UPDATED: School board adopts budget making deep cuts, pushes for more state funding

A year of grim conversations about school funding came to a close Tuesday night as the Salem-Keizer School Board voted to adopt a $1.1 billion budget that cuts hundreds of educators from local schools.

After a contentious year of contract negotiations with employee unions and a layoff of 112 district employees in May, the budget vote was comparatively quiet. Only a few educators and parents spoke during the public hearing, with several saying state officials needed to step up and better fund schools.

Tyler Scialo-Lakeberg, president of the Salem-Keizer Education Association, said schools have been expected to provide mental health care, behavioral services and more without additional resources to fill gaps in state and city services.

“Our legislators need to step up and either provide those services and take that off our plates or fully fund our schools so we can meet the needs of our students,” she said during the meeting. “Our students need more and they deserve more.”

The board voted 6-1 to adopt Superintendent Andrea Castañeda’s proposed budget with no changes.

Director Krissy Hudson voted no on the budget, saying she didn’t understand why the district was spending $1.5 million on its office of equity, access and advancement when classroom teacher positions are being cut.

The school district is required by law to adopt a budget. Hudson did not propose any changes to the budget for the equity office during public budget committee meetings.

“I will support this budget, but I will also be spending a whole heck of a lot of my energy during the long legislative session coming up ensuring that our state school fund is fixed and that the kids of Salem-Keizer and the workers in Salem-Keizer are not shortchanged, because as things currently stand they are, and it’s unacceptable,” Vice Chair Ashley Carson Cottingham said prior to the vote.

Castañeda reviewed data she provided the board in response to persistent questions from some budget committee members last month about the district’s overhead expenses and the number of supervisors.

The information, included in the board’s packet, showed administrators — defined as employees who supervise others — make up 3.4% of district employees. It’s the lowest share among the state’s nine largest school districts.

The district has about 260 students for every administrator, a higher ratio than every other large Oregon district except Beaverton, and spent 89% of last year’s budget on people and materials directly supporting schools.

“Compared to our peer districts in Oregon, we have the leanest back office and leanest administrative structure,” Castañeda said. “We need more resources as a system.”

The board also appointed Sofia Castellanos Del Rio of South Salem High School and 

Kaiden Armstead of McKay High School to serve as student advisers to the school board starting July 1. Both will be seniors next year.

Original story published Monday, June 10:

The Salem-Keizer School Board on Tuesday will hold a public hearing and then vote on adopting a budget that makes deep cuts to the upcoming school year.

The vote is the final step in a process that has consumed much of the school year after Superintendent Andrea Castañeda announced plans last summer to trim tens of millions from the district’s budget via a process that included laying off 112 employees in May.

View the agenda here.

To participate

The Salem-Keizer School Board meets Tuesday, June 11, at 6 p.m. in the boardroom at the former Student Services Support Center, 2575 Commercial St. S.E.

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. Monday.

The meeting will be streamed on CC:Media, channel 21 or on YouTube in English and Spanish and interpreted live in ASL.

The board will also vote Tuesday on appointing new student advisors to the school board and approving a positive evaluation of Castañeda’s performance during her first year as superintendent.

Budget eliminates hundreds of jobs

The board will first hold a public hearing and then vote on adopting the district’s $1.1 billion proposed 2024-25 budget which eliminates nearly 400 jobs.

The district’s general fund is $646.5 million, which includes $60 million in contingency funds to deal with unexpected expenses. 

That’s up from a $625 million general fund this year, which included a $34 million contingency. That was a level former Superintendent Christy Perry called “dangerously low” in presenting her final budget last year.

Job cuts made in May included the layoff of 112 employees, most of them teachers. That was part of a deeper cut of about 377 total jobs, some of which were vacant. Many employees whose jobs were eliminated moved into other vacant positions.

Money saved by deeply cutting into the district workforce is almost entirely consumed by rising wages and benefit costs. In total, the general fund includes $520 million to pay employees and cover the cost of benefits.

That’s slightly less than this year’s payroll budget of $522 million but with a workforce cut by 300 jobs in the general fund. The remaining jobs being cut are in other funds paid for by grants.

Cuts include the district’s dental health coordinator, who managed free dental screenings across school, the Air Force JROTC program at McNary High School and most of the district’s instructional mentors, experienced teachers who help .

The district provided Salem Reporter a list of positions cut in response to a public records request, but has not yet provided a detailed list of programs cut for the upcoming school year.

The positions cut include 152 teachers, 56 instructional mentors, 24 school-based health assistants, 36 instructional assistants, 12 bus drivers, 10 custodians, eight assistant principals, 11 district supervisors, 14 administrative assistants and secretaries and six graduation coaches.

Superintendent evaluation

The board will vote on approving a laudatory evaluation of Castañeda. The evaluation is discussed in non-public meetings before a public summary is approved by the board.

The written summary says Castañeda “has done an outstanding job in her relationships and communications to the board, staff, and community. She joined our district and community in a trying and challenging moment and without hesitation has been communicative, timely and transparent to ensure our schools continue to thrive even in the face of difficult budget cuts.”

They also cited her work leading “gracefully and courageously” through labor negotiations and subsequent efforts to identify inadequate state funding as the larger issue facing the school district.

Student advisers

The school board will appoint one or two high school students to serve as non-voting advisers for the coming year.

Five students, who will be seniors next year, applied for the job:

  • Kaiden Armstead, McKay High School
  • Henry ‘Adyn’ Baker, West Salem High School
  • Caleb ‘C.J.’ Bartlett, EDGE (online school program)
  • Sofia Castellanos Del Rio, South Salem High School
  • Sydney Moneke, West Salem High School

Other business

The board will consider approving a proclamation for Pride Month, and will receive reports about 2024 graduation and more detailed information about the district’s overhead and administrative positions in response to questions raised during the budget committee process.

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.