Bend-La Pine schools reach tentative contact with support staff

The Bend-La Pine School District announced Thursday it has reached a tentative contract agreement with the Oregon School Employees Association Chapter 6. The four-year collective bargaining agreement is for about 900 classified employees including bus drivers, office and cafeteria workers, maintenance workers, janitors and classroom support staff.

The agreement provides a 6.3% cost-of-living increase for the current school year, retroactive to July 1, 2023, and 4.25% for 2024-25. The agreement also includes increases in the district’s insurance premium contribution: $55 a month effective Oct. 1, 2023; and $40 a month effective Oct. 1, 2024, the district said.

Both sides agreed to resume discussions in spring 2025 to negotiate salary and insurance cap adjustments for the 2025-26 and 2026-27 school years.

RELATED: Bend-La Pine Schools, teachers union reach ‘conceptual agreement’ on contract

“Classified employees are an integral part of our school district, often working behind the scenes to ensure teaching and learning run smoothly and students’ needs are being met. We value their talents, energy, hard work, and rely on them across our entire district,” Superintendent Steve Cook said in a statement. 

“Wages and benefits are a priority for most people and classified employees are no different. The bargaining team started with those priorities in mind along with other feedback from our members to guide our priorities for a stronger contract that not only makes a noticeable difference in our pockets, but also aims to make the Bend-La Pine School District an employer of choice in the area,” OSEA Chapter 6 President Debbie Christian said.

The agreement comes a little more than a week after the district and the Bend Education Association reached a tentative deal on a new contract.

▶️ Sunriver Brewing hosts K9 Keg Pull, a dog-gone good time for a good cause

Sunriver Brewing hosted the annual K9 Keg Pull at the Village in Sunriver Saturday.

Hundreds of dogs of all breeds were registered to race down the 120-foot snow course, pulling empty kegs of various sizes.

Some were bribed with treats and toys, while others took the race very seriously trying to defend their titles and all for a good cause.

“We did pretty good, I think we’ll be top five maybe,” said Jacob Schumacher along with his dog Batman.

All proceeds from the K9 Keg Pull go to the Ronald McDonald House of Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Lauren Olander, chief development officer of the charity says the K9 Keg Pull has brought in over $50,000 during past events.

Participants and spectators were also encouraged to donate dog food and enter a raffle benefitting the Humane Society of Central Oregon. 

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OSP: Armed La Pine suspect gets away despite taser, pepper spray

Police are still searching for a man, considered “armed and dangerous,” who prompted and alert Thursday night sent to residents in La Pine.

It happened in the the area of Big Timber Lane and Buena Vista Drive. 

Oregon State Police say a man was spotted trying to break into a residence. His face was concealed, but OSP said he was recognized as being wanted on state and federal arrest warrants. He was also armed with a pistol.

RELATED: Police: 2 women suspected of using fake IDs to steal iPhones in Redmond, Madras

OSP said it was able to disarm the man, but he resisted arrest and was able to escape even after a Taser and pepper spray was used. Despite assistance from the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, Bend Police and U.S. Marshals Office, the suspect was able to get away and is still on the loose.

The suspect has been identified as Timithy Robert Carl Graham, 43. OSP said he already had state and federal warrants for his arrest. He now faces potential charges of escape, felon in possession of a firearm and resisting arrest.

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office initially alerted the public about this Thursday night on Facebook, saying it was assisting OSP in looking for an “armed and dangerous” person who ran from a traffic stop. 

The suspect was described by DCSO as a male, 5 feet 11 inches tall, 200 pounds with brown hair and green eyes. He was wearing blue jeans and a dark hoodie.

▶️ Sunriver Nature Center golden eagle Aquila passes away at 40

Sunriver Nature Center is mourning the loss of a longtime resident, 4o-year-old golden eagle Aquila.

She arrived at the center in 1984 after being hit by a car, leaving her unable to survive in the wild. She’d been in human care ever since, working as an animal ambassador in classrooms and nature festivals.

The nature center said not many golden eagles live past 20 years, so Aquila had a long and pampered life. She passed away on Jan. 26.

Here is the full announcement from Sunriver Nature Center.

Early this week SNCO staff said goodbye to long-time resident Aquila the Golden Eagle. Aquila first came to the Nature Center in 1984 as the victim of a car strike. The accident left her with only a fraction of her eyesight and unable to survive in the wild.

Aquila spent the rest of her life in human care. She traveled to classrooms, nature festivals, and into communities throughout Central Oregon and the western United States allowing hundreds of thousands of people the opportunity to meet and learn about Golden Eagles.

RELATED: Volunteer Winter Raptor Survey tracks High Desert birds of prey

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In her habitat, she was an active participant in the daily happenings of the Nature Center. Aquila had a soft greeting call for caretakers she recognized. She loved to splash about in her bath pan and preen her enormous feathers in the sunshine. In the spring she would turn into a devoted nest builder, and frequently laid several infertile eggs. Visitors were always impressed by her size and patient nature.

Not many Golden Eagles have been observed living longer than 20 years. At over 40 years old Aquila had more than doubled her life expectancy and she was closely monitored by her care team and local veterinarians. She began a sharp decline at the beginning of the year and peacefully passed away on Friday, January 26th. Due to the sacred nature of Golden Eagles to indigenous people, her remains will be sent to the National Eagle Repository, which oversees the Native American Eagle Feather Program.

Aquila left an indelible legacy to anyone who had the opportunity to meet her. Hopefully, the messages that she helped convey, such as slowing down around roadkill, or the damaging effects of lead poisoning, will help wild populations of Golden Eagles across the country.

Bend-La Pine Schools, teachers union reach ‘conceptual agreement’ on contract

The Bend-La Pine School District says it has reached a “conceptual agreement” on a new contract with the Bend Education Association (BEA) after months of negotiations. The new four-year deal is for certified employees including teachers, nurses, school psychologists, social workers and others.

“Educators deserve a good salary. They deserve to be able to be in the community in which they they educate the students of that community,” Superintendent Steve Cook said. “This is a big deal. This is good for our educators. It’s good for the district. And now we’re going to work on rebuilding all those connections across the district and moving on.”

The district said the four-year deal, reached Monday night, will allow both sides to avoid having a state mediator come in.

“Could we do more? I don’t know. I mean, it’s a tough financial year. We weren’t funded at this level,” Cook said. “The bargaining process is it’s we often refer to it as almost a dance.”

RELATED: Caldera High’s first graduating class looks to leave mark in final months

RELATED: 6,000 more Bend-La Pine students now get free breakfasts, lunches

The agreement includes a cost-of-living increase for certified employees. The district said it will be 6.2% for the current school year, retroactive to July 1, 2023 and 4.15% for 2024-25, effective July 1, 2024.

The district said the agreement includes increases in the district’s insurance premium contribution: $50 a month effective Oct. 1, 2023 and $45 a month effective Oct. 1, 2024.

“The bargaining teams also agreed to reopen discussions in spring 2025 to negotiate salary and insurance cap adjustments for the 2025-26 and 2026-27 school years. In addition, each party will be allowed to reopen two other language items in the contract at that time,” the district said.

Both the union members and the Bend-La Pine school board must approve the agreement.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement that prioritizes improvements to workload, learning environments, professional compensation and access to healthcare,” BEA President Sarah Barclay said in a statement provided by the school district. “The bargaining teams were dedicated to finding solutions to issues that our members advanced as necessary improvements for our students, staff and community, and persevered through a difficult process until those issues were addressed sufficiently. This agreement is a step in the right direction, and we still have work to do, together.”

Central Oregon Daily reached out to the BEA for additional comment Tuesday. We did not hear back.

Central OR lawmaker suggests ‘you don’t want’ non-Christians in elected office

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A Republican lawmaker who represents part of Deschutes County has suggested that “you don’t want” Muslims, atheists and other non-Christians to serve in elected office.

Rep. E. Werner Reschke, who represents Oregon’s 55th District, made the comments in a Jan. 17 appearance on “Save the Nation,” a talk show streamed on Facebook that is affiliated with the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Monday. Reschke is a member of the association.

The show’s host, former Arkansas lawmaker Jason Rapert, for much of the episode asked Reschke about what he called the “sad reality of the lax treatment of drugs” in Oregon. Reschke said drug decriminalization “makes our state unlivable,” and argued that spirituality and church leaders are part of the solution.

RELATED: Oregon Democrats unveil plan to recriminalize minor drug possession

Last week, Oregon Democratic lawmakers introduced a new bill that would undo a key part of the state’s first-in-the-nation drug decriminalization law, a recognition that public opinion has soured on it amid a fentanyl-fueled overdose crisis deadlier than any the U.S. has ever seen.

During the interview, Rapert also asked why Reschke feels it is important that Christians “be involved in government.”

“You go back in history, and you look at men and the struggles that they faced, and the faith that they had,” Reschke said. “Those are the types of people you want in government making tough decisions at tough times. You don’t want a materialist. You don’t want an atheist. You don’t want a Muslim. … You want somebody who understands what truth is, and understands the nature of man, the nature of government and the nature of God.”

The remarks prompted the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin nonprofit that advocates keeping religion out of governance, to call for Reschke to apologize to people in his legislative district or to resign. The group sent Reschke a letter last week saying his duty is to support the state and federal constitutions and not to promote his personal religious views.

Reschke told Oregon Public Broadcasting in an email that his comments had been “grossly taken out of context.” But when asked for more specifics about what he meant to say, Reschke did not respond.

Muslim state Sen. Kayse Jama, a Portland Democrat, told the public radio station she was “disheartened to see one of my legislative colleagues express views contrary to American values, the U.S. Constitution, and our collective aspiration of building a more perfect union. Our ability to live and work with our fellow Oregonians who speak different languages, pray or vote different ways, celebrate different cultures is our strength.”

The 55th District spans from just south of Bend to include Sunriver and La Pine, all the way to the California border.

Central Oregon Daily News contributed details about the district Reschke represents to this report.

Missing La Pine woman found deceased after 3-day search

A La Pine woman missing since Wednesday was found dead Saturday, the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office said.

Tamera Torkelson, 35, was found in the area of 6th Street and Highway 97 in the La Pine area.

Foul play is not suspected, DCSO said. The investigation will continue.

Torkelson left her home Wednesday night at approximately 10:00 p.m. Police say she left on foot, without a phone or identification.

DCSO said a search was conducted using a K-9, search and rescue deputies, drones and patrol deputies.

▶️ Central Oregon 2023 graduation rates outperform statewide average

Oregon schools notched their second-highest graduation rate in history in 2023, according to the annual report from the Oregon Department of Education. Central Oregon school districts fared even better.

The state says 81.3% of students in the Class of 2023 graduated, tying the number from 2022.

But on the High Desert, the districts outperformed the state average.

  • Bend-La Pine: 83.6% (Up 0.1% from 2022)
  • Crook County: 97.3% (Up 5.3%)
  • Jefferson Co. 509J: 87.3% (Down 1.3%)
  • Culver: 92% (Down 2.3%)
  • Sisters: 93.6% (Up 3.3%)
La Pine High School saw a strong improvement from last year. LPHS reported a 59.2% graduation rate in the 2022-2023 school year. That number increased to 70% for the 2023-2024 school year.

 “We have great teachers in La Pine, and we offer a lot for a small high school, from our Career Technical Education offerings to fantastic music and theater programs and world language,” La Pine High Principal Scott Olszewski said. in a statement.

RELATED: La Pine High graduation rate behind curve compared to district

The CTE classes LPHS offers gives students a hands-on experience, equipping them with skills they can use well after the graduate.

“I see myself building a lot of things outside of school, especially with metals. I like welding, so I see welding class being very useful for a lot of people. You got to do math and stuff, but it’s a fun kind of math, not always sitting in class all the time,” LPHS student Anthony Addington said.

Redmond School Superintendent Dr. Charan Cline, Superintendent praised teachers for the positive numbers.

You can find a full breakdown of each district and high school in the state here.

Here’s a demographic breakdown of how students statewide performed:

Student Group

Class of 2022

Class of 2023

Percentage Point Change

All Students

81.3

81.3

0.0

Asian

92.1

92.1

0.0

Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander

74.6

75.9

+1.3

American Indian/ Alaska Native

68.9

68.2

-0.7

Black/ African American

73.7

73.1

-0.6

Hispanic/ Latino

78.7

78.6

-0.1

White

82.5

82.6

+0.1

Multi-Racial

79.7

79.8

+0.1

Female

84.2

83.6

-0.6

Male

78.8

79.4

+0.6

Non-Binary

72.0

71.8

-0.2

Economically Disadvantaged

80.7

80.7

0.0

Not Economically Disadvantaged

83.4

83.6

+0.2

English Learners Anytime in High School

65.3

68.1

+2.8

Former English Learners

86.4

87.6

+1.2

Never English Learners

81.7

81.5

-0.2

Special Education

67.5

68.6

+1.1

Not Special Education

83.7

83.5

-0.2

Talented and Gifted

95.5

96.3

+0.8

Not Talented and Gifted

80.0

79.8

-0.2

Migrant

81.4

81.6

+0.2

Homeless

58.6

60.6

+2.0

In Foster Care

48.4

46.9

-1.5

Military Connected

86.7

Career and Tech. Ed Participants

89.0

88.8

-0.2

Career and Tech. Ed Concentrators

93.0

95.0

+2.0

Students Recently Arrived

63.3

Students with Experience in Incarceration or Detention

35.8

▶️ Madras football may move to 3A with Sisters, La Pine to boost participation

Sometimes, the most challenging battle in sports is just getting kids on the field. Madras football participation numbers are on a steady decline and looking for change.

Fortunately for the program, an Oregon School Activities Association Ad Hoc committee made a suggestion.

“We believe we can be a little bit more competitive at 3A,” said Madras High School Athletic Director Walter Stahl. “Last year alone, we were outscored 267-68.”

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The OSAA recently suggested the White Buffalos go down from 4A to the smaller 3A classification.

“We can get our participation numbers up. (That) is really what we’re trying to accomplish here,” said Madras High School head football coach Judd Stutzman. “We’re not trying to go down to 3A and cakewalk our way to a league title. That’s not our perspective on that. Our perspective is how can we benefit the program by getting the participation numbers back to competing at the 4A level.”

Not only does OSAA’s suggestion mean a move down for Madras, but it also puts them in a conference with Sisters and La Pine, reducing travel time tremendously.

“Last year alone, we traveled 2,775 miles on a bus for our JV and varsity programs,” Stahl said. “And, perspective, that’s going to Washington, D.C., from Portland, Oregon.”

Madras was in a league that had them travel five-to-six hours to Eastern Oregon two to three times a year.

“We had some athletes who would travel to Ontario and we didn’t get home until five in the morning,” Stahl said.

“It’s going to be a huge benefit to our native students,” Stutzman said. “Definitely, that have, you know, 45 minutes to an hour-long drive outside of our home base at Madras High after those long games.”

The coaching staff said kids didn’t want to play between losses and travel time. But this new league and classification could be the spark to change all that.

“It starts with giving ourselves a chance, you know, a chance to find a little success again to alleviate that hardship and travel distance for both our players and our families,” Stahl said.

The OSAA Ad Hoc committee expects to have final recommendations for football leagues ready for the OSAA executive board meeting on Feb. 6. The executive board has the final say on the committee’s proposal.

The suggested 3A conference includes Madras, La Pine, Sisters, Elmira, Pleasant Hill, Creswell and Harrisburg.

The Great Outdoors: Sunriver dog trainer tunes up for Idaho Sled Dog Challenge

Dogs are part of the Central Oregon lifestyle. They go trail running and hiking with their people. Some of them point, flush and retrieve pheasants and quail. And some of them pull sleds through the snow for hundreds of miles. 

Jane Devlin raises, trains and goes adventuring with Siberian Huskies in Central Oregon. I caught up with her at the 10 Mile Sno-Park near Paulina Lake as she was tuning up her dogs for the Idaho Sled Dog Challenge.

“Right now, I’m putting Mushers Secret on their paws. It’s a wax in their paws that keeps snowballs from getting stuck. It feels like you are running on rocks. I prefer to do that instead of booties because booties tend to come off and they tend to ball up worse. Then they have their nails without the booties to grip,” Devlin said.

RELATED: Bend teen takes 16th in skeleton at Winter Youth Olympics

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Few breeds are more enthusiastic, energetic and focused than Siberian Huskies. They live to run and pull a sled through the snow. 

“They love it. They are doing it because they love it. There’s the pack mentality. They get excited and they go. At a certain age they tell you that they are done.” At that point they are happy to be skijoring dogs and hiking companions,” Devlin said. 

Devlin, who owns Snow Mouse Kennels near Sunriver, is running her team of sled dogs in the Warm Lake Stage Race, one of three events at this year’s Idaho Sled Dog Challenge. 

“You are not just standing there. You are calling turns. You are calling commands. You are always watching the dogs, making sure everybody is running healthy. You are keeping the speed comfortable. You are often running up hills behind them. As long as those lines are tight. You can also be kicking, almost like on a skateboard. We call it peddling. It’s a lot of balance around turns. There’s a lot of bumps. You learn to feel your dogs. It’s always a challenge, especially in a new place that you don’t know,” Devlin said.

Running sled dogs is the epitome of understanding, training and caring for dogs. Devlin describes it as “way beyond a hobby … a completely immersive passion.

“I don’t care about racing. That’s more the human element. The dogs don’t care if they are racing. They are just high on the whole experience, the other dogs, being outside. That’s what I love, also going places that support your adventure. It can be dangerous. You want to know that there are some trail spotters out there and a few avalanche beacons and things like that,” Devlin said.

You can help Devlin and her dog teams by letting them pass if you encounter them on the ski and snowmobile trails in the snowy backcountry. By all means, stop and admire the amazing sights and sounds of humans and canines working together, having the times of their lives.

“Just get your dog off the trail. If you are on a snowmobile, stay on the right. Most of us train our dogs to stay on the right. The main thing is just slow down around corners. You’ve got to know what’s coming. Pass slowly. Usually, we’ll give you a signal. We’ll wave you on by. Most of the snowmobiles around here are pretty good about telling you there’s nobody behind or there’s three behind. You’ve just got to communicate. We’ve got to share the trail,” Devlin said.

When she’s not running her sled dogs, Devlin trains other peoples’ dogs. Her business, Dog Aerobics Training, is based in the Sunriver area. She can be reached through the Sunriver Vet Clinic.

“I like to leave with happy dogs and come back with happy dogs. That’s always my goal. If they aren’t having a good time, then why am I out there? Just making sure that everyone’s comfortable, that they are all enjoying themselves. It’s all about dog care. Then you do the next race, and you have that trust. ‘OK, we had a good time, she can be our leader. She’s all right. We’ll keep her,'” Devlin said.