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

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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.

 

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Special ed report cards show improvements, set backs in Salem-Keizer schools

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More special education students in Salem-Keizer Public Schools are graduating with regular diplomas, learning alongside their peers and pursuing higher education or work after high school, according to new data released by the Oregon Department of Education Wednesday.

But while the district saw many gains this year, there have also been a handful of setbacks, and some of Salem-Keizer’s improved numbers are still far below state targets and comparable districts.

Read about the latest data and their implications here.

 

Salem-Keizer teachers file labor complaint over involuntary transfer, restricted visits

woman writing on dry erase board

The Salem Keizer Education Association has filed an unfair labor practice complaint against Salem-Keizer Public Schools for allegedly discriminating against and unfairly transferring an elementary school teacher, and restricting the union’s access to its members.

The complaint was filed with the Oregon Employment Relations Board in early March, but Lillian Govus, director of communications for the school district, said they have not been served and, as a result, have not issued a formal response.

Once served, district officials have 10 days to respond to the complaint.

Read about the complaint and the district’s response here.

 

 

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