Alternative 1, the new Salem-Keizer School Board zone map adopted on Dec. 14, 2021.

A split Salem-Keizer School Board Tuesday night voted to adopt a redistricting map which makes minor adjustments to the current zones used in school board elections.

In a 4-3 vote, board Chair Osvaldo Avila, Vice Chair Ashley Carson Cottingham and directors Maria Hinojos Pressey and Karina Guzmán Ortiz voted to approve the first of two possible maps created by the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments.

Directors Danielle Bethell, Satya Chandragiri and Marty Heyen voted against the map.

The maps determine which school board director represents which areas of the district and will be in effect for the next board election in May 2023. Board directors must live in the zone they represent, though they’re elected at-large, with every voter in the district able to weigh in on every race.

The new map could prove more consequential if the board changes to a zoned election system, a change that’s been discussed.

The two options were developed to balance population between the board’s seven zones based on 2020 Census population counts.

The approved map was most similar to the current zone boundaries, leaving boundaries for Zone 5, (southeast Salem), Zone 6 (Keizer) and Zone 7 (north Salem) untouched.

Compared to current boundaries, the map shrunk the portion of south Salem that’s included in Zone 1, which covers all of west Salem, but didn’t eliminate it. That proved a sticking point for several board directors.

“The best solution in my eyes would have been to follow the school boundaries but we were not legally able to do this because we have to follow the Census,” said Heyen, who along with Hinojos Pressey worked with the Council of Governments to create the maps.

Heyen said although she represents Zone 2, which includes McKay High School, most of her neighbors are within the attendance boundaries for North Salem High School. She voted against the map because she said it wasn’t fair to several hundred south Salem residents to be lumped in with west Salem.

Public comments the board received during the redistricting process overwhelmingly favored the first map, with 456 survey responses, emails and live comments during the meeting supporting it, compared to 206 supporting the second map.

Alternative 2, the map not approved during the Salem-Keizer School Board's redistricting process.

The second map eliminated the chunk of south Salem that’s zoned with west Salem. It instead extended west Salem’s zone into downtown and the Grant neighborhood, and extended southeast Salem’s zone west nearly to downtown.

The split of central Salem between several zones was of concern to several commenters who favored the first map.

“We don’t think the process for drawing the current maps was thorough enough to justify changing the zone boundaries at this time,” said Annalivia Palazzo-Angulo, executive director of the Salem-Keizer Coalition for Equality, a Latino parent group, speaking during the board meeting. “We’d like to see a more thoughtful process set up in the future for zone changing.”

The second map would have moved Carson Cottingham’s home outside Zone 3, south Salem, which she currently represents, into Zone 1. Under state law, that would have led to an early 2023 election for Carson Cottingham’s seat, which would normally be up for a vote in 2025.

Board directors legally could not consider incumbents’ home addresses when making their decision, district attorney Paul Dakopolos told the board ahead of the vote.

Honojos Pressey said she supported the first map because it did a better job not splitting up central Salem.

“It has a tad bit more of an equitable distribution of our (people of color) communities,” she said.

Previous coverage

Salem-Keizer board set to vote on redistricting maps

School board weighs new zones to balance population

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

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