The Observer. (La Grande, Or.) 1968-current, October 15, 2020, Page 13, Image 13

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    THURSDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2020
Continued from Page 1A
could never get them reen-
gaged,” Elgin Superinten-
dent Dianne Greif said.
“Because of the small size
of our graduating class,
those two students knocked
our grad rate down
signifi cantly.”
Greif said the district has
enhanced its student con-
tact regarding graduating
and requirements with more
personnel to address where
students are are in the pro-
cess of meeting graduation
“It is our hope to not
be shut down for COVID
reasons again this year,”
she continued, “but if that
happens, we will hope to
keep all seniors engaged
and working toward
Enrollment data
La Grande school dis-
trict, the largest district in
Union County, has 2,348
students, with 81% white,
8% Hispanic/Latino, 6%
multiracial and 2% or less
American Indian, Asian,
Black or native Hawaiian.
“I would say that our
diversity of race in our
enrollment is somewhat
refl ective of the racial rep-
resentation of our commu-
nity,” La Grande Superin-
tendent George Mendoza
Continued from Page 1A
housing situation after com-
pleting that review.
Miesner’s ongoing goals
include fi nding ways for
the cities of Union County
to work together to help
each other because she said
everyone benefi ts when a
town does well.
“If a new business
moves into Island City, it
will help La Grande by
drawing more customers
here,” she said, as an
While La Grande City
Council positions are non-
partisan, Dutto, fellow
councilor Nicole Howard
and La Grande Mayor
Steve Clements were the
subjects of a recent accusa-
tory rant on the website for
the Union County Repub-
lican Central Committee
based on their registra-
tion as Democrats. Miesner
said she opposes efforts
to encourage councilors
to follow agendas of their
political parties or to attack
or support council candi-
dates on the assumption
they hold views that con-
form to their parties.
“I believe it is important
to be fair and open-minded
and strive to meet the needs
of all citizens, period,”
Miesner said. “I believe all
of our current city coun-
cilors are honest, fair and
very open-minded.”
Alf Rippee said if voters
choose her, she will work to
boost the business climate
and create a safer environ-
ment for students walking
to school.
She said she is con-
cerned about students who
live in areas such as those
east of Fourth Street who
walk to either La Grande
Middle School, La Grande
High School or Central Ele-
mentary School. The candi-
date said many of these stu-
dents have to walk in areas
where there are no side-
walks or crosswalks.
Funding for additional
crosswalks and sidewalks,
Alf Rippee said, might be
available from the national
Safe Routes to School pro-
Alan Kenega/Contributed Graphic
Alan Kenega/Contributed Graphic
Union County teachers are predominantly white. Howev-
er, La Grande and Elgin school districts have the most di-
versity on their staff.
Union County schools have a high rate of retention for
their teachers. Several superintendents say having good
communication and relationships between the district and
families helps keep staff at the district.
said. “We are a microcosm
of the community in gen-
eral, and the data in general
indicates that we have three
out of six racial categories
statistically the same.”
Other schools scored
similarly, with the excep-
tion of RiverBend High
School, an Oregon Depart-
ment of Education Youth
Correctional Education
Program facility. The
school provides education
for high school students in
the criminal justice system.
The Oregon Department
of Education reported 12
students were enrolled for
the 2019-2020 academic
year. Of these students,
17% were Black, 42% were
• Four seats are up for
election on the La Grande
City Council. Previous edi-
tions featured the contests
between La Grande Mayor
Steve Clements and chal-
lenger Alex McHadded as
well as the councilor race
between incumbent Cor-
rine Dutto and challenger
Dr. David Glabe.
• Saturday’s edition will
conclude coverage of the
candidates for the city
gram. The challenger said
she wants to help make sure
the city is doing all it can
and to use all the resources
it has available to help busi-
nesses being hit hard by the
COVID-19 pandemic.
“I want to keep the
downtown vibrant,” she
Alf Rippee said she fi nds
the new businesses coming
into town an encouraging
sign, as well as how La
Grande’s Urban Renewal
Agency is assisting them.
Alf Rippee has lived in
Northeast Oregon since
2001 and has resided in
Umatilla, Wallowa and
Malheur counties. She and
her family fi rst lived in
Emigrant Springs about a
decade ago where her hus-
band, Matt, worked for
the Oregon State Parks
Department. Alf Rippee
said they and their four
daughters made trips from
there to La Grande to
enjoy its parks, library and
swimming pool.
Alf Rippee and her
family have lived in La
Grande for four and a
half years. Her public ser-
vice record includes years
serving as a volunteer for
Girl Scouts, the La Grande
Swim Club and La Grande
High School.
She also contended the
partisan involvement in
the La Grande city council
races is a non-issue. She
believes city council deci-
sions should be and are
made based on process and
Hispanic/Latino, and 42%
were white.
In Cove, which has 403
students, the district has
an 89% majority of white
students and 5% Hispanic/
Latino students, 1% Asian
and less than 1% Black.
“Due to a number of
adoptions and kids moving
to the district due to clo-
sures in their previous
communities, our enroll-
ment refl ects a higher racial
diversity this year than is
refl ected in community
data as a whole,” Cove
Superintendent Earl Pettit
said. “The racial diversity
of our student body con-
tinues to broaden.”
The demographics of the
other Union County schools
are similar to county-wide
data on race, according to
the 2010 U.S. Census.
Educator data
The La Grande school
district has 124 teachers
in its fi ve schools and a
91% average retention rate.
Other districts in Union
County had similar or
higher retention rates for
the school year, with the
exception of Elgin, which
had an average of 80% of
teachers return.
“About half are past
the 15-year mark and half
are under,” Greif said of
Elgin’s staff. “This would
Continued from Page 1A
Continued from Page 1A
the Wallowa-Whitman
to keep 95% of fees col-
lected at most recreation
sites to operate, maintain
and improve sites on the
Fees pay for work
such as pumping and
cleaning toilets, the most
expensive task at most
sites, according to the
Of the forest’s 248
recreation sites, 65
require fees now.
At Pittsburg Landing
campground, on the
Snake River in Hells
Canyon, the Wal-
lowa-Whitman has col-
lected less than $10,000
per year over the past 3
years, while the average
maintenance cost for the
campground has been
$30,000 per year. That
doesn’t include the cost
of a new drinking water
system, paving and
building renovation at
the site.
The Wal-
lowa-Whitman also
noted that since 2005,
when fees were last
increased, the federal
cost of living index has
increased by 36%, Ore-
gon’s minimum wage
has risen from $7.15 to
$11.50 in the part of the
state that includes the
The cost to hire a
contractor to pump toi-
lets has nearly doubled
during that period, offi -
cials said.
Comments on the pro-
posal are due by Nov. 15.
Commenting options:
• Email to sm.fs.
gov (include “fee pro-
posal” in the subject line)
• Phone: 541-805-2769
(leave a voicemail with
your full name, ZIP code
and email address)
• Mail comments
to: Wallowa-Whitman
National Forest, Atten-
tion: Recreation Program
Manager, 1550 Dewey
Ave., Suite A, Baker
City, OR 97814.
she values at least reaching
across the aisle to have
conversations to accom-
plish goals for the district.
“The way I approach
things is I like to have a
conversation,” she said. “I
like to sit down across the
table and visit with them
to see if we can fi nd some
common ground to work
Bylenga is a 2016 grad-
uate of Pendleton High
School and is fi nishing a
degree in political science
at Portland State Univer-
sity this fall. He’s had to
justify his place in the
race to some due to his
age, but Bylenga believes
his perspective can also
be a benefi t to mending
the hyperpolarization of
state and national politics
in recent years.
“There needs to be
some type of culture
“Real Food for
the People”
Fri-Sun Take-out
5pm-8pm Updated
be a refl ection on current
hiring within the last 10
years, and retirement, also
within the last 10 years.
As staff retire they are
typically replaced by new
staff, those with less years
North Powder Superin-
tendent Lance Dixon said
the family atmosphere of
the district is what keeps
teachers from leaving.
“We are a family,”
Dixon said. “I have always
encouraged staff to put
their family fi rst and we all
understand that we have
to take care of ourselves
in order to help others. I
think that philosophy goes
a long way in encouraging
people to commit to the
district long term.”
North Powder and Cove
school districts had the
least amount of diver-
sity in their teaching staff.
The districts have 100%
white teachers, while the
other districts in Union
County have a mix of
white, Asian, Hispanic and
Black teachers, though the
majority of the teachers in
those districts are white.
Dixon said the trend of
hiring for the district is
in line with the commu-
nity and application pool
the district receives. Men-
doza said La Grande’s
hiring also is in line
with the community, but
the district is working
toward maintaining a
well-cultured education
through partnering with
Eastern Oregon Univer-
sity’s “Grow Your Own”
“These programs are
built around the premise
of culturally responsive
instruction and are aligned
to having future teachers
from our region who wish
to stay and work in our
region,” Mendoza said.
“We do look at equity and
diversity in our school
system in general and take
action to be equity driven
and culturally respon-
sive to student and staff
For more election cov-
erage, and to read a longer
version of this story, go to
change,” he said. “We
have to have common
respect in the Legislature,
and that’s something I
want to at least be able to
While some of Bylen-
ga’s positions align with
Levy’s and other con-
servative positions pop-
ular in Eastern Oregon
— such as protecting the
Second Amendment and
small businesses from
arduous regulation or tax-
ation — the two candi-
dates diverge on their top
Levy’s campaign
has been endorsed by a
number of political action
committees devoted to
representing the interests
of natural resource and
agricultural businesses,
Joe Horst
such as Ag-PAC, the
Oregon Farm Bureau and
Timber Unity PAC.
The Corporate Activ-
ities Tax began in 2020
at a rate of 0.57% for all
businesses that exceed $1
million in annual revenue.
Funds raised from the tax
were being used to fund
the Student Success Act
for education throughout
the state.
“I’ve had a lot of pri-
vate citizens and business
owners talk to me about
it and how it’s negatively
impacting their business,”
Levy said.
Family Fruits
Pumpkin Patch
of pumpkins
to choose
Highway 82 - 4 mi. North of
Imbler (Follow Signs)
8am - 6pm
shop safe-shop local
The Union County Chamber of Commerce
would like to thank everyone for
shopping safe, supporting local and doing
your part to keep
Union County open.
Are you ready
for Fall?
(541) 663-0246
Locally owned and operated
for over 25 years
10505 N. McAlister Road
(Corner of Hwy 82 & N. McAlister Rd.)
starting at
Paid for by Committee to reelect Steve Clements.
68 Month