Christy Perry is superintendent of Salem-Keizer Public Schools, the second largest school district in Oregon. She has extensive experience in education, having served as a superintendent in Oregon for more than a decade, with added experience as a director of human resources, elementary school principal, university instructor, and fifth and sixth grade teacher. During her 33 years in education, she has devoted herself to teaching and learning and is a relentless advocate for achievement for all students. Her district serves the largest number of student living in poverty, the most students learning English, and the most migrant students of any school district in Oregon. Students in her district speak 87 different languages as Salem is home to a large number of refugee students. Superintendent Perry is committed to work in racial equity and to dismantling barriers for students of color.
Superintendent Perry is a native Oregonian, raised in the coastal community of Reedsport. She is a first- generation college student but was raised with the expectation that college was the only option. Her mother was a school board member, and her father, who was forced to leave college to run the family business, insisted college was nonnegotiable. She attended college at Oregon universities, earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education at Western Oregon State College and her administrative license from Portland State University. She recognizes that while she came from a chaotic childhood with limited financial means, her privilege is having strong female role models in her grandmother who advocated for the first public kindergarten in Reedsport back in the 1960s, her mother who was a school board member for 12 years, and a close family friend who was the 1980 Oregon Teacher of the Year. In that same mindset, Superintendent Perry commits to being a strong leadership role model for others.
Superintendent Perry has an entrepreneurial background as her husband and family are small business owners. She values the perspective she has gained about business and its connection to education from her family’s business endeavors. Her business background has fueled her commitment to multiple pathways for students beyond graduation, which has placed Salem-Keizer School District as a state and national leader in career and technical education. Superintendent Perry remains close to the business community as part of the Salem Chamber of Commerce Executive Council, the Keizer Chamber, and as a member of Salem Rotary.
Community engagement is a priority to Superintendent Perry because she believes a community that works together can provide the highest level of education and care for students. She was part of a founding group in her community that worked to build stronger relationships in Salem based on the principles of Outward Mindset. This group has facilitated transformational culture changes within area companies and with students, teachers, and administrators in the district. Most recently, she has been a founding member of the Oregon Women Superintendent’s Council and the Racial Equity Steering Committee for COSA. Superintendent Perry serves on several local and state educational and civic boards to develop and grow community partnerships. She is part of Family Building Blocks, Salem Rotary, Marion and Polk County Early Learning Hubs, the Continuum of Care Homeless Alliance, Coalition of Oregon School Administrators, and Oregon Association of School Executives. She works closely with government agencies, community-based organizations that serve communities of color, the faith community, and area businesses and nonprofit organizations.
Under Superintendent Perry’s leadership, Salem-Keizer Public Schools has experienced great gains. The district has a new state-of-the-art Career Technical Education Center and has increased the number of state-approved CTE programs from 29 to 53. In 2018, the district secured passage of a $619.7 million general obligation bond, the third largest bond for K-12 education in Oregon’s history, to fund improvements at all schools in the district. The district has strategically invested in learning with the adoption of instructional materials for K-5 reading and mathematics, giving students a guaranteed and viable curriculum for the first time in nearly 15 years. The district now has an equity-focused strategic plan to ensure equitable outcomes for students, and graduation rates have increased each year during Superintendent Perry’s tenure as superintendent.
Superintendent Perry believes it is the leader who sets the culture in the organization and that equity work and dismantling centuries-old oppressive structures must be led from the highest level of the organization. She is committed to the district’s mission: All students graduate and are prepared for a successful life.