Salem-Keizer School Board August 11

Salem-Keizer School Board Continues To Try To Gaslight The Community

Last night the Salem-Keizer School Board held a virtual meeting. The meeting covered a range of topics and can be seen via the embedded YouTube video below, courtesy of Capitol Community Media’s YouTube channel:

At roughly the 1:49:45 mark of the video Chairperson Satya Chandragiri transitioned the meeting to the public comment portion. Prior to allowing public comment via telephonic testimony, Satya provided a statement that was presumably part of a public relations damage control effort to try to mitigate the continued fallout and public outcry over the actions of many of the Board’s members in recent months.

Chairperson Chandragiri stated that he wanted to apologize to the community on behalf of the Board for what has gone on in recent months. Satya went on to say that the Board needed to adhere to the Board’s governance policies and referenced ‘Board conduct’ in recent months that is not in line with the ‘high standard’ that the policies require.

The Chairperson then indicated that moving forward the Board would serve the students of the District and members of the community with a ‘high level of integrity, responsibility, compassion’ and to be ‘ethical role models’ in the community.

Satya then sought to ‘make it clear’ that recent social media posts describing the Board as being ‘conservative’ and bashing opponents of the school board for being part of a particular ‘ideology’ did not represent the School Board. The Chairperson was obviously talking about the recent Facebook activity of Director Marty Heyen (Zone 2), which will be discussed later in this article, although the Chair did not mention Heyen by name.

Satya claimed that the current Board is non-partisan, and is not a ‘conservative’ Board. That claim is not accurate, as demonstrated by overwhelming information that is publicly available, including information relating to Satya himself.

Below are dedicated pages housing that information, which was aggregated from public sources to make it easier for the community to retrieve, review, and share. As you can see via the links below, campaign records and other documentation clearly demonstrate that 6 out of 7 members of the current Board were backed by PACs, individual donors, and/or organizations that push for extremely conservative political agendas:

Zone 6 Director Danielle Bethell is literally running as a Republican for Marion County Commissioner this year, after only serving roughly 1 year of her 4-year term as School Board Director. Given that information, it’s presumably not a coincidence that the current Board has acted the way that they have and have ignored the demands of Students of Color and members of the community for so long – well before the recent issues that the Chairperson vaguely referenced in the August 11 Board meeting.

As a result, Chairperson Chandragiri’s statement leading up to the public comment period of the meeting likely rings hollow to most of the community, especially among Students of Color and their families. That includes the Chairperson’s announcement that the Board will participate in racial issue training, a Board retreat geared towards improving Board conduct, and updating Board policies that pertain to Board misconduct. For many community members, the announcement of those measures are just more gaslighting by the current Board.

Immediately following the Chairperson’s statement, Director Jesse Lippold (Zone 5) interjected and indicated that while Satya’s words were helpful, they were insufficient.  Director Lippold then vaguely referenced interactions online between ‘a Board member’ and the community, which was obviously directed at Director Marty Heyen (Zone 2). Director Heyen was not present earlier in the meeting, as announced by the Chair, yet chose to all of a sudden get involved in the meeting near this point.

Before we discuss what Director Heyen stated in the Board meeting, below is recent Facebook activity that was previously discussed on this blog. Be aware that the comments were later deleted, but only after many community members screen captured them and spread them widely on the internet:

Marty Heyen Janira Brannigan Facebook Conversation

Marty Heyen Janira Brannigan Facebook Conversation

Marty Heyen Janira Brannigan Facebook Conversation

Marty Heyen Janira Brannigan Facebook Conversation

Marty Heyen Janira Brannigan Facebook Conversation

As you can see, the individual that Marty Heyen was coaching to help them submit favorable public testimony to Student Resource Officers has a Confederate flag as their profile picture. That fact was not discussed by Board members during the August 11 meeting, including the Chairperson during his statement.

However, it is a fact that goes to the heart of so many issues going on with the Board right now. Students of Color (which are a majority of Salem-Keizer school students), their families, and members of the community will never trust a Board that has a member courting public testimony from people that proudly display Confederate flags. If ‘the reason why’ is not obvious to someone, then there’s nothing that can be said or typed that will make it more obvious.

It doesn’t matter how many trainings or retreats Board members go on or how many empty apologies Directors issue. Those types of measures will always be seen as empty rhetoric and meaningless ‘action’ on the part of the current Board. Until Marty Heyen resigns, there will always be mistrust among many students and community members.

Multiple times in yesterday’s School Board meeting additional social media activity by Director Heyen was mentioned, including references to Marty Heyen arguing with students on social media. However, screenshots of that activity have not been widely circulated. If that changes this page will be updated to reflect it.

At the 1:57:35 mark Director Heyen finally chimes in and indicates that she has a comment. Below is what she said:

“I do apologize for losing my temper, which is what I did on Facebook. I’m a human being and I have feelings, and I have been attacked since May. I have been called a white supremist even though I am the mother of a Person of Color. I have been told that I associate with a white supremist group even though it has People of Color as their membership. And there gets to be a point where sometimes, you know, you get a little angry when it’s consistent and over, and over, and over. So yeah, I lost my temper and I spoke out of turn for which I apologize to the community. My big challenge is we have heard from many people that want SROs to go and I appreciate their opinion and I hear what they are saying. I hear so many other people speak the other side but they are silent because they are afraid of being called a racist. And that’s the word that gets used these days if you speak something people don’t like they just throw that word at you. So I am sure that other Board members would be able to handle the abuse that I have endured for the last several months and that my family has endured better than I have. I am certainly working on it. I don’t plan on being on social media for a while, so, you know, all should be good. Anyway, I apologize for any hurt feelings or anybody thinks I’m speaking for the Board because I’m certainly not. I’m just a human being that’s hurt right now.”

Marty Heyen did not appear visually on the Board Zoom meeting, only audibly, which has been common in recent meetings. Her tone was defiant and condescending. As clearly seen in the screenshots above, Heyen was actively courting public testimony favorable to her stance from an individual that literally has a Confederate flag as their profile picture, in addition to trying to tie her own extreme political views to issues that are supposed to be handled in a non-partisan manner.

As Director Lippold accurately categorized, Heyen’s behavior is part of a pattern, as documented on the home page of this website. Director Heyen can continue to try to play the victim card, blame others, and issue empty apologies (‘I am sorry that this keeps happening to me’), but the community will continue to demand that she resigns. Below are two petitions calling for her resignation. Please sign and share them if you have not previously done so:

1. https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/police-free-schools-in-salem-keizer-school-district

2. https://www.change.org/p/salem-keizer-school-board-chairperson-marty-heyen-salem-keizer-school-board-chairperson-marty-heyen-must-resign-immediately

Following Heyen’s rant, Director Kathy Goss (Zone 1) made her own statement regarding her own recent controversy. Kathy Goss recently implied that low-income students should not receive food from schools because Goss could not afford a new Mercedes convertible. For more information, please see the petition below which calls for Goss to resign because of her shameful comments about student meals:

https://www.change.org/p/kathy-goss-demand-that-kathy-goss-resign-from-the-salem-keizer-school-board

During her ‘apology’ Kathy Goss indicated that she considered her words to be sufficient and that the matter is done and over with, in her opinion. Obviously, Kathy Goss does not get to make that decision for the community. Many community members are still hurt by what Kathy Goss said, that her lack of compassion is representative of a larger problem that has seemed to engulf the School Board, and thus demands for her resignation will continue.

During the meeting, the Chairperson seemed to indicate that the Board is precluded from removing Directors and that essentially people should give up on calling for many Directors to resign. Kathy Goss also seemed to indicate that because Directors were elected, that calls for certain Directors to resign should stop. However, the community has every right to demand resignations given what has gone on, and if the Directors truly cared about the students that they were elected to serve, they would comply with the growing demands from the community.

After the Directors each shared what was on their minds, the School Board meeting then finally transitioned to the public comment portion of the evening. Several individuals read names that signed petitions calling on the Board to remove Student Resource Officers from schools and for certain Board Directors to resign.

Chairperson Chandragiri instructed each commenter to submit the list of names to the Board, however, it’s the creators of this website’s understanding that the list was already provided to the Board months ago and that the Board ignored the information. It’s that ongoing unwillingness by the Board to listen to the students and members of the community that is at the heart of the public outcry, which is a fact that the Board continues to try to gloss over via their ongoing attempts to gaslight the community.

Later in the meeting, Superintendent Christie Perry mentioned the creation of a student committee geared towards addressing the Student Resource Officer issue. Superintendent Perry indicated that she would likely not meet the initial late-August deadline for providing guidance to the Board regarding SROs, and that the information would likely be provided in mid-September after she had time to meet with the newly created student committee.

It is worth noting that the SRO issue has been a major topic of discussion for many months now, that students have had the opportunity to provide input throughout that time period, that many students have provided input (overwhelmingly in favor of removing SROs), and that the student-led organization Latinos Unidos Siempre has championed the issue for a long time.

With that in mind, why is the District all of a sudden forming a student committee to explore the SRO issue further? Is the School District setting up a fishing expedition to try to drum up student comments that support a predetermined decision that the District has already informally adopted behind the scenes? Is the committee designed to try to ‘water down’ the voices of the students that have already made their opinions clear – that SROs need to be removed from schools? For more information regarding the Salem-Keizer SRO Program, click this link here.

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