YOUR GOVERNMENT: School board gets first look at Salem-Keizer budget with deep cuts

The Salem-Keizer School Board and budget committee will get a first look Tuesday night at a proposed budget for the next school year that will cut hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars.

Superintendent Andrea Castañeda will present the budget in a 6 p.m. committee meeting. The committee includes all seven school board members, plus seven other appointed volunteers.

Following the budget presentation, the school board will meet to vote on several new curriculum adoptions and a contract with Sodexo for school meals.

View the budget committee agenda here and the school board agenda here. Meetings are streamed live on YouTube in English and Spanish.

How to weigh in

The school board and budget committee meet Tuesday, May 7, in the school district boardroom, 2575 Commercial St. S.E. In-person attendance for meetings is capped at 75 people on a first-come, first-seated basis.

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, with additional time for interpretation. 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.

Budget presentation

Castañeda has been speaking all school year about the need for deep budget cuts in 2024, but Tuesday evening will offer the first detailed look at her plans.

The school board in April approved a reduction in force, authorizing the elimination of about 400 district jobs, about one-quarter of which were vacant.

Castañeda said at the time 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.

She said the job cuts would include:

  • 15 administrators, most working in district positions, and a few in schools — 13.1% of all district-level administrators, and 4.9% of administrators working in schools.
  • 139 full-time classified jobs, including 71 vacant positions — 4.9% of the district’s classified workforce. Jobs cut include classroom assistants and hours for school health workers.
  • 239 full-time teacher jobs and other licensed positions, 39 of them vacant — 8.8% of the district’s teacher workforce. Jobs cut include 70% of instructional mentors, who mentor teachers at schools, and program associates, teachers who work district-level jobs like curriculum.

The Association of Salem-Keizer Education Support Professionals, the union representing thousands of classroom assistants, bus drivers, custodians and other school workers, is planning a “Rally for Our Jobs” outside the school board meeting starting at 4:30 p.m.

Curriculum adoptions

Following the budget committee meeting, the school board will vote on adopting five new curricula: high school English language arts, AP literature, AP language, middle school math and English language development for newcomer students.

All curricula have been previously tested through pilots and had open houses for public review and comment, as well as feedback from teachers who teach the relevant subject.

Transportation plan

The board will consider a supplemental transportation plan, which outlines the situations where the school district provides bus service for students who live within school walk zones.

Typically, elementary students who live within 1 mile of school and secondary students within a mile and a half don’t get bus service. But the district can bus students who live closer if it can demonstrate to the state that students can’t reasonably be expected to walk to school because of hazards along the route, like poor visibility, obstructions, a lack of sidewalks and the safety of street crossings.

If the state approves the district’s plan, state money covers 70% of the transportation costs.

The plan identifies about 2,100 district students who live within 72 “hazard zones” where walking to school is too dangerous. The largest number attend schools within Sprague High School and West Salem High School’s feeder areas.

A list of all hazard areas by school and how many students they impact begins on page 24 of the board packet.

School meals contract

The board will consider a one-year contract with Sodexo to provide meals and catering from July 1, 2024. Sodexo is the current food service provider.

The contract guarantees the food company at least $1.5 million from the school district over the year, to be billed based on the number of meals served. Sodexo’s per-meal price is $3.92 in most cases.

Schools in the district provide breakfast and lunch at no cost to students. The costs are mostly paid with dedicated state and federal money.

The contract is part of the consent agenda, which the board typically votes to approve as a group with little or no discussion.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

SUPPORT OUR WORK – We depend on subscribers for resources to report on Salem with care and depth, fairness and accuracy. Subscribe today to get our daily newsletters and more. Click I want to subscribe!

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.