UPDATE: School board to seek new member representing west Salem

Update, Feb. 14 at 5 p.m.:

The Salem-Keizer School Board on Tuesday voted to seek new applicants to represent west Salem on the board following the resignation of Osvaldo Avila last week.

Board members unanimously voted to declare Avila’s seat vacant, with many speaking to thank the west Salem parent for his two and a half years on the board.

Superintendent Andrea Castañeda gave the board an update on the district’s plans to cut hundreds of employees to close a budget deficit. She said administrators still need to trim about $30 million from next year’s budget following an initial round of cuts in December.

That comes as the district is negotiating new contracts with both of its employee unions. Castañeda said the district’s latest offers, made in late January, are the most they can afford to spend on the contracts. She laid blame for the district’s budget gap on the inadequacy of state school funding.

“Our offers did not produce the budget gap we face. Our staff receiving increases, they are deserved increases. They need them, they should have them,” she said.

District administrators will again seek community input on cuts in March before initiating a reduction in force in April, she said. That will allow the school board to approve a budget in May with cuts finalized.

“This will be a difficult period we are entering,” Castañeda said.

Board members unanimously approved other items, including a Black History Month proclamation. Castañeda acknowledged Black History Month in her opening remarks.

“It is sometimes easy to notice and linger in the collective parts of our history that have pain, either inflicted or experienced. But Black and African-American impact, in terms of art and joy and richness and beauty, is so worthy of our sustained celebration throughout the year,” she said.

Original story below:

The Salem-Keizer School Board meets Tuesday to declare its zone 1 seat vacant following the surprise resignation of Osvaldo Avila from the board last week.

The board will appoint a new director to fill the seat for the remainder of Avila’s term, which ends June 30, 2025. By state law, applicants must have lived in zone 1 for at least a year, be a registered voter and not be an employee of the school district.

Once the board declares the position vacant, the school district will seek applicants starting Friday, Feb. 16, and closing Friday, March 1. The board will select a new member from the applicants.

Board members will also consider, but not finalize, a property tax exemption for a downtown Salem apartment building and adopting a civics curriculum for dual language high school courses.


To participate

The Salem-Keizer School Board meets Tuesday, Feb. 13, in the boardroom at the former Student Services Support Center, 2575 Commercial Street S.E. The public meeting begins at 6 p.m. The board will meet in executive session at 4:30 p.m. to discuss labor negotiations. Executive session meetings are closed to the public.

Members of the public may sign up in advance to provide written, in-person or virtual public comment. People can sign up using this form.

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.

Civics curriculum

The board will vote on a first reading or adopting a Spanish-language civics curriculum, “¡Gobierno vivo! El poder, la política y tú,” published in 2020. The adoption would have a second reading in front of the board before a final vote to adopt it.

The curriculum includes online materials in both English and Spanish and would be used in high school dual language civics classes.

Teachers piloted the curriculum in the fall, and a district committee reviewed it. The curriculum was also presented at public sessions at North and McKay high schools in the fall.

Dual language social studies teachers and the district committee unanimously supported adopting the curriculum, according to the agenda packet.

Tax exemption

The board will consider exempting a downtown Salem apartment and retail development from property taxes for up to 10 years.

The project is two buildings that will have seven apartments with two retail spaces at 890 Commercial Street N.E. The Salem City Council voted in December to exempt the property under the city’s multifamily housing incentive program. If the school board approves an exemption, it would allow the developer to pay no property taxes to local governments, saving about $3,362 per year.

Because the project is in an urban renewal area, the exemption won’t change the district’s actual tax collections.

Tuesday’s meeting is a first reading. The board would take a final vote on the exemption at its March 12 meeting, according to the agenda.

Other items

The board will also consider approving a Black History Month proclamation, and will hear a report from Superintendent Andrea Castañeda and a report on the district’s 2023 graduation rates.

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.