The Salem-Keizer School Board on Tuesday is scheduled to vote on a new map determining which board director represents which part of the district.
The decision between two proposed maps could cut short the term of the board’s vice chair, Ashley Carson Cottingham, who would no longer live in the zone she represents if the second map is adopted.
The maps were created by the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments and are intended to evenly balance the population between the seven school board zones following the results of the 2020 Census, a process called redistricting.
They won’t change school attendance boundaries used to determine which school students attend based on their home address.
School board members reviewed the options during a Nov. 9 meeting and reviewed public feedback during a Dec. 7 work session.
The maps differ chiefly in which portion of the city is combined with west Salem to form Zone 1.
With the district split into seven zones, west Salem doesn’t have enough people to be its own zone.
The first map solves the issue by leaving a portion of south Salem in Zone 1, similar to current district boundaries.
Alternative 1, one of two proposed Salem-Keizer School Board zone maps to adjust for 2020 Census population shifts.
Alternative 2, one of two proposed Salem-Keizer School Board zone maps to adjust for 2020 Census population shifts.
The second map instead extends Zone 1 to cover downtown Salem and the Grant neighborhood, and extends Zone 5, southeast Salem, west to the edge of downtown.
The resulting shifts in other zones would leave Carson Cottingham, who lives just south of downtown, in Zone 1 rather than Zone 3, which she currently represents.
No school board director would be zoned out of their seat under the first proposal, said Lesley Hegewald, the geographic information systems coordinator at the Council of Governments who created the map proposals. Carson Cottingham is the only director who would be affected by the second map’s changes.
A district survey in late November found nearly 70% of about 600 people who responded supported the first map proposal, according to a presentation by Superintendent Christy Perry at the Dec. 7 work session.
About half of those who responded said they were parents or guardians of district students, with community members being the next largest group.
More survey respondents lived in Zone 1 and Zone 4 than any other zone. Zone 4 covers southwest Salem, including Sprague High School.
Hegewald said the Council of Governments did not consider incumbent’s home addresses when creating the proposed maps under guidelines from the Oregon Secretary of State's office. She verified the impact of the maps on current board director’s seats Monday to Salem Reporter using addresses provided by the district.
Unlike with Salem City Council, school board members are elected at-large, meaning all voters in the district get to vote in all board races.
That means for voters, the new map won’t impact which races they get a say in unless the school board changes its election system.
But each board director must live in the zone they represent.
Carson Cottingham said Monday she'll follow guidelines from the Oregon Secretary of State's office when voting Tuesday, which don't allow her or other board members to consider any board members' residence when deciding on a redistricting map.
She and other board directors didn’t discuss the impact of the map on her seat during the December work session.
Paul Dakopolos, the district’s attorney, said if a board director no longer lives in their zone, their seat would come up for election during the next regularly scheduled school board election.
In May 2023, voters are due to select new board directors in zones 2, 4 and 6, the seats currently held by Marty Heyen, Satya Chandragiri and Danielle Bethell.
The remaining four seats, including Carson Cottingham’s, would regularly be up for election in May 2025. But Dakopolos said if a new map zoned out Carson Cottingham, her term would also end June 30, 2023.
A new director would be elected to serve the final two years of her term and would have to live in the new Zone 3 boundaries.
Board members on Tuesday will also consider approving a tax exemption for a 23-unit apartment building being constructed 990 Broadway Street Northeast. Salem City Council approved a tax break for the property in April.
The board meeting begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday and is held virtually. Members of the public can email board directors here and watch a livestream of the meeting on CC:Media, channel 21, or on YouTube in English and Spanish.
Correction: This article originally misspelled Paul Dakopolos' last name. Salem Reporter apologizes for the error.
Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.
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