Demographics shift in Salem-Keizer school populations


Demographics shift in Salem-Keizer school populations

9:27 a.m. PDT October 7, 2016

For the first time in 14 years, the percentage of students in the Salem-Keizer School District who identify as white has increased, and the percentage identifying as Hispanic has decreased.

The district’s annual snapshot of students shows that 52 percent of students identify as white, and 37 percent identify as Hispanic. The year before, 49 were white and 40 were Hispanic.

While these numbers fluctuate daily, the annual snapshot, released every October, gives an idea of the district as a whole.

Since the 2003-2004 school year, the percentage of white students has consistently decreased as the Hispanic student population has either stayed the same or increased.

In 2003-2004, 61 percent of students identified as white, and 22 percent identified as Hispanic.

As far as how these demographics affect staffing decisions and budget allocations, district spokesman Jay Remy said the shift isn’t significant enough to make large changes.

“If Hispanic students are not in (the) English learner program … they are general education and do not require any special type of staff to serve them,” he said. “So, we need to look at our English learner population and see what is going on there. Ethnicity does not have the same impact on staffing that student needs do.”

The percentage of students in English language learner programs is slightly lower this year, from 19 percent to 18 percent.

“That is a minor change,” Remy said. “I do know that we have long been dealing with a major shortage of bilingual teachers, so I think such a relatively minor shift in our ELL program will still not deter us from recruiting and retaining all of the high quality bilingual teachers we can.”

He said the district is “committed to diversifying our entire workforce,” including licensed, classified and administrative staff.

“I don’t anticipate any demographic shifts changing that,” he said.

Remy said diversity within the student population “provides a rich educational environment for our students.” However, he said it continues to be challenging to get the diversity of staff to match that of the students and their families.

“This challenge is not new and it is not unique to our district,” he said. “It makes recruiting the top candidates a very competitive endeavor.”

According to the district’s 2014-2015 state report card, 38 percent of the district’s high school students identified as Hispanic or Latino, but only 5 percent of the staff did. On the other hand, 50 percent of students identified as white, whereas 91 percent of the staff did.

This was reflected in all other grade levels.

The district has “stepped up” its recruiting outreach to minority candidates from other communities, Remy said, and is still working with Western Oregon University on a “grow your own” program that “encourages and assists minority students from (the) district in becoming teachers and returning to the district.”

He also said the district has a cohort of bilingual, classified employees who are working to get their teaching certificates.

Salem-Keizer, the second largest school district in the state, has approximately 41,965 students as of October, up from 41,464 this time last year.

This year’s snapshot found 61 percent of the students in the district are considered to be living in poverty, 7 percent are part of the talented and gifted program, 5,969 are enrolled in a career and technical course, 18 percent are English Language Learners and 15 percent are receiving special education services.

This year is the first year in more than four years that fewer than 400 high school students have earned a 4.0 grade point average.

According to the snapshot, 396 students had a 4.0 GPA, down from 459, 445, 470 and 473 in recent years. District officials said this could be due to a change in the student information system.

The district’s statistics are available online at For more information, call 503-399-3000.

Contact Natalie Pate at, 503-399-6745, or follow on Twitter @Nataliempate, on Facebook at or on the Web at

By the Numbers

The Salem-Keizer School district has 65 schools:

  • 42 elementary schools
  • 11 middle schools
  • 8 high schools
  • 4 charter schools 

Salem-Keizer is the second largest school district in Oregon

Published by Natalie Pate

Natalie Pate is a freelance journalist and author based in Salem, Oregon. She wrote about education for more than seven years at the Statesman Journal and now covers education and other topics throughout the Pacific Northwest. She is originally from Colorado and earned her B.A. in Politics and French from Willamette University.

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