NORTH BEND — When former North Bend High School Principal Bill Lucero was demoted, he got a raise.
At least, he is budgeted to receive more money in the upcoming school year as a middle school vice principal than as the high school principal.
When The World asked the district why, there was still no response by Tuesday evening.
Lucero was slapped with the demotion after the North Bend School District reached two settlements with the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon in May, following an investigation conducted by the Oregon Department of Education. That investigation revealed a teacher who compared same-sex marriage to bestiality, discrimination toward LGBTQ students, and showed that Lucero instructed at least one student to read the Bible as punishment.
The settlements between the district and the ACLU of Oregon included five years of ODE oversight, new policies to protect students from future discrimination, and also included a demand for the district to remove Lucero from his position at the high school. According to the settlement, Lucero was not allowed to be reassigned anywhere at the high school or become the principal at North Bend Middle School.
So the district made him the vice principal at NBMS.
When the announcement was made last month, The World asked what his new salary would be. The district refused to give that information.
Because Lucero is paid through taxpayer dollars, The World filed a Freedom of Information Act request for not just his new salary but what the district paid Lucero over the past seven years.
The district filled that request on Tuesday not once, but twice.
“We are giving a second set of numbers because the first copy didn’t include FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act), Medicare, and PERS,” explained NBSD Superintendent Bill Yester.
The first copy also didn’t include Lucero’s salary for the 2018/2019 school year, though the second copy did.
According to those numbers, Lucero started 2011 with a salary of $95,345 and $46,062 in benefits. He received a steady raise every year, making $106,150 in the 2017/2018 school year and $60,401 in benefits. That was his last year as NBHS principal.
Budgeted for the 2018/2019 school year, Lucero is slotted to earn $107,444 and have $61,721.44 in benefits.
However, since the demotion, Lucero hired two attorneys to fight for him to regain his position at the high school, as well as damages.
In response to the June 12 letter of intent to sue sent to the district, Yester said, “As far as we’re concerned, the letter is a notification.”
“Our lawyers are working on this and there were students involved in this, so because of FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), we couldn’t say anything,” Yester said.
When asked if the district responded within the letter’s requested two weeks, Yester said, “I think our lawyer responded within the first two weeks.”
However, when The World asked one of Lucero’s attorneys if the district had responded in time or if the issue would move on in court, no official comment was given.
“We will not comment about potential litigation,” wrote attorney Roland Iparraguirre in an email. “We will say, however, that we are deeply concerned about the North Bend School District’s actions related to Mr. Lucero and about the Oregon Department of Education’s investigation of this matter.”
ACLU of Oregon responds
In the wake of Lucero’s letter of intent to the district, Kelly Simon, staff attorney for the ACLU of Oregon, wrote an email to The World that “It is understandable that some in the community feel empathy for him, but it is misguided to continue to debate whether or not he did anything wrong — he did.”
“Mr. Lucero is one of the rare people in power who is being held accountable for his abuses of power,” Simon wrote. “He admitted to wrongdoings on multiple occasions and the Oregon Department of Education investigation substantiated many of the numerous accusations against him.”
Simon explained that it is a school district’s responsibility, by law, to protect its students. Because of this, she said that Lucero’s demotion was a fair outcome “based on his actions and inaction.”
“Students who faced discrimination or proselytization under Mr. Lucero’s watch, and sometimes at his hands, suffered greatly,” she said. “Our clients were among them.”
She reiterated what even Lucero’s letter of intent to sue said, as well as the ODE investigation, which was that Lucero admitted to having Student 3 read the Bible as a form of punishment.
“That is a blatant violation of the Constitution, and it does not matter if a parent or student consented, especially under inherently coercive circumstances,” she said.
Simon also pointed out that the ACLU of Oregon’s clients, Liv Funk and Hailey Smith, never sought money damages in their lawsuits.
“Instead, they sought justice through acknowledgement of their harm with an apology, the removal of Mr. Lucero as principal, and policy changes to protect future students,” Simon wrote. “They were fair-minded and judicious in their requests, and kept in mind the hope that Mr. Lucero could grow and change from his mistakes.
“The entire North Bend community now has an opportunity to right the wrongs of the past and create a learning environment where all feel welcome and safe.”
ODE also issued its first response to Lucero's letter of intent to sue. In an email to The World, ODE Communication's Director Marc Siegel wrote, “As this is a legal matter, we’re not able to provide comment.”
COOS BAY — Marshfield High School has a new assistant principal.
Spanish teacher Floyd Montiel is replacing Eli Ashton at the main building. The change came after Ashton made a lateral move to assistant administrator at Pirate Hall, which is the Coos Bay School District’s 8th and 9th grade building, as well as the high school’s science center.
“(Ashton) is still an assistant principal but is taking over attendance,” said Marshfield Principal Travis Howard. “In the past he did both discipline and attendance, but now Floyd will cover the majority of student discipline.”
Howard explained that Ashton worked as his vice principal for three years and that now he was “ready for something new.”
After Ashton moved on and the position at the main building opened up, the district put together a committee to screen applicants. According to Howard, Montiel was the unanimous selection.
“He has a lot of experience, knows the building, and is the perfect fit for where we are moving forward,” Howard said of Montiel.
Montiel told The World he has been teaching at the district for 21 years, 20 of which have been at the high school teaching Spanish. He began working in Coos Bay as a teacher for English Developing Language back when it was still called “English as a Second Language.”
“So I’m an old-timer now,” he laughed.
Both he and his wife grew up in Coos County and even graduated from Marshfield High School.
“We came back sooner than we expected, but stuck around,” he said. “Our families are here, so we both stayed and have taught and coached for the same amount of time.”
Montiel began his Administration Program through Concordia University four years ago with the intention to move up in education.
“I wasn’t expecting to make the change so quickly, but the opportunity was there and since I just finished the program I thought I’d make the jump and try something different,” he said.
As far as goals as the new assistant principal, Montiel plans on continuing with what is already working.
“We’re getting better academically, made strides with our graduation rates in the last couple years, made personnel changes and added personnel and are moving in the right direction,” he said. “I won’t be making wholesale changes, but as a team we will continue to do things we’ve been working on in order to make a better environment.”
One of the new programs in place that Montiel is committed to is “Avid,” which began last year as a way to target students from families who didn’t attend college but are motivated. The program helps develop study skills and follows them throughout their four years at high school.
“Our Avid program is still developing and we’ve also seen success with our extracurricular classes last year, so we want to continue with that,” he said. “Overall, I’m excited for the opportunity.”
WASHINGTON — Conservative Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh plunged into his confirmation battle Tuesday, meeting face-to-face with Senate leaders in what promises to be an intense debate over abortion rights, presidential power and other legal disputes that could reshape the court and roil this fall's elections.
Kavanaugh is a favorite of the GOP legal establishment, and his arrival as President Donald Trump's nominee was greeted on Capitol Hill with praise from Republicans and skepticism from Democrats. There were also pledges of open minds by key senators whose votes will most likely determine the outcome.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky called Kavanagh "one of the most thoughtful jurists" in the country but warned of an onslaught of "fear mongering" from liberal groups trying to derail the nomination. He said it was clear that many Democrats "didn't care who the nominee was at all. Whoever President Trump put up they were opposed to."
Chuck Schumer, the Senate's Democratic leader, said his party's lawmakers did indeed care who the nominee was — and what his views were on such thorny issues as abortion and Trump himself.
Trump "did exactly what he said he would do on the campaign trail — nominate someone who will overturn women's reproductive rights," the New York senator said.
He also argued that the president chose the man he thought would best protect him from the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Kavanaugh has written about a need to free the executive branch from intrusive criminal investigations.
"Not only did Mr. Kavanaugh say that a president should not be subpoenaed, he said a president shouldn't be investigated," Schumer said.
The confirmation marathon is expected to drag on for months, and no date has yet been set for hearings. GOP leaders, with a slim majority in the Senate, are anxious to have Kavanaugh in place for the start of the court's session in October — and before the November congressional elections.
But that may be a tall order. His confirmation is complicated by an unusually long record as an appellate judge and as a George W. Bush administration official — and also his role as part of the Kenneth Starr investigation of President Bill Clinton.
Kavanaugh, just 53, could serve on the high court for decades.
As he arrived on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, he huddled with McConnell, Vice President Mike Pence and former Sen. Jon Kyl. He also met with Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which will determine whether to recommend him to the full Senate.
McConnell, who has been influential in shaping Trump's remaking of the judiciary, said, "What we'd like to see is a few open minds about this extraordinary talent."
Grassley said a speedy confirmation wasn't necessarily the goal. The vetting process, he said, is "going to be thorough and going to be done right." Pence told reporters that Kavanaugh was a "good man."
Republicans have little margin of error for the final vote unless a few Democrats can be brought onboard. McConnell has a 51-49 Senate majority, narrowed further by the absence of ailing Sen. John McCain of Arizona. But they hope to gain support from a handful of Democrats who are up for re-election in states where Trump is popular.
So far, Democrats are uniting behind a strategy to turn the confirmation fight into a referendum on conservatives' efforts to undo abortion access, chip away at health care protections under the Affordable Care Act and protect Trump from Mueller.
Senators will be seeking access to Kavanaugh's writings and correspondence, reams of documents that will take weeks to compile and even longer to review, giving opponents ample opportunity to wage a political battle. Protesters have filled the steps of the Supreme Court in recent days.
By fall, the nomination may turn on a handful of senators who will be under enormous pressure ahead of the midterm elections.
The Democrats are trying to pressure two Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, to oppose any nominee who threatens the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. The two have supported access to abortion services, and activists have already begun sending wire coat hangers, as a symbol of an era when abortion was illegal, to Collins' office.
She said that with Kavanaugh's credentials, "it's very difficult for anyone to tell me that he's not qualified for the job." But she added that other issues also would come into play for her, including "judicial temperament" and "judicial philosophy."
Murkowski said, "We've got some due diligence that we've got to do."
At the same time, Republicans are urging a half dozen Democratic senators, largely those who are up for re-election in Trump-won states, to back the president's choice.
Among their targets are Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, as well as Doug Jones of Alabama, who is not up for re-election but represents a conservative state in the Deep South.
COOS BAY — Travel Oregon recently released its 2017 visitor spending data for Coos County, detailing specifically how travel and tourism dollars were spent in our regional economy.
A total of $261.1 million was spent in Coos County in 2017, including $61.5 million on accommodations, $40.6 million on attractions, and $3 million on air travel to our area.
“Our local $261 million was $8 million increase over the last year, and we have been going up steadily since the recession,” executive director of the Coos Bay-North Bend Visitor and Convention Bureau, Janice Langlinais said.
Locally, travel and tourism promotion is coordinated by the Coos Bay-North Bend Visitor and Convention Bureau with support from Travel Southern Oregon Coast and the Oregon Coast Visitors Association.
From 2008 to 2009, at the beginning of the Great Recession, tourism dropped by 16 percent in Coos County. The following year it increased by 9 percent, and has grown steadily since then.
“Back then we were at $210 million in visitor spending. Before the recession our highest year for tourism was $217 million, and we’re at $261 million now,” Langlinais said.
Travel Oregon divides the state into seven tourism sections. The entire Oregon Coast generated $2 billion in state revenue, and accounts for 22,700 jobs. Throughout the year the state brought in $11.8 billion in total revenue.
“I think that we have so much potential here on the South Coast, people are starting to discover the Bay Area. I can only foresee us continuing to grow,” Langlinais said.
One of the things Langlinais said our area is working to improve is our off-season tourism.
“Part of that is coming up with interesting promotions or events that people in a 50-to-100 mile radius will come out and do for the weekend during the off season,” Langlinais said.
According to Travel Oregon, tourism is the one of the three largest industries for employment in rural counties across the state.
Langlinais said that the strongest tourism attraction in Coos County is likely fishing, as people come from all over to fish on the Oregon coast during the summer.
“It’s been pretty impressive the number of boats that have been out on the water over the last four days. All the expensive rigs and trucks that are parked out on the Charleston Marina so just how many people come here to fish. I would say that fishing is probably our number one tourist attraction,” Lanlinais said.
One Travel Oregon report said that every dollar spent on state tourism marketing generates $237 in visitor spending, and $11 in state and local tax revenue.