Andrea Castañeda made her first visit to students and staff at McKay High School Monday, one week after being named the next Salem-Keizer Public Schools superintendent.
Castañeda spoke with senior Brianna Saleen, junior Isabel Torres and sophomores Hannah Bedford and Myla Feskens as well as McKay principal Ranae Quiring. McKay is the most diverse high school in the district, with about 66% Latino students.
“Part of the reason why I love schools like McKay is because this is where all that work is happening,” Castañeda said. “My message to you guys is whatever happens when you head out into the world, keep fighting back. I’m really glad that this is one of my very first school visits.”
Castañeda then allowed the students to ask her any question. Feskens asked how she could impact a school like McKay having attended an affluent high school.
“I think it’s really important to know that I didn’t come from McKay,” Castañeda said. “I came from a school that was very poor in its own way because it was an agricultural high school. But honestly, I think the first thing is to find all the ways that McKay is spectacular and make sure people know about that.
“A lot of times, I find that people are trying to figure out what needs to change, what needs to be brought, what needs to come to McKay, but they don’t often take time to understand what you guys are already doing. So, one of it is just making sure that people know the real McKay story. The next is just making sure that you all know how many spectacular opportunities there are.”
Together, they then took a tour of McKay, making stops at the Ronnie Brooks dream center formerly known as the college and career center, cafeteria, a class teaching social studies, as well as the new and old library.
“Gorgeous library,” Castañeda said when she walked into the new library, which opened last year.
Castañeda officially begins in Salem July 1. But as part of her contract, she is required to visit for a week every month with community members, students and parents.
Castañeda visited McNary High School Monday as well.
Edith Noriega is a sports and education reporter for the Statesman Journal. You may reach her at ENoriega@salem.gannett.com and follow her on Twitter at @Noriega_Edith.