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Finding harmony between schools at Choralpalooza

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As the first rehearsal during the Corvallis School District’s choir festival started, the students were separated — members of a Corvallis High School choir on one side of the auditorium and members of a Crescent Valley High School choir on the other. …

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Volunteers Hand Out Free Smoke Detectors

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — Volunteers were in Springfield Saturday to educate community members about fire safety and prevention. The Red Cross says house fires cause more casualties than any other type of disaster, so Saturday more than 100 volunteers walked door to door to educate community members about the importance of smoke detectors. These volunteers introduced … Continue reading »

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LCC Breaks Ground on $35M Remodel

Eugene, Ore. — A new beginning of sorts Monday at Lane Community College, just as students left for summer break. The school celebrated the groundbreaking for its new Center Building, which is part of a $35 million remodeling project. The Center Building, home to food services, the campus library, and book store, has gone largely … Continue reading »

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Bethel District Sells Surplus Supplies

EUGENE, Ore. — Community members took home old desks, globes, and televisions Saturday afternoon from the Bethel Surplus Sale. It was the first time the Bethel Education Foundation held this type of fundraiser. Organizers expected to make a few thousand dollars during the sale. All of the money raised at the sale will go back … Continue reading »

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Mom asks board to explain stance on controversial novel

SWEET HOME — A complainant who protested the use of a controversial young adult novel in a Sweet Home Junior High English class has appealed a committee’s decision to keep the book.

The Sweet Home School Board on March 10 is expected to consider the appeal, filed by Rachel Kittson-MaQatish, who has a child coming up in the Sweet Home district.

The issue involves “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” a young adult novel by Northwest author Sherman Alexie. The largely autobiographical work is voiced by narrator Arnold “Junior” Spirit, 14, who recounts his experiences leaving the reservation to attend an all-white high school.

The novel has received numerous awards, but also has been banned in places for the character’s use of profanity, recounting of racist slurs and sexual imagery.

Parents of the eighth-graders in the language arts classes received information summarizing the novel’s most controversial issues before the unit started and had the option of asking for an alternate assignment. Thirteen of the 170 families did so.

Superintendent Don Schrader convened a reconsideration committee after five people, including two of the 13 parents, filed a formal request. The committee determined the book could stay, but said Schrader is responsible for determining the appropriate grade level for its use, which may not be eighth grade.

MaQatish talked with Schrader on Feb. 13, the day after the meeting, and said she wanted to appeal the decision. She said she wants to see what the future standard will be at Sweet Home Junior High and to have a public statement from each board member about where he or she stands, both on this issue and on issues of parents’ voices in general.

MaQatish said she and the others who protested the novel have concerns both about its content, particularly what they see as the objectification of women and young girls, and the way alternative lessons were developed and presented.

“The teacher’s argument as I heard it at the first hearing was: It’s a great book, the students like it and this book will get them reading again, especially the at-risk youth and we aren’t teaching them anything new when it comes to profanity and sexual vulgarity,” MaQatish said in an email to the Democrat-Herald. “We (the complainants) merely asked the committee to hold the school to the same standard they set themselves. The language in the book is a violation of school code of conduct and we do not believe it is appropriate as assigned eighth-grade curriculum.”

She said she also had concerns about equitable treatment for students who opted out and questioned why the alternate assignment was limited to Native American writers. Last year, she pointed out, when the same book was pulled from the classroom because parents hadn’t had a chance to opt out, teachers replaced it with a unit on “Fahrenheit 451,” which has to do with censorship.

“Teachers need to be able to teach, but parents and community members need to be able to ask questions and be heard when it comes to their concerns,” she said.

She said she appreciated the respect shown by people on both sides of the argument, and said she and the others who protested heard the teachers and appreciated their passion in trying to motivate reluctant readers.

“Hopefully, the teachers heard the concerns of the parents and will consider those concerns in formulating their lesson plans and discussions in the future, especially when there are numerous other options to choose from when teaching critical thinking, racism, bullying, poverty and other social issues the teachers are trying to address,” she said.

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Bomb threat at South Albany High came from 14-year-old

A 14-year-old freshman boy confessed this morning to having written a bomb threat Tuesday targeting South Albany High School.

In an email to the Democrat-Herald, Principal Brent Belveal said the student confessed at 9:45 a.m.

Lt. Casey Dorland of the Albany Police Department said the youth, whom he did not name, was referred to the Linn County Juvenile Department for disorderly conduct.

South Albany is giving final exams this week. Dorland said it sounded as though the boy hoped to miss the tests.

Finals went forward at South Albany as scheduled, with increased police presence.
In an email to the Democrat-Herald, Belveal said, “Parents and kids have been outstanding. My kids are simply amazing and I believe they feel safe at South Albany.  We have very few absences — our attendance is actually higher than on a normal end of the week day!”
A student discovered the threat written on a restroom wall late Tuesday afternoon.

Albany police searched the school and grounds Tuesday and again this morning.

“It was their determination that the threat was not credible,” said Jim Haggart, executive assistant to the superintendent. 

Belveal sent an email to South Albany parents with a photograph of the message, asking for help in identifying the handwriting and the signature. Information was not immediately available as to whether the photo helped bring about the confession.

Early release will go forward as scheduled.

No classes are in session Thursday or Friday for all Albany schools.

This is the second bomb threat at South Albany this school year. The previous one was on Oct. 14, also written in a restroom.

In that case, police arrested a sophomore at the school the following week on charges of disorderly conduct*, third-degree criminal mischief and third-degree theft, all misdemeanors. He was referred to the juvenile department and released to his family.

Dorland said many factors come into play in deciding how to charge someone even in similar situations, including the suspect’s past history and his or her level of cooperation.

In today’s case, Dorland said: “He admitted to the offense and took ownership of it.”

* Editor’s note: Previous versions of this story, including the October print version, gave incorrect information about the misconduct charge. That has now been updated.

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OSU Senate backs foundation divestment in fossil fuel firms

The Oregon State University Faculty Senate voted 38-30 Thursday to encourage the university foundation to divest from fossil fuel companies.

The resolution is nonbinding, but organizers of the OSU Divest campaign hope the move will send a signal to other universities and organizations.

The OSU Foundation, a nonprofit entity separate from the university, manages $600 million in assets, with $36 million, or 6 percent, invested in fossil fuel companies.

The foundation has not taken a position on the divestment issue, but the group’s board recently created an advisory committee to consider such requests.

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John Turner resigns from new OSU board

PENDLETON (AP) — The new Oregon State University board of trustees has its first resignation.

The retired president of Blue Mountain Community College, John Turner, quit before the first meeting because he’s running for the Legislature.

Turner told the East Oregonian it wouldn’t make sense to serve for a few months and then — if elected — be forced to resign to avoid a conflict of interest.

Lawmakers during the most recent session approved independent boards to give Oregon, Oregon State and Portland State more autonomy from the State Board of Higher Education. The new boards will have the authority to hire and fire presidents, set tuition and fees, and oversee university operations.

Turner would have been the only Oregon State trustee from the eastern part of the state.

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