Reform coming to Chemawa Indian School in Salem

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After almost two years of stonewalling by Chemawa Indian School officials and the U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Reps. Kurt Schrader and Suzanne Bonamici say reform appears to be coming after visiting the Salem school this past week.

The Oregon Democrats were “pleasantly surprised” by apparent progress and expect more clarity about conflicting federal agencies’ roles, removal of a gag order on school staff and a better system for hiring teachers, among other things, in the near future.

The representatives have been pushing for change since before 2017, when an investigative series by Oregon Public Broadcasting highlighted allegations of fraud, mismanagement, lack of transparency and abuse at the Native American boarding school.

Read the full story here.

Students demand action from school board: How will you protect us?

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A group of students and graduates want the Salem-Keizer School Board to do more to protect and help immigrant students in Salem-Keizer Public Schools.

“You guys get mad when we decide to march, to sit-in, to speak up for ourselves and others, but when we die, you guys become silent,” one graduate told the board.

“And when approached about the topic, all you seem to say is ‘that’s sad’ and ‘I’m sorry,’ as if your ‘sorry’ really does or means something.”

Read the full story here.

Students pursue graduation through credit recovery programs

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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

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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

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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.

 

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.

 

 

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