▶️ National School Breakfast Week reminds students to apply for free meals

A hot meal.

For some it is simple. For others, it can be the key between a good day at school or a bad one.

This week is National School Breakfast Week, an effort to make sure every student knows that if they are in need, a hot meal will be provided free or at reduced price.

“From homemade coffee cake with fruit in it, to granola we make here, to whole grain bagels, croissants,” said Tracie Surgeon, Executive Chef for Bend La Pine Schools. “We do sausage or egg patties to make breakfast sandwiches.”

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At the Bend-La Pine School District’s production kitchen inside Bend Senior High School, an army of nutrition service workers prepare about 3,000 breakfasts early each morning which are distributed to all 33 schools in the district.

“Today we made biscuits and gravy. It was a perfect day to have homemade biscuits and gravy,” Surgeon said.

During the COVID pandemic, meals were free to all students in all schools thanks to federal relief programs. But now only nine schools in economically distressed areas continue serving free meals.

The rest of the Bend-La Pine student body needs to apply for free or reduced price meals.

“I think some families are a little confused. Applying is great. Our numbers stayed pretty stagnant considering everything was free, they are now more interested in eating those meals even if they are paying full price.”

Full price for a breakfast is $2.50 at elementary schools and $2.75 at high schools.

Lunch costs a dollar more.

“The meals are really good if you get there early. A lot of the time they’re out,” said Ella Hough, a junior at Bend High. “I love the breakfast sandwiches. That’s what I usually go for.”

As of January this year, about 320 students at Bend High School were eating meals for free or at reduced prices, which is about 23% of the student body. 

By comparison, 45% of Elk Meadow Elementary School students eat meals for free or at reduced prices.

“Income qualifications have expanded. If you think you don’t qualify, please apply,” Surgeon said. “You might be surprised at what the qualifications are now.

Applications for free and reduced price school meals are available in all the schools, at the district administration building in downtown Bend and online at the school district’s website

Deschutes Co. criminal cases face retrials after unanimous verdict decisions

A Salem man who was convicted of kidnapping, sodomy sexual abuse and coercion in Deschutes County years ago is out of prison and back in Deschutes County Jail.

Nicholas Waldbillig was convicted of these crimes in 2016. He now has a chance at a retrial because the verdict was non-unanimous. 

A combination of U.S. Supreme Court and Oregon Supreme Court rulings allow retrials for criminal cases if all of the jurors couldn’t agree.

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“It could have been an 11-1 or 10-2 guilty verdict, which was adequate when the conviction was entered. But due to U.S. Supreme Court Case Law and Oregon Supreme Court Case Law, that’s no longer enough. It has to be a unanimous verdict to be convicted,” Deschutes County District Attorney, Steve Gunnels said.

The Supreme Court decision in Ramos v. Lousiana (2020), and the Oregon Supreme Court decision in Watkins v. Ackley (2022), settled precedence in the retrial process for already convicted criminal offenders. 

Ramos concluded criminal cases require a unanimous verdict to convict a defendant of a serious offense.

Watkins furthered that decision in Oregon, stating the requirement of unanimous verdicts apply to older criminal cases as well. 

Gunnels says the biggest challenge in retrials is finding the witnesses from the initial trial, locating wherever they may be in the country, ensuring they remember the facts of the case, and speaking to them about their willingness to testify again. 

Two defendants, including Waldbilling, have been transferred from prison to Deschutes County Jail for a pending retrial. The county expects at least eight more cases to be brought back, Gunnels says.

“When we look at retrying a case, we have to believe that we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a unanimous jury that this person is guilty of the crimes charged,” Gunnels said.

Gunnels says murder convictions will not be coming back, as the rule has always been that murder convictions have to be unanimous. 

If after the case is reviewed and cannot move forward due to lack of witnesses or any other reason, the case is dismissed and that defendant is released.

▶️ Bend-La Pine’s new electric school bus makes 1st official run

The Bend-La Pine School District’s new electric school bus made its first official run Tuesday.

When fully charged, the LionC bus can travel up to 125 miles with a total of 71 students on board. Top speed: 60 mph.

As an added safety measure, the bus plays music when it travels under 19 miles per hour. That way, the students know its coming and nearby drivers are aware.

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The district says it’s excited for all the benefits the bus provides such as cleaner air, reduced noise and lower cost.

A grant from Pacific Power covered the $157,000 price tag.

Bend-La Pine says it’s the first electric school bus east of the Cascades.

▶️ Wayfinder is here: Meet the Deschutes Library system dumping Dewey Decimal

The Deschutes Public Library is in the middle of an ambitious project to rearrange their entire collection. It’s a project Central Oregon Daily News first told you about last fall — plans to shelve the Dewey Decimal System in favor of a new organizational method called Wayfinder.

We first met librarian Emily O’Neal in the 660s, looking for books on home brewing.

“Before home brewing was a bit of a craft and so it wasn’t necessarily with all the beverage materials,” Emily said.

That’s all changed with Wayfinder.

“The full purpose of a library is to provide information, but we kept a system that only librarians knew,” Emily said.

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Dewey Decimal was created by Melvil Dewey back in the 1870s. 

“And so you either had to memorize what the numbers meant or you had to get help. And so for us, we wanted to break that down and we wanted to make it usable,” Emily said.           


Sorting material more like a Barnes and Noble or Blockbuster. Everything is getting rearranged.

“Our collection is about 300,000 items,” Emily said.

But before the collection is re-shelved, Matt Roveto from the company Backstage Library works orchestrates a crew who relabel, scan and roll out the newly re-classified materials.

“It’s coming together a little more at first it was intimidating,” Matt said.

A job made trickier because this is a floating collection, shared among the library branches.

Sonja Brandjes is the operations supervisor in Redmond, where the books have a temporary home during construction of a new library.

“We like to upheave everything at the same time,” Sonja said.

And the first to go full Wayfinder.

“Our goal was to improve the discovery and entice people to look in other directions,” Sonja said.

The passage of a $195 million bond in 2020 funded the construction projects, opening a perfect window for the changeover.

“The intention is that we fulfill the original information need and also hopefully so much more,” Emily said.

A change years in the making to enriching the experience for library patrons. But if you still need help finding your way around wayfinder, you know who to ask.

“We are librarians,” Emily said.

The change to Wayfinder will be completed later this spring. The new Redmond branch is set to open in fall of 2024.

Cougars win at home, Crook County hits buzzer beater, Lady Buffs upset Cascade

The Mountain View Cougars girls basketball team took down Lebanon at home Friday night 53-48 in the first round of the 5A state playoffs.

The Lady Cougs head to Gill Coliseum in Corvallis on Tuesday, facing No. 1-ranked Springfield at 1:30 p.m. the quarterfinals.

Ridgeview lost to Springfield 50-34. The Summit girls lost 50-19 to Crescent Valley.

In 4A, Katelynn Weaver hit a buzzer-beater against La Grande, as Crook County defeated the Tigers 39-38.

The Madras Lady Buffalos, who placed third at state last year, are back in the quarterfinals at Forest Grove High School after upsetting Cascade in a 50-41 victory.

In boys basketball, several Central Oregon teams are competing at home Saturday in the first round of the playoffs.

#9 Stayton vs #8 Crook County
#13 Madras at #4 Baker
#12 Ashland vs #5 Mountain View
#16 Canby vs #1 Summit
#9 Bend at #8 North Eugene
#13 South Albany vs #4 Redmond

▶️ La Pine man arrested at Sunriver business for attempted luring of teen girl

Police are looking for more potential victims after a La Pine man and business owner was arrested for allegedly trying to lure a 17-year-old girl. 

Bend Police say the investigation into John Matthew Cooper, 54, began after the girl posted on social media that she was looking for work.

Cooper allegedly responded to the post and offered the girl part-time office work at his business, Cooper Racing and Repair in Sunriver. Bend Police say he started messaging the girl in a sexually suggestive way.

The 17-year-old reported to her mother that she was uncomfortable, and her mother reported the incident to law enforcement, police said.

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Officers then went undercover, continuing to message Cooper. But they say he believed he was still communicating with the teen.

Bend PD said Cooper offered the girl alcohol, sent her explicit photos, and requested explicit photos and sexual favors. Police say Cooper also indicated that he’d had other teens work for him in the past, including customers’ daughters. 

Cooper was arrested at his business Thursday morning. He faces charges of second-degree online sexual corruption of a child, luring a minor for sexual conduct, and attempted use of a child in display of sexual conduct. 

Because he has hired young people to work for him in the past, Bend Police say they are concerned there are additional victims. Anyone who may have had inappropriate contact with Cooper is asked to contact the nonemergency dispatch line, 541-693-6911 and reference case # 23-00011214.

Bend-La Pine 2023-24 school calendar released

The 2023-24 school year calendars for the Bend-La Pine School District have been released for parents to make their plans.

You can find the calendars below for Bend and south county schools. There’s a separate schedule for Bend Technical Academy.

The calendars show when school will be out, when conferences will be held and the designated make-up days. Plus it shows the schedule for high school graduations.

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The first day for grades 1-6 and grade 9 will be Wednesday, Sept. 6.

First day for grades 7-8 and 10-12 will be Sept. 7.

All kindergarten will have their first day on Feb. 8.

Winter Break will be two weeks plus one day. That’s because the Monday after break is New Year’s Day. 

Just like this year, Spring Break will be the final week of March.

The last day of school will be June 14, 2024.

You can find the calendars below or download them at these links:




▶️ Bend-La Pine adding electric school bus to the fleet

The Bend-La Pine School District is introducing its first electric school bus — the first one operating in Oregon east of the Cascades. 

The bus is set to hit the streets next week.

Here is more in a press release from the school district:

The first electric school bus for Bend-La Pine Schools is ready to hit the streets of Central Oregon. The bus eliminates tailpipe emissions, reduces noise and saves the district money on fuel costs. It’s the first electric school bus operating in Oregon east of the Cascades.

“We are proud to join the move toward clean transportation,” said Superintendent Steven Cook. “This is good for our community and our students, and it will result in cost savings over time.”

The district acquired the electric bus through Pacific Power’s electric mobility grant program, in conjunction with the Oregon Clean Fuels Program administered by the state Department of Environmental Quality.

“We are thrilled Bend-La Pine Schools was selected for this grant,” said Jackie Wilson, Sustainability and Energy Specialist for the school district. “We have a goal of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and embracing clean energy solutions. This is a great first step toward that goal.”

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The school district collaborated with The Environmental Center in Bend in applying for the electric bus funding.

“This is a really good example of how we were able to share our electric vehicle and infrastructure experience to support an amazing partner like Bend-La Pine Schools,” said Neil Baunsgard, the center’s Transportation and Climate Advocacy Manager. “We look forward to sharing the learnings that we gain from the first electric school bus east of the Cascades with other school districts, and involving students in being a part of our transportation future.”

The $157,500 grant went toward the purchase of the LionC bus, manufactured by Lion Electric of Quebec, Canada. It uses a 250-kilowatt electric motor with lithium-ion batteries, with a top speed of 60 mph. Fully charged, the bus can travel up to 125 miles. There’s room for 71 students on board.

Benefits of operating an electric school bus include:

Cleaner air: Electric school buses reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than half compared to diesel school buses. Electric buses have zero tailpipe emissions and reduce emissions of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide by more than 80 percent.

Safety and comfort: Electric school buses are quiet, reducing noise in neighborhoods. Drivers and students are better able to communicate with each other.

Lower cost: Electricity is less expensive than diesel, and prices are more stable over time. The electric bus will save 80 percent of the cost to operate a diesel bus. Electric school buses also have far fewer moving parts and are expected to reduce maintenance costs by as much as 50 percent.

Bend-La Pine Schools has 127 buses in its fleet. Just over half are powered by propane, a cleaner-burning and less expensive fuel than diesel or gas.

Bend-La Pine schools hire three new principals

Bend La-Pine Schools Superintendent Steven Cook announced the new principals selected for Pine Ridge Elementary, Ponderosa Elementary, and Silver Rail Elementary.

The following is the announcement from the district:

Today, Superintendent Steven Cook announced the selection of three new principals to serve at local elementary schools: Nichole Reiland will serve at Pine Ridge Elementary School, Patrick Flanagan will serve at Ponderosa Elementary School and Lybe (pronounced lib-ee) Hawkins will serve at Silver Rail Elementary School.

“I am thrilled to announce the selection of these three dynamic, caring leaders for our schools. I believe the students, staff and families of Silver Rail, Ponderosa and Pine Ridge will be well served with these principals in the years to come,” said Cook.


Nichole Reiland, who is currently the Interim Principal at Pine Ridge, said she is excited to continue to serve the community at Pine Ridge.

“It’s a really special place that has a true community feel. These are some of the most skilled educators I’ve ever worked with and I’m so excited to have a journey and path forward with them,” said Reiland. “I am focused on equity and thinking about how we can best serve all of our students. I want families to know that I’m here to partner with them and am dedicated to doing what’s best for kids.”

Previously, Reiland served as the Assistant Principal at Juniper Elementary for four years and at Buckingham for one year. Reiland has 15 years of teaching experience, including nine years as a Title I Reading Specialist.

“Nichole Reiland is known for her ability to create inclusive cultures and her collaborative approach to problem solving,” said Cook. “She’s someone who thinks deeply about public education as a whole,  while also caring and connecting with individuals.”


Patrick Flanagan, who is currently the Principal at La Pine Elementary, is looking forward to serving the staff, students and families of Ponderosa.

“I am deeply grateful for all I have learned during my time at La Pine and for the relationships and people I’ve met during my time there,” said Flanagan. “I am excited for this opportunity and to lead a school in Bend, which is where I’ve lived for many years.”

Flanagan wants families and staff to know that he leads with an approachable style and believes in “working together to support kids.”

Flanagan served as Principal at La Pine Elementary for eight years. Prior to that, he spent one year as the Assistant Principal at La Pine Elementary. Flanagan has 14 years of classroom teaching experience in Bend and California.

“Patrick Flanagan is an experienced principal who will bring a dynamic energy to Ponderosa,” said Cook. “He’s known for his focus on family engagement and ability to connect with individuals from all backgrounds.”

Flanagan will begin as principal July 1.


Lybe Hawkins, who is currently serving as Interim Principal at Silver Rail, feels grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve the Silver Rail community, which she calls “supportive and open-hearted.”

“I want families and staff to know that, first and foremost, I put relationships with students, staff and families first,” said Hawkins. “I love working collaboratively with families – we cannot do this work without them. I want to continue to encourage and foster connections with families as we continue to build upon our strong school culture.” 

Previously, Hawkins served as the Assistant Principal at Lava Ridge Elementary in Bend for six years and also as the Student Services Director at Ensworth Elementary for one year. Hawkins has 16 years of teaching experience in Bend and California.

“Lybe Hawkins is known for her keen ability to foster warm relationships and build connections,” said Cook. “She is also a strong thinker who understands how systems can be developed to operate in support of student learning.”

St. Charles names Dr. Steve Gordon as permanent President and CEO

After seven months of serving as interim President and CEO of St. Charles Health System, Dr. Steve Gordon is taking on the role permanently.

St. Charles announced Gordon’s acceptance of the job on Monday. 

“The board has been very appreciative of Steve’s leadership and desired to have him become the permanent CEO,” said Jamie Orlikoff, chairman of the St. Charles Board of Directors. “We are thrilled that he has accepted the position. We look forward to a productive partnership with him for the benefit of the community and our patients.”

This comes after former President and CEO Joe Sluka stepped down after eight years in the job in July 2022. 

Orlikoff said that Gordon had ‘no interest’ in the permanent job when he took over the role temporarily. 

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Gordon previously served in executive leadership roles for PeaceHealth in Vancouver, Washington, Providence Health and Services in Portland, and Salem Health. 

He graduated from Harvard College, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

“I am energized to build on what we’ve learned so far from service line development in many areas of the organization. Plenty of work still lies ahead, but we’re seeing results from focusing first on clinical excellence and a better experience for our patients, caregivers, physicians and providers,” Gordon said. “I have enjoyed getting to know this extraordinary organization in a new and deeper way in recent months. We simply have the best people who are committed to providing patients with exceptional care. I want to continue supporting them in that noble endeavor.”

During Gordon’s time as interim President and CEO at St. Charles, the health system saw a boost in financial performance in the second half of 2022. He says recruiting and retaining staff members is one of his top priorities.

The St. Charles Board surveyed more than 1,600 St. Charles caregivers and community partners to determine which qualities they most wanted to see in their next CEO, and results included ‘compassion for patients and staff’, ‘experience as a direct healthcare provider’, and ‘visibility and presence across all sites of care and in the communities St. Charles serves.’