How you can weigh in as Salem schools begin layoffs, budget cuts

This article was updated at 5 p.m. Friday after the school district extended the end time of planned meetings on layoffs.

Families, students, educators and others concerned about education in Salem can weigh in on the mass layoff planned for the Salem-Keizer School District at two meetings next week.

The Salem-Keizer School Board will vote Tuesday, April 16, on whether to authorize a reduction in force, laying off about 300 school district employees and eliminating another 100 or so vacant jobs.

It’s all but certain the board will vote to move ahead with the layoff. The school district is required by law to have a balanced budget, and with no new money coming in and federal Covid relief funds running out, getting there will require cuts.

Superintendent Andrea Castañeda gave few details in a Thursday announcement about specific jobs or programs that would be affected. But she said the district isn’t planning cuts to music, art, sports, dual language, and career education programs, or to security and mental and behavioral health services. 

High school advanced classes and programs won’t be cut either, and special education will see only a few positions eliminated, most of them vacant.

The decisions on which programs to preserve were driven by community feedback, Castañeda said.

Before the plan moves forward, school district leaders and the school board want to hear from those in the community.

“We heard what mattered to people and preserved as much as possible as we put together a very difficult reduction package to recommend to the school board. Yesterday, we shared the size of the reduction with the community. We expect and invite the community to continue to share what matters most to them in support of our students,” district spokesman Aaron Harada said in an email.

“We have been thoroughly briefed and provided input on the recommended reductions but recognize the impacts are vast, and we want to have a final opportunity for feedback before taking board action,” school board Chair Karina Guzmán Ortiz said.

School board meetings are scheduled for:

  • Monday, April 15, from 6 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, April 16, from 6 p.m.-8:30 p.m.

Both meetings are at the school district boardroom, 2575 Commercial St. S.E.

You can submit a written comment to the board or sign up to speak live at meetings using this form. The board sets aside 45 minutes for public comments and each speaker is limited to three minutes. Speakers may be chosen via lottery if more people sign up than there is time available.

The deadline to sign up for live comment or submit written remarks is 3 p.m. the day before the meeting.

Overall, the superintendent’s plan would cut:

  • 15 administrators, most working in district positions, and a few in schools — 13.1% of the districts administrator workforce, and 4.9% of administrators working in schools
  • 139 full-time classified jobs, including classroom assistants and school health workers, 71 of which are vacant — 4.9% of the district’s classified workforce
  • 239 full-time teacher jobs and other licensed positions, including classroom teachers, 39 of which are vacant — 8.8% of the district’s teacher workforce

School district leaders are planning for no school on May 17 to notify employees affected by layoffs.

Weigh in during budget committee meetings

The steps to the final budget start with the district’s budget committee. That includes the seven board members plus seven appointed community volunteers.

The superintendent is scheduled to present her budget to the committee at  6 p.m. Tuesday, May 7.

Its first meeting to discuss the budget is on May 14, with a vote likely the following week on approving the budget.

You can view future budget committee meetings here and sign up to speak at those meetings once agendas are posted, typically closer to the meeting date.

After that, the school board will hold a public hearing before voting on the final budget in June.

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.