for kids who need more intensive mental health care to receive help without losing access to education.
The private company, which is made up of Tokarski Family, LLC, and the Larry & Jeannette Epping Family foundation, would buy the property for $2.5 million and lease it to the school district for five years. At that point, the district could extend the lease or purchase the property.
The center will be located at 10327 River Rd. N.E. in Salem, a former school property within the Gervais School District.
Academic achievement policy
Board directors will consider adopting an academic achievement policy setting six measures the board will use to evaluate the district superintendent on performance.
The measures are:
- Third graders reading at grade level in English
- Percentage of district students attending school regularly
- Percentage of ninth-graders on track to graduate high school
- Four-year high school graduation rate
- Sense of belonging for grades 3-5 (measured by student survey)
- Sense of belonging for grades 6-12 (measured by student survey)
The policy sets expected targets for improving each goal over the next five years. Baseline numbers for each goal and annual targets are listed below.
School board association representation
The board will consider nominations for the Oregon School Boards Association’s board of directors and legislative policy committee.
Two spots are open on the board, and two more on the policy committee. Any Salem-Keizer board director may nominate another Salem-Keizer board member for a position. A majority of the school board must confirm the nominee. If confirmed, the nominee is forwarded to OSBA, and member school districts vote on all candidates at a later date.
Commitment to equity and antiracism
The board will consider renewing an annual policy outlining the board’s commitment to equity and antiracism. The policy was first adopted in 2021 and is renewed annually at the start of the school year.
The resolution says that “we collectively acknowledge that racism is real and is a threat to students’ and employees’ physical and psychological well-being; and the systems of structural racism have historically oppressed Black and African American, Latino/a/x, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American and Indigenous students.”
It says the board is committed to addressing the overrepresentation of students of color in suspensions and expulsions, and in district special education programs, and their underrepresentation in talented and gifted and college prep programs.
The resolution also says the board will ensure the district hires and retains a diverse workforce reflecting the community it serves.
(Disclosure: Larry Tokarski, Mountain West president, is also a co-founder of Salem Reporter.)
Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.
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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.