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Salem Statesman Journal 09/03/2012

Statesman Journa
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2012

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Pressure builds fo more PE reforms
By Hannah Hoffman
Statesman Journal

Local officials say increases unsusta

Parents concerned about nonprofit’s fate
Oregon RISE helps those with special needs children
By Saerom Yoo
Statesman Journal

Patie Taylor sits with her special needs daughter, Kimberly, 12, who has Down Syndrome. KOBBI R. BLAIR / STATESMAN JOURNAL

Parents with special needs children are closely watching the controversy unfold at Oregon Parent Training and Information Center — worried they may lose another valuable resource in an area that’s already lacking in options. The Salem nonprofit, also known as Oregon RISE, is barely hanging on after losing funding and its executive director, who is under criminal investigation for aggravated theft. Numerous board members also have left, saying they were misled about the organization’s finances. Salem police say tens of thou-

sands of federal and state dollars that funded Oregon RISE are unaccounted for. However, the parents who have benefited from the organization aren’t interested in pointing fingers. They worry about the gap in services its potential demise would leave. Oregon RISE is known for the trainings it offered to parents who have children in special education. Each child in special education in public school has an individualized education plan, or IEP, which lays out goals and strategies to help the student learn and succeed. With these plans come IEP meetings that take place at least once a year. Patie Taylor, a Turner-area mom of a girl who has Down syndrome, said the meetings can be intimidating and depressing. Often, Taylor
See RISE, Page 4A

Salem nonprofit’s future uncertain
By Saerom Yoo
Statesman Journal

Local officials hope the 2013 O ture will tackle another round of Public Employees’ Retirement S the payments have started to bu ernments too much. The PERS board, which sets e and also helps draft PERS-relat announced last week that aver rates will increase about 5 perc from about 16 percent of payroll cent of payroll. Those numbers are even hig districts, which will pay about 26 erage in 2013. “These rate increases are uns what point do you say, ‘We can more?’ I don’t know,” Salem-Kei trict Chief Operations Officer M “That’s what we elect people he said. “We hope they tackle PE meaningful way.” The PERS board will announce
See PERS, Page 4A

A Salem nonprofit meant to serve families with special needs children faces an unclear future, as funding has been pulled and its former leader is under criminal investigation. Janice Roberts, former executive director of Oregon RISE, left the organization earlier this summer amid financial irregularities. Several board members followed suit, citing they were misled in the organization’s financial information. The issues were first reported by The Oregonian. RISE, also known as Oregon Parent Training and Information Center, is most known for its services helping parents navigate the special education system. The organization was funded by federal and state dollars. Salem Police Department Lt. Steve Birr said last week that Roberts is under investigation for first-degree aggravated theft. The local agency is
See FUTURE, Page 4A

DAILY COVERAGE

Cake takes center stage at the state the Gerry Frank Chocolate Layer Ca Page 1C

Oregon State Fair page: Each day man Journal’s Oregon State Fair pa ture basic fair information, moneya daily schedule and the day’s best also will find photos from the fair a tion on how to submit children’s dr their favorite attractions at the fair

Patie Taylor, plays foosball with daughters Kalyn, 10 (left) and Kimberly, 12, who has Down Syndrome. KOBBI R. BLAIR / STATESMAN JOURNAL

Go to Statesman atesma tes Journal.com/ / statefair for photo galleries, videos and schedules.

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Copyright © 2012 Salem Statesman Journal 09/03/2012

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WEATHER INDEX

INSIDE

Roberts’ attorney, Tom Rask, nected to Roberts’ case, Birr said. Oregon RISE agreed to be said he had not been notified of NIPIC’s fiscal agent, obtaining any allegations or charges Salem Statesman Journal 09/03/2012 federal funds and funneling it to against his client. “We vehemently deny any NIPIC for a fee. However, there’s more money missing wrongdoing,” Rask said.

took years to create the crisis end the war in Iraq and bring that erupted in 2008 and all of our warriors home,” the peaked in January of 2009. And vice president said. “He said it Copy Reduced to %d%% from original to fit letter pageend it’s going to take some time to was a mistake to set an date for our warriors in Afwork through it.” Not only the economy, but ghanistan and bring them

with a yes or no, replied: “I think everybody understands we were this close to a Great Page : off. Depression. We staved thatA04 We’re beginning to recover. We have a lot more work to do.”

RISE
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said, parents walk into the meeting and are faced with multiple school staffers — teachers, instructional assistants, school psychologists and the superintendent. They speak in a different language, and often in terms of the child’s deficiencies that are difficult for any parent to hear.

“I had a meeting earlier in the school year last year, and I was informed that my child can’t read, can’t write, can’t do math, has no social skills and has no friends,” Taylor said. “You get the worst-case scenario. You go in there thinking, I see my child progress in this area, and they don’t see that. So it’s kind of like getting hit up side the head when you’re not expecting it. You get blindsided.” Staffers at RISE helped

parents prepare for the IEP process, helping them strategize and lay out the goals they hope to accomplish. Parents also had the option of asking an IEP partner to tag along to the meetings for more support. Taylor is well-connected in the developmentally disabled community and with parents who have special needs children. She’s president of the Willamette Valley Down Syndrome Association, a

board member of The Arc of Oregon and founder of a parent support group in the Cascade School District, just to name a few of her activities. She’s not aware of another organization in Salem that offers the type of parent training RISE provides. “There may be something in Portland, but in Salem we seem to be resource poor,” she said, “which is why this is not a good thing for our area.” Taylor noted other recent losses for the special needs community in Salem: Juntos Podemos and Swindells of Salem. “We lost two really big

ones,” she said, “and RISE not currently operating at full capacity is not good.” Parents often tout the importance of networking and information sharing to thrive in a life with a special needs child. Learning about the child’s deficiencies is a tough enough task, they say. Parents need each other to share ideas and support. Dana Campbell years ago started a parent support group called Salem Oregon Autism Resources for that reason. She often shared classes offered by Oregon RISE and brought in speakers from the organization for the group. “My initial group of

parents — they didn’t know jack,” she said. “If you Google autism online, I mean, you get seven bazillion answers.” Campbell quit the support group several years ago, but she’s thinking about starting it back up because she worries about the lack of services in Salem. “Right now my son is in a social skills class by Lake Oswego because there’s nothing in Salem,” she said. “There’s just nothing.”
syoo@Statesman Journal.com, (503) 399-6673 or follow at Twitter.com/syoo.

PERS

YOU CARE FOR THEM. WE CARE FOR YOU.
Welcome to Oregon’s 5,000 homecare workers, who now have a new health plan option. Kaiser Permanente Northwest and the Service Employees International Union Local 503 are proud to announce this collaboration. From Coos Bay to Corvallis, Pendleton to Prineville, Kaiser Permanente is proud to serve the total health needs of those who serve others.

Copyright © 2012 Salem Statesman Journal 09/03/2012
All plans offered and underwritten by Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest.

The school district is looking at $10 million more per year, Wolfe said. It will probably mean less staff or fewer working Continued from Page 1A days, he said. This year the district took seven furlough days to make up its budget ployer rates on Sept. 28, so right now ev- gap. Local officials understand why PERS eryone is working with estimates. Every public employer pays a different rate needs them to pay more. Most of the program’s money is invested in the stock marthat’s based on several factors. The board sets a base rate — 21percent ket, and PERS lost about $17 billion when for the 2013-15 biennium — but it varies by the stock market crashed in late 2008 and employer based on when their employees early 2009. It still hasn’t recovered that were hired. They pay a higher rate for em- money, and as a consequence, employer ployees hired before 2003, so if an employ- rates increased about 5 percentage points er has a lot of new employees, they’ll have in the current and next bienniums. “PERS is well-managed. It’s one of the a lower rate. In addition, some employers pay the 6 percent that workers are sup- top-funded plans in the country,” White posed to contribute to PERS, a concession said. “Only a couple of bienniums ago, we they made decades ago in exchange for saw rates going down.” Wolfe agrees there are no hard feelworkers giving up some pay increases. Also, many governments passed bonds ings. “There’s nothing evil in this,” he said, several years ago to pay off their unfunded liability to PERS. Marion County Chief “but it’s a problem that needs to be fixed.” White,WolfeandGahlsdorfarealllookFinancial Officer Jeff White said the county only pays about 5 percent interest on its ing to the Legislature for leadership on the bond payment every year, rather than 8 issue because the solution probably won’t percent, which is what PERS would have come from the stock market, which would have to show vast, prolonged improvecharged. This is called having a “side account” ment to make any difference in how much and it can be a mixed blessing, because PERS costs. There has been talk about ending some side accounts respond dramatically to changes in the bond market. Data from provisions in the law that cover state inPERS shows that entities with side ac- come tax liability for out-of-state PERS recounts saw their PERS rates drop signifi- cipients, White said, and he thinks that’s a cantly in good times but rise significantly good idea. No one wants to do away with the proin bad times, although they do allow for gram as a whole; they just want to be able lower individual base rates. Even so, “we think it’s a good deal,” to afford it. “I think it’s a really good system for emWhite said. “Right now our calculations say,‘Yeah,it’sworkedoutforus.’ ”He’snot ployees who have put in years of service,” alone. Most local governments also have White said. Milne thinks the trick is cutting back on side accounts for PERS. All of this — the base rate, 6 percent the level of benefits PERS offers. “It’s an extremely generous retirement pick up and bond rates — go into calculating what a local government will pay to- package, and we can’t afford it,” she said. “It’s got to change.” ward its employees’ retirements. Others, however, would like to see reCity of Keizer Finance Director Susan Gahlsdorf said she expects Keizer to owe form come from the Legislature to bring the PERS program about $130,000 more payments down, but they also want to see per year out of the city’s general fund, and revenue go up. Gahlsdorf said she wants to she said even more will come from other see property tax reform, because the falldepartments, such as the water bureau, ingtaxrevenuesarehurtingcityandcounty governments. White also said dropping but that hasn’t been calculated yet. Keizer has cut six positions in the past tax revenues have made PERS payments three years, she said, from 96 employees much more difficult to swallow. The school district has also seen huge to 90, a decrease of 6.25 percent. As costs like PERS have risen, revenue from prop- revenue drops. EvenmorethanPERSreform,“I’mjust erty taxes and other sources has dropped, hopeful that for the 2013-15 biennium that she said, and it can’t continue this way. Marion County plans on paying about K-12 is adequately funded,” Wolfe said. Officials agree PERS reform absolute$1.07 million more per year under the new rates, White said. The county already laid lyneedstohappen,buttheyalsoagreerevoff dozens of employees during the reces- 3, 2012streams need to turn around as well. September enue 1:20 pm / Powered by TECNAVIA “It’s going to take multiple reforms to sion and is currently locked in a battle with its union over the 2012-14 contract, in no bring us back to a sustainable level of sersmall part because the county commis- vice,” Gahlsdorf said.

Salem Statesman Journal 09/03/2012
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MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2012

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From Page 1 / Nation

Are Amer off? Obam
By David Espo
Associated Press

Getting out of this
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Flinching in the face of economic weakness, President Barack Obama’s top aides refused to say Sunday in the run-up to the Democratic National Convention whether Americans are better off than they were four years ago. Obama campaigned in Colorado and Vice President Joe Biden in Pennsylvania as their senior surrogates sought to deflect discomforting questions and turn them into criticism of Republican challenger Mitt Romney. “The Romney path would be the wrong path for the middle class, the wrong path for this country,” said David Plouffe, one of Obama’s top White House aides. But responding to the question that has become a staple of presidential campaigns, he sidestepped when asked if Americans are better off than when Obama took office. “We’ve clearly improved … from the depths of the recession,” he said. Another aide, David Axelrod, said: “I think the average American recognizes that it took years to create the crisis that erupted in 2008 and peaked in January of 2009. And it’s going to take some time to work through it.” Not only the economy, but

th f p ti T o b

Oregon RISE, or Oregon Parent Training and Information Center, at 2288 Liberty St. NE. KOBBI R. BLAIR / STATESMAN JOURNAL

Future
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conducting a parallel federal investigation with the Office of Inspector General. In the wake of the investigations, the Oregon Department of Education suspended a two-year contract with RISE worth more than $500,000. Birr said the investigation is in the fact-finding stages, waiting for subpoenas from bank and credit card accounts. The case arrived in the criminal investigation unit July10, and it could take weeks longer for detectives to account for tens of thousands of dollars. As of now, Roberts is the only suspect in the case. Another Oregon organization, National Indian Parent Information Center, also is a potential victim of embezzlement connected to Roberts’ case, Birr said. Oregon RISE agreed to be NIPIC’s fiscal agent, obtaining federal funds and funneling it to NIPIC for a fee. However, there’s more money missing

than the agreed upon fee, he said. If criminal charges come out of the investigation, Roberts could be prosecuted either through Marion County Circuit Court or U.S. District Court. Nancy Latini, assistant superintendent for Student Learning and Partnerships at the Department of Education, said the state agency is waiting for the results of the investigation. “We really can’t do anything other than we can’t spend public funds on a potential issue — a violation of any sort,” Latini said. A woman answered the door of the main office in North Salem and confirmed the organization is still open and providing services. She referred all other questions to the nonprofit’s attorney. John Gear, RISE’s Salembased attorney, said he could not specify what kind of services parents can expect when schools are back in session next week. Roberts’ attorney, Tom Rask, said he had not been notified of any allegations or charges against his client. “We vehemently deny any wrongdoing,” Rask said.

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said, parents walk into the meeting and are faced with multiple school staffers — teachers, instructional assistants, school psychologists and the superintendent. They speak Copyright © 2012 Salem Statesman a different language, in Journal 09/03/2012 and often in terms of the child’s deficiencies that

“I had a meeting earlier parents prepare for the board member of Th in the school year last IEP process, helping them of Oregon and founde year, and I was informed strategize and lay out the parent support gro that my child can’t read, goals they hope to accom- the Cascade School can’t write, can’t do math, plish. Parents also had the trict, just to name a f has no social skills and has option of asking an IEP her activities. She’s not aware o no friends,” Taylor said. partner to tag along to the “You get the worst-case meetings for more sup- other organization i lem that offers the ty scenario. You go in there port. Taylor is well-connect- parent training RISE thinking, I see my child progress in this area, and ed in the developmentally vides. “There may be s they don’t see that. So it’s disabled community and with parents 1:20 have thing TECNAVIA kind of like getting hit up September 3, 2012who pm / Powered byin Portland, b side the head when you’re special needs children. Salem we seem to b not expecting it. You get She’s president of the Wil- source poor,” she