Tension in Salem-Keizer School Board Continues
Tensions have been running high for quite a while now with the Salem Keizer School Board, at least since 2019. 2020 and the pandemic only increased the tension.
On December 18 a letter was published in the Keizertimes by a woman from South Salem that expressed concern about a meeting held by SK We Stand Together and Oregon Moms Union (HERE is Oregon Moms Union’s website where you can learn more about them) at a meeting room in a Keizer business.
HERE is the letter that was written by Andrea Smith to the Keizertimes. In the letter you can see there was a lot of “concern” over the lack of mask wearing.
For those who don’t have a subscription or can’t get a free view here is the letter:
“I am a parent of a current student in the Salem Keizer School District. I have lived in the Salem area for the past seven years. I grew up in New York City and Chicago.
This week I attended a meeting being held and promoted by two local organizations: SK We Stand Together, and Oregon Moms Union. As I did not grow up in the area nor attend the local schools here, I appreciated the Oregon Moms Union’s advertisement and blurb of who they are and what they do (they presented inclusivity, a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. and photos including diversity). I showed up and quickly found myself surrounded by about 30 people without masks on, in a closed room above a bowling alley in Keizer.
Current school board member Dr. Satya Chandragiri was present, maskless. There were current Salem-Keizer school principals and teachers, maskless. I quickly learned that this was a very far-right group. Though it was advertised as non-partisan, quick reference was made to Democrats and Republicans. Dr. Chandragiri was a key speaker, who provided his card and personal assistance to all. Dr Chandragiri shared that it’s important to find ways to skirt around the current laws. I found this meeting was absolutely partisan in nature. Another current school board member Marty Heyen was in attendance, unmasked.
Chandragiri gave his entire speech unmasked—which included making comparisons to the abuses the Native communities have faced regarding the abusive Native boarding schools—to the fact we are not allowing God in our schools today. He also clearly stated that the intergenerational trauma that the Native Americans have lived through, is exactly the same as these Christian families’ children having a checkbox on a test that gives the option of transgender or non-binary.
Dr. Chandragiri was stoking these folk’s fears at worst, knowing full well exactly what he was doing. I was horrified. One parent shared that their son feels like he is being forced to be transgender while in a classroom with a pride flag on the wall. The parent then explained that his son “returned to normal” as soon as he left the classroom.
I would like Satya Chandragiri investigated for his ties to these far-right groups. He was doing harm to our community and continues to by allying with very harmful and fearful rhetoric. I believe he needs to resign, or we need him out of a position of power.
I also did not expect to have literature handed out by these folks from The Heritage Foundation. Can a resolution be made that standing board members and anyone having to do with our schools not use the offensive information provided by The Heritage Foundation, for starters? And they called sex education “Marxism.”
Is this actually happening? Why are these folks in positions of power? If folks like these continue to be in positions of power in Salem/Keizer, the children are going suffer. I am of the mindset that religion and school should be separate. I am also of the mindset that exposing a child to folks who live different lifestyles than they do can only be a good, positive thing. To think these are the folks in charge of things, the teachers, principals, school board chair members, it makes me very worried.”
The individual who wrote this letter focused primarily on Dr. Satya Chandragiri (a school board member and former chair of the board), and one of the only persons of color in the room (you decide for yourself if he’s a POC or not).
Also in attendance at that meeting was Abigail Marie Eckhart. Today, Abigail wrote a rebuttal letter to the Keizertimes which you can read HERE.
This is Abigail (with her permission to attach photo here). Her nationality is explained in her own words further below.
Again for nonsubscribers here is the letter in it’s entirety:
“The Keizertimes printed a guest column by Andrea Smith (Meeting about schools was an eye-opener, Dec. 17) about a local parent group that has been meeting to address concerns with the Salem-Keizer School District. The group SK We Stand, is one that I helped form, and I am proud of that. Why are parents gathering to talk about the school district? Here is my recent experience:
In July I called my child’s principal to review curriculum. It took me several months, several back-and-forth emails and phone calls. When I was finally allowed to go to the school in October, even then the curriculum was not ready for me. I had to go once again to the district to get the rest of the curriculum. Why does any parent have to jump through hoops simply to know what their kids are being taught?
I attended a board meeting on Aug. 10, and while waiting outside for the doors to open, I became the recipient of hate speech and threats by a student advocate group. I had no idea who this group of students was prior to this meeting. When I emailed the board to address my complaint about racial discrimination, I was met with lame excuses as to why there was nothing anyone could do. I emailed Board Chair Osvaldo Avila and shared with him my background and how my grandfather attended a segregated school as a child and why my son’s education was important to me. My complaints went nowhere until I contacted the school lawyer. Suddenly my complaint was taken seriously.
This advocacy group was allowed to racially harass me, scream at me within inches of my face, videotape me and at a prior meeting, photograph my 7-year-old daughter. I have since removed her from public school for her own safety. My informal meeting with the school board chair and superintendent, was frankly an attempt to pacify an angry parent with empty promises and meaningless words. I was accused of being “anti-science,” never experiencing racism, silencing BIPOC youth voices and having “white privilege.” I have never, nor will I ever, be “white.” School board chair Avila, told me and my husband, in front of our children, that I needed to read the book White Fragility. He also told me that he would not meet with a parent from our group who “negates his experiences” while he spent the entire two hours negating the experience that I had at a school board meeting. He saw nothing wrong with a group of students calling another person of color a “white supremacist.” He allows this group to dominate meetings, harass and threaten community members and stand outside board meetings with a bat. They have since slandered, and doxed parents and their families on the internet, harass a fellow board member and her children, and simply say his “hands are tied.”
So let’s talk about the truth about our district. When parents come to speak up and have a say in the education that they pay for, and they are met with gross arrogance and indifference, we should all be concerned. Our district leadership is weak, and our kids are paying for it.
In the last several months I have read multiple times that the board is “too stressed” or “too busy and overwhelmed” to give the community data on things like school violence, etc. Parents and other board members have repeatedly asked for help only to be met with “I’m too busy.” Maybe members of the board should consider the amount of commitment to our children and evaluate whether they can do the job they signed up for. Why run for an office that you don’t have the time for, when it directly impacts our children and their future? They have wasted months of our time discussing racism in our schools while providing no actual data.
Once again, I call on them to provide the data to the community so that we can see where we are lacking and how we can change without viciously attacking each other.
The article written by Andrea Smith was not only inaccurate, but downright ignorant. There are massive problems in our district leadership, and all parents have every right to not only meet with school board members, but to organize with the purpose of addressing valid concerns. It’s a lot easier to come up with the typical “you’re a right wing anti-masker” slur when attacking someone you don’t agree with, than it is to come up with a factual argument.”
Her letter is shocking in that it exposes the blatant racism of some of the current board members and specifically the Board chair Osvaldo Avila.
I reached out to Abigail today to ask for her to fill in some of the information and share with me her encounters with the board and it’s chair and the people who are clamoring for “change” who just happen to be for the most part, members of the Farmworker’s Union: PCUN and one of it’s “subsidiaries” LUS, both far left political organizations. Here is some of what she relayed to me:
“You can always tell a lot about white liberal women by how they respond to a person of color who does not see the world through the noble victim lens. If we as POC do not goosestep to the critical race drum, then somehow we are far right.
This individual said to SK We Stands leader that she would “never sit down with her” to talk. We knew who the two far left individuals were before they came in the door. We chose to welcome them and let them take any material that we had without making them feel uncomfortable. We hoped to have a conversation of understanding but they were unwilling. We have nothing to hide.
Ad hominem attacks never work, because those who know us and our characters know it is not true. I am neither democrat or republican, I am a Christian. And while I too was not born or raised in Oregon, I do come from a family birthed into segregation, disfunction and poverty. My grandfathers photo hangs in the museum that was once a segregated school.
I welcome civil conversation but I will never condone outright lies and slander. I only hope that the individuals who attended the public open house, don’t follow the pattern of their ally’s and harass and dox members of our diverse community.”
She also added, concerning the board chair and the members of LUZ/PCUN who have been extremely hostile toward Board members Marty Heyen, Danielle Bethell and Dr. Chandragiri, this information:
“I still can’t believe some of the things that were said to me and my husband by the chair. They labeled me as a known white supremacist. They got in my face and told me I was a race traitor and a sellout and not even a real Mexican. I felt like I was back in 2nd grade again it was horrible. They laughed when I said that my family died for this country.”
This was all said to someone who describes her background as: “I am Mexican and Spanish. My mom is a first generation American. My grandmother is from Zacatecas, Notchislan, Mexico as is my grandpa. Only my mom and her youngest brother were born here. My dads parents are also Mexican and part Irish.”
My sources tell me that many of the “students” who testified in 2020 and 2021 against Student Resource Officers (SRO’s) and other race related issues were not even from Salem-Keizer but were in fact from areas around Woodburn. The Chair does not require the person testifying to identify what city they live in.
The last board meeting was virtual for “safety reasons” which was mostly due to Abigail and other concerned moms and dads wanting to testify and the board chair not allowing them to. There was no “safety concern” there was only hostility toward these parents because they dared to question authority. It appears, with Abigail being of Mexican (person of color) descent, that color is not the issue. It’s one’s “political affiliation”. A person of color who happens to be a Conservative as well……not good.
This will continue until wiser persons step up to fill this void at some point and parents say “enough” to Critical Race Theory in the schools and militant political figures on the board.