Having just ousted a conservative majority from the Salem City Council with the election of Chris Hoy in the March special election, the last thing we need to do is to let the extreme right take over the Salem-Keizer School District.
That could happen on May 16th if voters are not aware of the threat and do not reject the social conservatives who are running for three seats.
We already have one extremist social conservative on the School Board, Marty Heyen, who unfortunately did not draw an opponent when she ran for the school board in 2015. She is married to the Chair of the Marion County Republicans, Jeff Heyen. It was Jeff Heyen who worked hard to recruit three conservative candidates to run in the May 16th election. Since there are only seven members of the Salem-Keizer School District Board, electing three more social conservatives to the school board would constitute a majority.
Two of the conservative recruits are totally unqualified for office. Jesse Lippold is running in Zone 3. He also goes by he name Jesse Olsen and he does not even live in Zone 3, but he promised the Marion County Elections Office he would move there before the election. He is 21 years old and has no experience in education. Jonathan Baker is running in Zone 5 and also brings no experience to the job. He is already running a stealth campaign with a mostly innocuous platform (e.g., “More parent involvement” and “increase graduation rate”). Lippold and Baker are both endorsed by Oregon Right to Life which provides a clue to where their real loyalties lie.
The third social conservative, Kathy Goss, who is running in Zone 1, is not unqualified, having had a long career in education. But when she ran for the Legislature against moderate Paul Evans in 2014 she showed her true colors. She took extreme positions against vote by mail, public employee union participation in elections, and Common Core curriculum standards that are now in use in our schools. She voiced support for the Citizens United decision, advocated for the return of Federal lands to states and supported rail transport of coal through Salem for export to Asia.
What would it mean to have an extreme right majority on the Salem Keizer School Board? It might mean elimination of sex education programs. It might mean elimination of policies that protect undocumented students from harassment and arrest. It might mean elimination of curriculum standards that right wingers erroneously believe are mandated by the Federal government. It might even mean reversal of our schools as “gun free zones.”
To prevent a social conservative takeover of the Salem Keizer School Board, voters in the May 16th school board election need to elect qualified, mainstream candidates who will not advocate for radical conservative policies. Salem Weekly endorses these candidates as the most qualified candidates who will continue the policies of the present school board that have shown success in increasing our graduation rates and making our schools safe and welcoming environments for all of our students.
In Zone 1 we endorse Kathleen Harder, a local physician who has served on the Citizens Facilities Task Force for our school district, looking at long range facilities needs. She wants to increase career technical education and early childhood education, among other priorities.
In Zone 3 we endorse Sheronne Blasi, an audit manager with the Secretary of State’s office who has an impressive record of service to the Salem community. Her background as an auditor will allow her to fulfill one of her priorities to “ensure fiscal accountability of limited education resources.”
In Zone 5 we endorse Levi Herrera-Lopez, who is the Executive Director of the local service organization Mano a Mano and is a current member of the School District Budget Committee. Herrera-Lopez would bring much-needed representation of Salem-Keizer Latino community to our school board.
In many ways this school board election is reminiscent of last November’s presidential election where a totally unqualified candidate ran a stealth campaign consisting of vague promises that put him in the White House, where he is now in a position to undo decades of mainstream policies.
Wake up Salem! We could see a similar fate await our school district if voters do not realize what the extreme right minority is trying to foist upon us.