Some deem school board election process discriminatory

The leaders who make major decisions about Salem and Keizer’s children are elected in a way some argue is discriminatory.

While Salem-Keizer Public Schools’ governing board members each only represent a portion of the district, they are chosen by voters districtwide.

Some believe this has historically created a disadvantage for candidates of color or those who can’t afford to campaign across the entire region, leading to a school board comprised of people who do not reflect the diversity of the students and families they serve.

Now there’s an effort to change that. 

Read about the resolution, why diversity on these boards matter, why some are opposed and what the next steps are here.

Salem-Keizer students begin the return to brick-and-mortar schools

Tuesday was the first day of Salem-Keizer Public Schools’ hybrid learning model, in which students attend two days a week in person and continue virtual learning or get other support the other three days.

Read about the experience and district’s plan here.

One year later: COVID-19’s impact on families, students

It’s been a year since the COVID-19 pandemic changed Oregonians lives in what felt like an instant, moving classes and many jobs online.

For many, the biggest disruption from COVID-19 hit right at home. Living rooms became remote-learning classrooms and daycares with parents balancing roles as caregivers, educators and workers. 

Students have struggled to balance workloads and stay motivated. Parents of younger children have weighed obtaining harder-to-find child care with outright leaving the labor force. 

Read the full story here.

Pacific Islanders most impacted by COVID-19, not prioritized for vaccine

Marion County’s Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, contracting the virus at more than three times the rate of white individuals. 

Case rates continue to skyrocket, and Islanders are being hospitalized and dying at nearly twice the rate of any other race or ethnicity. 

Similar patterns have been seen nationally and statewide. 

Despite that, citing federal discrimination laws, the Oregon Health Authority has declined to prioritize racial groups for vaccine distribution, adding to a long list of barriers facing these communities.

Read the full story, including input from area Islander leaders, here.

37 Oregon education bills to follow this session

The 2021 Oregon legislative session started mid-January and will span 160 days. The Capitol is closed to the public until at least March to limit the risk of a coronavirus outbreak. Committee meetings and hearings are being held virtually. 

Education topics include new high school graduation requirements, college and university regulations, racial justice efforts,  limits on virtual charter schools and updates to statewide assessments.

Read the full story here.

Masterclass born in pandemic, for young musicians

As soon as schools stopped in-person learning last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the many activities that students enjoyed also came to a halt. 

Students in music programs lost their final chance to perform with graduating seniors and missed out on annual concerts and competitions.

At the same time, professional musicians around the world were canceling tours and lessons. Doors were closed to every rehearsal, performance and milestone. 

So, the Salem Youth Symphony decided to do something about it. 

Read the full story here.

Parents fight for Woodburn Russian program through enrollment dips

Woodburn School District is home to one of the nation’s only public K-12 Russian language programs.

But enrollment fell this year after schools switched to remote learning and two new private schools came to town, leaving some to fear the program may be at risk.

District leaders reassigned two Russian-language teachers at the start of the school year. In December, they considered combining some of the elementary Russian classes and transferring three more of the program’s 12 teachers to other subjects, at least until numbers increased.

Dozens of teachers and parents opposed the idea, collecting more than 130 signatures on a petition, testifying at a school board meeting and walking out of a professional development training.

Read the full story here.

The push to recruit and retain more educators of color

Public schools across the country are more racially and linguistically diverse than ever, including the students in Salem-Keizer Public Schools. But most of the educators who work with them are not. 

About 54% of Salem-Keizer’s nearly 42,000 students identify as a race or ethnicity other than white. This includes Latino/Hispanic, Black/African American, Pacific Islander, Native American and indigenous students.

By comparison, 13% of teachers, 15% of administrators and 30% of classified staff are racially or ethnically diverse.

When staff diversity better reflects that of its students, studies show, there are higher expectations, stronger communities and better outcomes for students and staff. 

Salem-Keizer’s staff diversity has steadily increased in recent years, and the district has several programs in place to help hire more educators of color.

But many argue more needs to be done, ranging from more financial assistance to complete higher education degrees and obtain teacher licenses to providing more advancement opportunities for staff of color. 

Read the full story here.

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