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Coquille School District holds highest grad rate in Coos County
State graduation average goes up from last year

COOS COUNTY — The Oregon Department of Education released graduation rates from 2016-2017 and the Coquille School District scored as one of the best in the state.

Overall, Oregon now holds a graduation average of 76.56 percent. It is an improvement from last year’s 74 percent, at the time, making it third worst in the nation.

“When Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act two years ago to ensure local educators got more of a leadership role in the classroom, I worked to get more students across the stage on graduation day and to track for the first time the graduation rates of students experiencing homelessness or living in foster homes,” said U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden in a press release.

“Today’s overall results in Oregon have two takeaways: One, while more work needs to be done to lift graduation rates, progress has been achieved thanks to Oregon’s hard-working educators proving they can make a difference for all students,” Wyden continued. “And two, my amendment requiring data on graduation rates for teen-agers who are homeless or living in foster homes shows how much work remains to get those students the support they need to succeed in school.”

In Coos County, the Coquille School District skyrocketed over the state average with a 92.45 graduation rate.

Behind Coquille came the Powers School District at 90.91 percent.

The North Bend School District overall came in last in the county at 49.58 percent. However, North Bend High School on its own scored 81.46 percent.

School officials have told The World in past interviews the reason for this is because the Oregon Virtual Academy scores bring the district down, but its high school usually does well.

Similarly, the Coos Bay School District scored a low 62.31 percent but Marshfield High School came in with an 81.77 percent graduation rate.

The Bandon School District scored just below the state average at 73.21, followed by Port Orford-Langlois School District at 70 percent.

Myrtle Point Schools brought in a score of 65.85 percent.

In a press release, the Oregon Education Association President John Larson praised educators for their hard work in educating students.

“It’s encouraging to see improvement in statewide graduation rates,” Larson said. “Despite this growth, it is clear there is still a long way to go. Without adequate funding, we will never be able to give our students the opportunity to reach their full potential. Oregonians must come together and solve our school funding crisis.”

Bethany Baker, The World 

A dead tan oak, littered with holes likely from a woodpecker, stands among other trees along Alder Ridge Road outside of Brookings last July. The tree was killed by Phytophthora ramorum, commonly known as sudden oak death, in an area that is fully infested with the devastating plant disease.

Sudden Oak Death Task force fights for funding

COOS BAY — The Sudden Oak Death Task Force will once again be appealing for funds during Oregon’s February legislative session, where they will ask for an additional $1 million to eradicate NA-1 and EU-1 strains of the sudden oak death pathogen.

After submitting plans to eradicate sudden oak death to the state, asking for $1.7 million in 2017, the state returned to the task force offering $700,000. That $1.7 million dollars is what the task force requires yearly, so throughout 2018 they will be asking the state for $2.7 million.

Bethany Baker, The World 

A dead tan oak, littered with holes likely from a woodpecker, stands among other trees along Alder Ridge Road outside of Brookings last July. The tree was killed by Phytophthora ramorum, commonly known as sudden oak death, in an area that is fully infested with the devastating plant disease.

The plan was designed to hopefully eradicate sudden oak death by 2019 provided the task force gets the funding it needs.

“This is probably the scariest thing we’ve seen as far as a pathogen effecting our economy,” Oregon State Rep. David Brock Smith said.

The scientific name of the disease is phytophthora ramorum. he NA-1 strain has been present in Curry County since 2001. In 2015 a new strain of the disease was recognized in Curry County known as the EU-1.

Phytophthora ramorum’s NA-1 strain infects tan oaks, which is where the name sudden oak death comes from. The EU-1 strain also infects tan oaks but can infect conifers like the Douglas fir. The Douglas fir is not only Oregon’s state tree, but a very important product to Oregon’s timber industry.

“The task force has said clearly that we want to eradicate the EU-1 strain and contain the NA-1 strain,” Association of Oregon Counties County Solutions Facilitator Mark Labhart said.  

Since the first case of EU-1 was noticed in 2015, the number of known infected trees has gone up at an alarming rate. According to state representative David Brock Smith one case was found in 2015, 22 cases were found in 2016, and 123 were found as of October 2017.

“The new strain which has morphed into what’s call EU-1 effects conifers species. It has killed conifer species in Europe and if it starts expanding its range and starts effecting conifer species it could cause a significant economic drain on Curry County and eventually Coos County,” Labhart said.

Bethany Baker, The World 

Randy Wiese, a forester with the Oregon Dept. of Forestry, holds a leaf with a darkened line along the center, an indicator to an infestation of Phytophthora ramorum, commonly known as sudden oak death.

If the EU-1 pathogen continues to spread, it could harm the shipping industry as well as logging since much of the timber products that come from in and around Coos Bay ship from the Port of Coos Bay.

Starting earlier this month, the Sudden Oak Death Task Force began an economic impact analysis to show the legislature how economically devastating sudden oak death may be if it’s not controlled and eradicated in a timely manner.

“We’re asking contractors to update the economic analysis that was originally done about five -or- six years ago that discussed the economic impact to Curry County and the state of Oregon. Because of the slow growth towards north towards Coos County and out to the east we need to get more factual information on what the economic impact is,” Labahrt said. 

Smith said a case of the EU-1 was found as far north as the Rogue River. Curry County is far from being completely quarantined, but there are some quarantine spots where high concentrations of sudden oak death have been found.

“There are certain products that now can’t be shipped out of Curry County. It’s mostly Nursery stock like rhododendron, which can also be infected with sudden oak death,” Labhart said.

Bethany Baker, The World 

Since the pathogen commonly known as sudden oak death was originally detected in southern Curry County in 2001, the quarantine area has expanded exponentially - from nine square miles to 515 - nearly 30 percent of Curry County.

Smith worked with Senator Jeff Merkley to create the Sudden Oak Death Task Force last year. Merkley is working in congress to get federal funding to combat this issue.

Bethany Baker, The World 

Randy Wiese, a forester with the Oregon Dept. of Forestry, holds a leaf with a darkened line along the center, an indicator to an infestation of Phytophthora ramorum, commonly known as sudden oak death.

Shutter Creek inmate death under investigation

Gary Lee Brink

NORTH BEND — A Shutter Creek Correctional Institution inmate died of apparent natural causes Saturday at Shutter Creek Correctional Institution (SCCI) in North Bend, according to an Oregon Department of Corrections press release.

As with all unanticipated deaths of state prison inmates, the Oregon State Police Criminal Investigation Division is conducting an investigation.

At  4:52 p.m. on Saturday, Gary Lee Brink, 69, collapsed and was unresponsive, the release said. Medical staff immediately began lifesaving efforts to no avail. He was transported to a local hospital and pronounced deceased at 6:18 p.m.

Brink, from Bandon, entered DOC custody on March 11, 2014, on numerous counts of criminal mistreatment in the first degree, two counts of theft in the first degree, and one count of aggravated theft in the first degree all out of Coos County. Brink was former director of Ocean Crest Assisted Living, a Coos Bay senior living facility, and was sentenced to almost a decade in prison after being found guilty of stealing from the residents under his care. His earliest release was Aug. 29, 2020.

Next of kin has been notified. No other details are available at this time.

SCCI is a minimum-security prison in North Bend that houses approximately 286 male inmates who are within four years of release. SCCI serves as a transition and re-entry facility and is focused on cognitive programming, work programs, and preparing inmates for return to the community. Inmates work on the institution site in the physical plant, kitchen and dining hall, warehouse, receiving and discharge, laundry, and prison grounds. Inmates also work on outside crews, primarily with the Department of Forestry, providing services throughout the year as trained wildland firefighters. Originally an Air National Guard radar station, the facility was converted into a prison in 1990.

In State of Union, Trump to make case that America is back

WASHINGTON — Seeking to move past the shadow of the Russia investigation, President Donald Trump intends to use his first State of the Union address to cite economic progress under his watch while pushing for bipartisanship with Democrats on issues such as rebuilding roads and bridges.

The White House said Sunday that the president would point to a robust economy and low unemployment during his first year and the benefits of a tax overhaul during Tuesday's address to Congress and the nation. Aides have said Trump, who stayed at the White House over the weekend as he prepared, is expected to set aside his more combative tone for one of compromise and bipartisanship.

"The president is going to talk about how America's back," said White House legislative director Marc Short. "The president is also going to make an appeal to Democrats ... to say we need to rebuild our country. And to make an appeal that to do infrastructure, we need to do it in a bipartisan way."

Short said Trump would urge Democrats to support additional military spending in light of "dramatic threats on the global scene."

White House officials have said the theme of the annual address will be "building a safe, strong and proud America" and that Trump was looking to showcase the accomplishments of his first year while setting the tone for the second.

As Trump looks ahead, special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible obstruction of justice and Trump campaign ties to Russian meddling in the 2016 election grinds on.

On the policy front, immigration is an immediate flashpoint for Trump and Congress. In the prime-time speech Tuesday, the president plans to promote his proposal for $25 billion for a wall along the Mexican border and for a path to citizenship for nearly 2 million young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Trump's plan includes billions for border security and significant changes to legal immigration long sought by hard-liners within the Republican Party. But some conservatives have warned that the deal would amount to "amnesty" for the young immigrants known as Dreamers, and many Democrats and immigration activists have outright rejected it.

"I think all of us realize that it's going to take a compromise on this issue for us to get something done and to protect the Dreamer population, which is certainly a goal of mine," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. "But I think the president is also right about border security, that we do need to beef up our border security."

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., called Trump's proposal "a good starting point."

"Let's see if it's something that we can agree on, something we need to adjust, something we can negotiate with," he said.

Part of Trump's goal in the speech is to set the course of the debate as Republicans look to retain their majority in Congress. He is expected to say the tax overhaul will unleash economic growth and he will point to companies that have provided their employees with $1,000 bonuses and other benefits.

Trump plans to outline a nearly $2 trillion plan that his administration contends will trigger $1 trillion or more in public and private spending on roads, bridges and other public works projects.

On trade, Trump will note his preference for one-on-one deals instead of multilateral agreements, building on his speech at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

And he will offer an update on the fight against terrorism and his view of international threats, including North Korea. A senior administration official providing a preview of the speech said Trump probably would avoid the taunts of "Little Rocket Man" for Kim Jong Un and "fire and fury" that he used before. The official wasn't authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The address comes at a critical point for the president. He is battling poor approval ratings and is trying to move past the government shutdown that coincided with the anniversary of his inauguration. He's also preparing for a grueling midterm election season that has tripped up other first-term presidents.

Trump was not expected to embark on an extensive sales pitch around the country after the speech. He plans to address a Republican congressional retreat in West Virginia on Thursday. Vice President Mike Pence will attend a tax overhaul event in West Virginia on Wednesday and speak to the GOP congressional retreat later in the day. Pence will hold events in the Pittsburgh area Friday.

Short spoke on "Fox News Sunday" and CBS' "Face the Nation." Collins spoke on CNN's "State of the Union," and Manchin spoke on CNN's "State of the Union" and NBC's "Meet the Press."