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School board mulls establishing district-based police department

Of the Keizertimes

A resolution to designate the Salem-Keizer Public Schools Safety and Risk Management Services as a law enforcement agency received first-reading approval from the Salem-Keizer School Board on Tuesday.

The resolution drew negative comments from 13 members of the audience, who said law enforcement status would worsen ethnic divisions in the schools and be contrary to the state equity lens policy, which aims at eventually eliminating inequalities in student performance.

No one in the audience spoke in favor of the resolution.

Michael Wolfe, chief operating officer of the district, quoted from a district staff report that a law enforcement agency “would significantly improve the overall safety and security of our schools and departments by providing the ability to perform accurate background checks on staff, potential staff, and volunteers.” The staff report noted that the Portland, Hillsboro, and Beaverton districts have this status, “allowing them greater freedom to conduct background investigations, perform authorized investigations, and liaison with local law enforcement agencies.”

The report adds that with the presence of a district police officer, “the district would be better equipped to support administrative staff during potentially contentious or dangerous meetings with the public and during emergencies.”

Board members raised questions about such a move, although none declared definite opposition or approval.

Marty Heyen said Nevada had tried such a move “and it was a disaster.” Saying she was all for having trained security people on the campuses, she asked where oversight of the school resource officer (SRO) would come from.

Jesse Lippold, saying the presence of an officer could be intimidating, asked how the district could ensure a good relationship between an officer and students. Wolfe said the SRO would not be uniformed.

Vice Chairperson Sheronne Blasi asked how the equity lens would be applied. Wolfe said the SRO’s function would not be applied through the equity lens.

Paul Kyllo asked about the cost to the district. Wolfe replied that there would be no budget impact.

Minority students speaking from the floor said a police officer would not be the answer, because they had been targeted because of their appearance. A retired teacher commented that the district needed more counselors and bilingual staff, not police officers.

In other business, the board approved purchase, for $950,000, of the property at 4130 Portland Road NE in Salem for the capital construction project that had been approved for Hallman Elementary School.

The board also approved reappointment of the law firm of Garrett, Hemann, Robertson, PC, represented by Paul Dakopolos, as its legal counsel.

In the Spotlight on Success portion of the meeting, Assistant Superintendent Kelly Carlisle honored the district Office of Community Relations and Communications for its honorable mention award from the National School Public Relations Association.

Personnel actions approved by the board included the following in the McNary High School attendance area:

• Temporary part-time status for Charles Kuerbis, McNary.

• Temporary full-time status for Jose Bautista, Keizer Elementary School; Pristene Delegato, Kennedy Elementary School; and Ruth Ochoa and Manuel Ruiz, Weddle Elementary School.

• First-year probation full-time status for Dawn Ferrera and Rebecca Tyler, Keizer Elementary; and Christopher Nelson and Brian Satern, McNary.

• Second-year probation full-time status for Erin Crauder, Claggett Creek Middle School; and Julie Jensen and Manuel Ruiz, Weddle.