A Look Into Salem-Keizer’s School Board Candidates
Three seats in the Salem-Keizer school board are up for grabs in a board election on May 21, 2019. Hopefuls include two incumbents, a recent McKay graduate, an electrician, a psychiatrist and the Keizer Chamber of Commerce director.
Running for zone 2 is incumbent Marty Heyen, and challenger Raul Marquez. Zone 2 includes seven elementary schools, two middle schools and McKay high school.
Heyen has been a Salem school board member since 2015, as well as the Salem Community Emergency Response team (CERT) council and the Capital City republican women’s club. Her goals include more parent involvement and transparency about their children’s rights and curriculum. School choice and appropriate allocation of funds are also at the top of her to-do list.
Heyen’s accomplishments on the board include, “Supporting CTEC and other technical educations opportunities, supporting Charter schools because I want students to have choices and options, and of course helping families with issues in the district. I am always here to listen, I try to understand, and do my best to help.”
Her opponent, Raul Marquez, a McKay graduate who now works as an event coordinator and studies at Willamette University, made local headlines in August 2018 after he secured 100,000 in grant money for a youth homeless shelter from United Way of Willamette Valley.With a long history in leadership and community development, Marquez began to notice a lack of diversity among community leaders, eventually leading to his candidacy.
Marquez plans to fix the epidemic of overcrowded, under-resourced classes with better allocation of resources. He also wants to introduce better staff diversity training and access to engaging after-school programs for students of all income brackets.
David Salinas and Satya Chandragiri are running for zone 4, home to six elementary schools, two middle schools and Sprague High School.
David Salinas, working parent of four Salem-Keizer students, is running with emphasis on a better graduation rate through better access to career and technical education and mentorship. He hopes to better student’s quality of life through improved counseling and mental health resources in schools. He emphasizes the impact listening to families has on his policy agenda, and creating a safe and welcoming space within schools. He also emphasizes the necessity for better funding of schools.
“There are insufficient funds for special education, ELL, CTE, building maintenance and teacher’s salaries. […] We can talk ideas all day long, unfortunately without funding, they are just words.” He attributes this issue in part to the poor school funding formula, which doesn’t take enrollment fluctuations into account.
Salinas’ opponent, Satya Chandragiri, is a parent of two , and has been a psychiatrist for 18 years. His priorities include mental health and suicide prevention, teacher burnout prevention and creating a safe, inviting place within schools. His suicide prevention plan includes staff mental health training, improved mental health education, parent-teacher-student engagement and an oversight group for the implementation of the plan.
Chandragiri explains that although suicide is preventable, Salem-Keizer schools have no effective prevention plan right now, and how it is essential we treat suicide prevention planning with the same attention we treat fire safety or earthquake drills. He also advocates for school to be a safe and welcoming place for all students, all day, rather than closed off or limited after hours.
In zone 6, incumbent Chuck Lee is running against challenger Danielle Bethell. Zone 6 includes seven elementary schools, two middle schools and McNary High School.
Chuck Lee had a hand in creating the district’s Career and Technical Center (CTEC) and 35 years of experience in education as a teacher, principal and administrator, and 12 on the board. He is the recipient of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce’s Outstanding Service to Education Award in 2014 and was honored by National Catholic Education Association in 2009.
Lee asserts that the resources allocated to public schools from the state legislature are inadequate for addressing his goals of lower class sizes, more counselors, and more CTE programs. He explains that, with CTE’s 98% graduation rate, these programs are essential for improving Salem Keizer’s overall graduation rate.
Lee’s challenger, Danielle Bethell, is executive director of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce, community volunteer and mother of three. Her policy platform includes more classroom control for teachers, so education can be more personalized for students, as well as give students more real-life opportunities to better prepare them for success.She also plans to focus on mental health and suicide prevention.
“A quality education system is a system that meets children where they are. A system that lays off the throttle of testing, and guides children to success.” Bethell said, “We need to engage all of our communities in conversations, and then when solutions are suggested, all of us need to engage to work to achieve them. The unbalance of those at the table working on important topics is glaring; accountability needs to be had by all.”