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Roseburg Public Schools to narrow superintendent applicant field by Monday

Roseburg Public Schools is one step closer to hiring a new superintendent.

The Superintendent Application Screening Committee had a training session Wednesday with Mike Taylor of NextUp Leadership and Sarah Herb, the executive search and events specialist of the Oregon School Boards Association.

Each member of the screening committee, which is made up of faculty, principals, parents and community members, will select their own top 10 in candidates. Herb will collect that data and make another presentation to the school board at 5:30 p.m. on Monday.

“We asked folks who were interested and we wanted a mix of parents, community leaders and we tried to be as inclusive as possible,” school board chair Joseph Garcia said about the selection for the screening committee members.

Applications for the position were due last week. The screening committee will go over resumes, reference letters and letters of interest to make its decision by 8 p.m. on Sunday.

The school board is expected to make a decision Monday on who it wants to invite back for initial interviews.

When asked how many people would be brought in for those interviews, Taylor said, “The magic number is eight, but if there’s a big difference between the No. 6 and No. 7 candidate it might be six. But I usually recommend eight.”

The number of applicants has not been released.

The new superintendent will start on July 1, and the tentative schedule calls for the board to announce its superintendent selection on April 10. The date may change depending on the school board’s schedule as well as the applicants’ schedule.

Rental companies say rent control bill will hurt housing supply

Local property managers and landlords say Oregon’s first-in-the-nation rent control law will hurt the state in the long run by discouraging developers and pushing homeowners to sell off their units.

For people like Sara Clark, the law aims to avoid dramatic rent increases like the 27 percent increase that she and her family experienced earlier this year.

Gov. Kate Brown signed Senate Bill 608 on Feb. 28, which caps rent increases at 7 percent plus inflation during a 12-month period.

Clark was living in her apartment with her husband and three children for about a year when the owner sold the building to a new owner who raised the rent from about $550 per month to about $700 per month in January.

“They gave us like a 90-day notice right off the bat, so we knew. I was like, ‘yeah, that sucks, but it’s a whole lot better than having to move,’” Clark said. “They also said by the end of December, we needed a $200 increased deposit. Merry Christmas.”

Then in January, Clark was given a 30-day eviction notice based on complaints of her 2-year-old son crying in the night. She said she had not received any complaints about her children before the new owners bought the building.

“These walls are thin and he’s a 2-year-old. He’s going to get up in the middle of the night,” Clark said. “I also have newborn twins. I do what I can. I always tried to be super understanding, I didn’t think it would be a possibility that other people would not be understanding.”

She said they had been looking for an apartment with little luck until a friend who was moving connected her with that apartment. Now her family is staying with her husband’s parents until they can find another place.

She said the search is “really not going” and they are looking into alternatives like buying a house with her husband’s parents.

“If we get into another apartment, are we going to be in the same scenario?” Clark asked. “Are we going to get evicted in 30 days?”

The law also bans no-cause evictions for tenants living in the same unit for more than one year. It’s set to take effect for the first lease renewal after March 30.

Tim Smith, a real estate agent with RE/MAX Professional Realty, said the law could have unintended consequences on tenants.

“I think you’re going to see a lot of tenants get notice to move at 11 months because they can,” Smith said. “Once they are there for a year, it’s harder to get rid of them. If you have somebody who is doing drugs and you’re pretty sure they are doing drugs, but they haven’t been busted, you can’t get rid of them and that’s hard on landlords.”

Housing has been a constant issue for Oregon with the City of Roseburg hiring ECONorthwest to do a buildable lands analysis to make sure there would be enough housing for the 5,000 people expected to move to the area in the next 20 years.

While the buildable lands survey shows there is enough housing, Beth Goodman from ECONorthwest said she’s seeing a “huge need” for affordable housing in Oregon.

“There’s a future need for rentals,” Goodman said. “In this housing needs analysis, we’re finding there’s a big need for affordable housing for lower and middle-income households.

“These are households that probably wouldn’t be able to afford home ownership.”

According to Oregon Housing and Community Services report, the owner vacancy rate from 2011 to 2015 was at 2 percent and rental vacancy rate was 5 percent.

The report showed Douglas County had a deficit of 435 affordable and available homes for people making 80 percent of the Median Family Income of $50,241.

Smith said the law will create a rental shortage instead of creating more affordable housing as investors see limitations on potential rental income.

“The rate cap really won’t affect this area very much because we don’t raise the rent that much,” Smith said. “The negative effect to that rent control is I’ve already lost some investors who said they aren’t going to invest in Oregon anymore.”

The law allows rental units opened in the past 15 years to raise rents beyond the cap, but Smith said investors would rather go somewhere with no rent control at all.

Greg Johnson, owner of G. Stiles Realty, predicts landlords will raise the rent every year to protect against needing to make a large increase and not being able to.

“When they go to sell, that’s where they are going to have a problem,” Johnson said. “No one raises it that much unless they are way behind, then when (the tenants) move it out, you can raise it then.”

The Housing Authority of Douglas County has several units, but they are already rent-controlled as subsidized housing, but Executive Director Janeal Kohler said the bill will cause issues for the Section 8 rental assistance program.

“What we have been seeing is a lot of longer-term landlords that are retiring or choosing to get out of rentals, and those landlords are very committed to our community and keeping rents reasonable,” Kohler said. “When they sell off their properties and other people have been purchasing them, they have definitely been increasing the rent. If for some reason, we can’t (help), then we could have to say this isn’t going to work, you’re going to have to find a different place or we’re going to take a bigger hit, which affects our budget for everybody.”

She said they haven’t had to cut back on how many people they can help, but she is concerned about landlords maximizing the use of loopholes to raise rents. She said that’s going to hurt Douglas County because the generous landlords are leaving the industry and her organization needs those, but she would like to think the law will help someone.

“If you’re a socialist, you probably think this is a good law,” Smith said. “If you’re a capitalist, you probably think it is a bad law. I understand what caused this and a lot of it was from the Portland area. I don’t think rent controls by the state are a good way to make that happen.”

Douglas High School cafeteria damaged in storm

Douglas High School students will be able to return to the cafeteria next week to eat their lunches.

Students were served food in the gymnasium this past week, because the roof of the cafeteria building was damaged in last week’s storm.

“We can go back and occupy that building,” said Kevin Miller, superintendent for the Winston-Dillard School District. “A lot of the weight came off when the snow came off and it relieved a lot of the stress off the roof.”

The cafeteria roof had been held up by 2-by-6 beams the past week while safety was being assessed.

Douglas High School’s kitchen staff worked with Kyle Micken, a Sodexo employee who managed nutritional services for most of Douglas County’s schools, to make accommodations for the students in the gymnasium.

Project management declared the cafeteria space safe to occupy for the students, but Miller added there will be some changes to keep the students away from the support structure.

Winston-Dillard School District will be looking at a long-term solution, but it was not immediately clear on Friday what that solution might be.

Prior to last week’s snowstorm, school board members had discussed during work sessions the possibility of seeking a bond measure for school improvements in May of 2019, but no final decisions have been made.

CDC: Unvaccinated Oregon boy almost dies of tetanus

PORTLAND — An unvaccinated 6-year-old Oregon boy was hospitalized for two months for tetanus and almost died of the bacterial illness after getting a deep cut while playing on a farm, according to a case study published Friday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The 2017 case is the first case of pediatric tetanus in Oregon in more than 30 years and alarmed infectious disease experts who said tetanus is almost unheard of in the U.S. since widespread immunization began in the 1940s.

The child received an emergency dose of the tetanus vaccine in the hospital, but his parents declined to give him a second dose — or any other childhood shots — after he recovered, the paper said.

“When I read that, my jaw dropped. I could not believe it. That’s a tragedy and a misunderstanding, and I’m just flabbergasted,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an expert in infectious diseases and chair at the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee.

“This is an awful disease, but ... we have had a mechanism to completely prevent it, and the reason that we have virtually no cases anymore in the United States is because we vaccinate, literally, everyone.”

Doctors in Portland who treated the child declined to provide any further information about the family at a news conference Friday, citing medical privacy laws.

It was the first time that Dr. Judith Guzman-Cottrill, the pediatric infectious disease expert who treated the child, had ever seen tetanus because of widespread vaccination against it in the U.S.

When the boy arrived at the emergency department, his muscle spasms were so severe he could not talk, could not open his mouth and was struggling to breathe, she said.

“We had a hard time taking care of this child — watching him suffer — and it is a preventable disease,” Guzman-Cottrill said.

News about the tetanus case comes as lawmakers in Oregon and Washington are considering bills that would end non-medical exemptions for routine childhood vaccines as the Pacific Northwest weathers its third month of a measles outbreak. Seventy people in southwest Washington, most of them unvaccinated children, have been diagnosed with the highly contagious viral illness since Jan. 1, as well as a handful of people in Portland, Oregon.

Unlike measles, which is a virus, someone who has survived a case of tetanus is not immune and can get the illness again if they remain unvaccinated. Tetanus also isn’t transmitted person-to-person by sneezing or coughing like the measles, but instead comes from bacterial spores that are found in the environment.

Tetanus spores exist everywhere in the soil. When an unvaccinated person gets a deep, penetrating wound, those spores can invade the cut and begin producing the bacteria that causes the illness. The tetanus bacterium secretes a toxin that gets into the bloodstream and latches onto the nervous system.

Anywhere from three to 21 days after infection, symptoms appear: muscle spasms, lockjaw, difficulty swallowing and breathing and seizures. The disease can cause death or severe disability in those who survive, Schaffner said.

About 30 people contract tetanus each year nationwide, according to the CDC, and 16 people died of it between 2009 and 2015. It’s rare among children; those over 65 are the most vulnerable.

In the case in Oregon, the boy cut himself on the forehead while playing, and his family stitched up the wound themselves. Six days later, he began clenching his jaw, arching his neck and back and had uncontrollable muscle spasms.

When he began to have trouble breathing, his parents called paramedics and he was transported by air to Oregon Health & Science University’s Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland. When he arrived, he asked for water but could not open his mouth.

The child was sedated, put on a ventilator and cared for in a darkened room while wearing ear plugs because any stimulation made his pain and muscle spasms worse. His fever spiked to almost 105 degrees, and he developed high blood pressure and a racing heartbeat.

Forty-four days after he was hospitalized, the boy was able to sip clear liquids. Six days later, he was able to walk a short distance with help. After another three weeks of inpatient rehabilitation and a month at home, he could ride a bike and run — a remarkable recovery, experts said.

The child’s care — not including the air ambulance and inpatient rehabilitation — cost nearly $1 million, about 72 times the mean for a pediatric hospitalization in the U.S., the paper noted.

“The way to treat tetanus is you have to outlast it. You have to support the patient because this poison links on chemically and then it has to be slowly metabolized,” Schaffner said.

Cases of tetanus have dropped by 95 percent in the U.S. since widespread childhood vaccination and adult booster shots became routine nearly 80 years ago; deaths have dropped 99 percent.

The CDC recommends a five-dose series of tetanus shots for children between the ages of 2 months and 6 years and a booster shot every 10 years for adults.