Sunday, July 12, 2020

School board’s handling of election

by Annalivia Palazzo-Angulo

We, the parents and families, staff and leadership of the Salem Keizer Coalition for Equality, want to express our deep disappointment and frustration toward what we witnessed at the July 1School Board meeting to elect a chair and vice-chair.

Through their actions, the Salem-Keizer School Board has shown again their disconnect from the ongoing traumatization of communities of color.

The election was proof that the community’s voice has no impact on this board. After weeks of turmoil, they ignored the statements of hundreds of community members, asking for a chair who would uphold their values, who had the community’s trust, who could listen and be fair.

Instead, they blocked Director Blasi, the community’s choice, from both chair and vice-chair.

We must give credit to Director Lippold, who spoke up and turned down his own nomination. It was a brave move and appreciated.

Board members have emphasized to parents their desire to assure our children feel safe in school. But the sentiment is not enough.

They must be willing to take actions that are not politically correct for their “party.” The children cannot feel safe because society has not changed. White supremacism has not disappeared.

Racism is on the rise. Our leadership is nearly all white. Children see and hear about themselves on media being abused, not wanted, every day.
The most important and positive thing this board could have done listen with open minds and hearts, suspend their personal judgments and egos, empathize and concentrate on the pain of others who don’t look like them.

Instead, board members expressed coldness, annoyance and impatience. Our school board’s response to the upheaval in our society and our school district has been callous and defensive.

They could have shown openness. Suspended their personal judgments. Focused on the pain of others who don’t look like them. Instead, their coldness, annoyance, impatience and silence toward thousands of people of color – children, youth, parents, and community members – implies that we are not worthy of their time and consideration.

They dismissed and denied all complaints, called our reactions to police abuse “knee-jerking,” and tried to shut speakers down. Then they vocalized their own “knee-jerking” absolutes, personal proclamations, with no forethought or desire to speak as a collective body – a board of directors.

Our children don’t need politicians with affiliations and agendas. They don’t need adult agendas of any kind. They need a children’s agenda!
Students, with the many challenges they encounter, need school board members who are mature adults, who care most about a unified and effective agenda for positive change.

They desperately need faith that adults administering their education can protect them and help them thrive, so they can focus on achieving their education, without the added burden of overcoming a system of obstacles.

This has been the Salem-Keizer School Board’s pattern for three years. It has to change. It is time we had equal representation on our School Board and in our district leadership.

Annalivia Palazzo-Angulo is the Executive Director of SKCE (Salem Keizer Coalition for Equality), focused on the educational success of Latino/a/x students and families from immigrant backgrounds. You may reach her at apalazzo@

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