Students pursue graduation through credit recovery programs

chairs classroom college desks

Nearly 1,500 high school students across Salem-Keizer Public Schools are back in class this summer.

They’re putting in extra hours four or five days a week to earn credits needed to graduate, repair past grades or improve their chances of getting into college.

The district’s black and Pacific Islander students perhaps stand to gain the most from these “credit recovery” programs since they historically have graduated at lower rates, attended school less frequently and scored lower on standardized tests than their peers.

And although they make up only a small percentage of the overall student body — with about 1% of Salem-Keizer’s nearly 42,000 students identifying as Black/African American and 2% identifying as Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander — the school district is just as responsible for making sure they succeed as other students.

Read the full story here.



Students challenge Salem-Keizer’s ‘archaic’ and ‘sexist’ dress code, district to revamp

woman sitting on chair beside green plant

A group of students and parents are calling on Salem-Keizer Public Schools to update what they describe as an “archaic” and “sexist” dress code policy.

The controversy isn’t unique to Salem-Keizer schools — or the state of Oregon.

But district officials say they’ve been working on updating the dress code for a while and may release a revised code as early as this week in time for the 2019-20 school year.

“Girls are growing up and they want to express themselves,” said Claire Campbell, a 14-year-old helping lead the charge. “As an educational environment, we should encourage how the students want to dress and not shut it down with old dress codes.

“When women are told that we are distracting, that is treating us like sexual objects,” she said. “How do you think that makes us feel?”

Read the full story here.

Student deaths, lack of accountability at Chemawa bring heat from Congress

architecture bright building capitol

Teachers and parents of children who died in the care of Chemawa Indian School, or shortly after being removed from the facility, are demanding that Congress hold the Salem boarding school accountable.

For over a year and a half, Oregon U.S. Reps. Kurt Schrader and Suzanne Bonamici have been pressing for answers from the Department of Interior on issues raised by an Oregon Public Broadcasting investigative series, which highlighted allegations of fraud, mismanagement, lack of transparency and abuse at the school.

The series reported on the deaths of three Chemawa students, one of whom died on campus and two of whom died shortly after leaving the school. A fourth student, Robert Tillman, died in Wyoming less than two weeks after leaving Chemawa, after the series was published.

Repeatedly, Schrader and Bonamici have not been allowed to speak with anyone at the school. Questions they’ve submitted to the federal agency either have not been answered, or have taken multiple months for a response.

The House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on May 16 in Washington, D.C., to receive testimony on Chemawa and discuss possible solutions.

Read the full story here.


Music Lessons Project brings private lessons to Salem’s lower-income schools

woman holding guitar

For years, Salem-Keizer Public Schools has been known for producing state champion bands, orchestras, choirs and soloists.

But private lessons often are the final push to take students from in-school programs to winning state titles and securing spots in college.

And because students’ families pay for the lessons, an equity gap exists between students whose families have the money and those who don’t.

To level the playing field, the Music Lessons Project was born, working to ensure “no dedicated, talented child who wants to pursue music lessons is limited due to their family’s financial status.”

Read the full story here.

Salem-Keizer candidates accept donations from Oregon Right to Life, Planned Parenthood


Salem-Keizer School Board candidates Marty HeyenSatya Chandragiri and Danielle Bethell have each accepted contributions from an Oregon Right to Life political action committee, organized by the Keizer-based anti-abortion group.

Each candidate was given an in-kind donation worth $2,666 from the PAC for literature, brochures, printing and postage, according to campaign finance records.

On the other side of the debate, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon gave David Salinas — opponent to Chandragiri in Zone 4 — about $161 for canvassing support.

To read the full story on campaign finance in this election, go here.

Instagram posts used to bully North Salem High School students

close up of smart phone

A private Instagram account titled “norte_salam.con_fessions” was created recently and has been used to post anonymous attacks on North Salem High School students.

Posts talked about who has and hasn’t had sex, accused students of cheating on their significant others, outed students for potentially being gay, alleged students are using drugs or participating in various sex acts and more.

One post said they wished a certain student was dead.

More than 80 posts were made in less than 24 hours, most of which were screen shots of direct messages to the account and submissions via an external, anonymous messaging website and app, called Lipsi.

It’s not known who started the account, but by midday Thursday it had about 200 followers. That number started to decline around 2 p.m. after hitting a peak of more than 250.

The account has since been taken down.

Read the full story on how families, school officials, experts and lawmakers are doing about these issues here.


Jefferson School Board violates state law, picks superintendent in secret

selective focus photography of bookshelf with books

Jefferson School Board members violated Oregon law in late February when they chose the district’s new superintendent, Brad Capener, in closed executive session without publicly voting on his selection over three other finalists, an investigation by the Statesman Journal has found.

The school board also may have violated state law in mid-March by not allowing public testimony before voting on Capener’s contract.

Additionally, the board is taking heat from some district patrons over bios presented to the public that incorrectly stated Capener’s past work experience.

The Oregon Government Ethics Commission confirmed Friday that complaints have prompted five pending executive session violation cases regarding the Jefferson School District.

Read the full investigation here.



Gun safety class for Oregon first graders expected to return next Legislature

arms blur close up firing

Oregon first graders could attend gun safety classes at their schools under legislation pushed this year and expected to return next session.

While the bill outlining this program had solid support from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, it’s unlikely to advance beyond it’s initial public hearing after a deadline for committee work sessions recently expired.

Regardless, supporters were encouraged with its progress and promise to return.

If passed, Senate Bill 801 would have enabled school districts and public charter schools to offer an annual, 30-minute firearm safety and accident prevention class to first-grade students.

The class is not allowed to encourage or discourage gun ownership, or use live ammunition.

Read more here.

Why Oregon teachers are talking about a possible May 8 strike

people rallying carrying on strike signage

Educators across Oregon are planning to walk out of class Wednesday, May 8 should the Oregon Legislature not add an additional $2 billion per biennium needed to maintain and improve K-12 schools.

Over the last two decades, the state has financed schools at 21 to 38 percent below what its own research suggests districts need to be successful.

Many educators argue the lack of funding has resulted in teachers having to do more with less. They say this is reflected in the state’s low graduation rates, high dropout and absenteeism rates, as well as rising issues with disruptive behaviors, mental health needs and large class sizes.

May 8 is the only scheduled day of action, but more could be expected as conversations continue. Unless lawmakers pass the full K-12 base budget and new revenue before then, actions in May will likely still take place.

Read more from education leaders here.

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