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Day: May 12, 2017

Thomas named top music educator

Of the Keizertimes

Andy Thomas, choir director at Whiteaker Middle School, wants all kids to experience music.

It’s why a couple years ago he started an Exploratory Wheel class for all sixth graders. It’s why he volunteers his time after school to teach guitar lessons.

And why every summer he leads a week-long choir and drama camp for fourth through ninth graders that last year had over 220 kids.

Thomas was recently honored for providing more opportunities to Whiteaker students and kids throughout Keizer with the Salem-Keizer Music Educator of the Year award.

“It’s a great honor to be given an award like that,” Thomas said. “It’s just nice to be given a pat on the back sometimes for the work you do, all the extra time and effort and hours that you put in as a music educator.”

Thomas got his own education in music at McKay High School.

“My high school choir director (Charles Graber) is the reason why I’m here today,” Thomas said. “He was a very inspirational and had a powerful presence in my life.”

Thomas is in his 12th  year at Whiteaker, which already had a tradition of excellence, but he has grown the choir from 180-190 seats to over 280. The annual cabaret also existed as a dessert night but Thomas turned it into a bigger fundraiser event that draws an audience of more than a thousand.

“I love it because it is an event that brings the community together,” Thomas said. “It’s an event that let’s our kids shine. We make money. Their self confidence and self worth just goes off the charts.”

The guitar lessons came out of the summer camp and last year Whiteaker was able to purchase a full set of guitars. Thomas teaches two to three sessions a year of 20-25 kids each.

“Where there’s a need, I go with it and kids were interested in guitar,” Thomas said.

“They love to sing at home and I can teach you four chords and you can play a lot of songs with just four chords. That’s nice because we get kids in the population that aren’t in a music class that come in and we get more kids exposed to music.”

Thomas has also been able to travel, taking his advanced choirs on trips to Florida, Los Angles, San Francisco and Portland.

Whiteaker was one of two middle schools invited to preform at the American Choral Directors Association Northwest Conference last March.

“That’s a huge honor because they have one to two each year and to be selected is really difficult,” Thomas said.

Whiteaker will preform at the Oregon Music Educators Association conference next year and Thomas hosted 22 choirs in Keizer for a choral adjudication festival this spring.

When asked why he continues to go the extra mile, Thomas replied, “A passion for the arts, a passion for the kids and a passion to give kids opportunities and experiences that will be highly impactful to them and who they are and for their growth and development. It’s so good for the kids to get to do this stuff.”

Gilbert to pitch at Pacific University

Of the Keizertimes

McNary senior Josiah Gilbert has wanted to play college baseball for as long as he can remember.

But when making the decision to go to the next level, Gilbert looked beyond the sport.

“Baseball is a dream and you have to realize that sometimes the odds aren’t really in your favor,” Gilbert said of playing after college.

“I knew that and that’s why I picked a school that was academically exactly what I wanted.”

Gilbert signed with Pacific University on Thursday, May 4 in the McNary library.

“Pacific held my attention the whole time,” Gilbert said. “It was my No. 1 from the get go. They are one of the top physical therapy schools in the nation, which is what I want to do. It was pretty much a no brainer for me. I’ve played there before in a tournament. It’s a gorgeous facility, a gorgeous field and I’m just glad to be a part of it.”

Pacific is a Division-III program located in Forest Grove, less than 50 miles from McNary.

“It’s close to home and my family,” Gilbert said. “It’s exactly what I wanted.”

Gilbert, a First Team all-league pitcher last season, will also have the opportunity to play right away.

“If I put in the work and I do what they think I can do, I have the opportunity to be an impact freshman, which is big,” Gilbert said. “That doesn’t really happen very often. It felt pretty good to have somebody think that highly of me.”

At the signing, McNary head coach Larry Keeker told a story from one of his first encounters with Gilbert as a freshman.

“We held pitcher and catcher workouts at 5:45 in the morning and for freshmen that’s sometimes a shocker but Josiah would show up with a big smile on his face and he was ready to go,” Keeker said.

Gilbert also didn’t know the level of his talent, asking Keeker at the end of the two weeks of workouts if he’d made the team, even though Gilbert was the best pitcher in the class.

“What struck me at the end of the process is Josiah in his innocent way didn’t even realize how good he was,” Keeker said. “It was just that humble innocence that got my attention about him as a ninth grader that I remember.”

By his sophomore year, Gilbert was pitching on the varsity team.

“I remember going out to state my sophomore year,” Gilbert said. “I was the third starter and we played against Sheldon and I got the opportunity to go pitch against the team that ended up winning state and I gave up two earned runs, two unearned runs in four innings of work. It was a great experience for me and something I definitely needed. It was just exceptional.”

Gilbert was voted a team captain before the 2017 season.

“Josiah has earned every bit of this in terms of his future to play baseball at Pacific University,” Keeker said.

No trial for woman in murder of son, 12

A. Robertson

Of the Keizertimes

A Keizer woman charged with strangling her 12-year-old son to death will not face trail after being found mentally unfit.

Amy Marie Robertson was charged with the aggravated murder of her son, Caden Berry, on Saturday, Jan. 14. Robertson was being held without bail at the Marion County Correctional Facility.

In April, Judge Lindsey Partridge ordered a psychiatric evaluation on Robertson’s fitness to stand trial. On May 1, Partridge ordered the evaluation sealed and remanded Robertson to Oregon State Hospital.

The order signed by Partridge states that Robertson is a danger to herself or the community and that the supervision and services required are unavailable in the community.

Robertson will be confined to the hospital until she regains the capacity to stand trial or a maximum of three years. Within 60 days, hospital staff will need to report whether there is a substantial probability of her ever regaining her capacity. The hospital superintendent will have to submit a progress report to the court at least once every six months while she is there.

All other proceedings have been suspended.

After her arrest Robertson was charged with aggravated murder, murder by abuse and two counts of criminal mistreatment in the first degree.

Keizer Police Department officers were summoned to an apartment at 175 Garland Way North about 12:45 p.m.

Robertson was discovered outside the apartment waving her hands and screaming. Caden was found unresponsive under a blanket inside.

Two days later, an autopsy determined the boy had been strangled to death.

Vote for Harder

To the Editor:

I would like to share my encouragement in supporting a strong candidate for Salem-Keizer School Board.

This is a very close race between great people, all who deserve our respect for their willingness to serve. I have researched each of the candidates while keeping in mind this is a nonpartisan race; my opinion is based on their credentials and responses to what I believe our local needs are and for this reason I believe the best candidate is Dr. Kathleen Harder.

Though Salem-Keizer Schools have separate issues in each area of our neighborhoods, I am most experienced and involved right here in our Keizer schools. In Keizer, we face many issues: overcrowding, graduation rates, budget cuts, neighborhood parking, vital school programs have been cut that give our kids the necessary tools and skills to fulfill their potential after graduation and becoming productive members of our society which means our Career Technical Education (CTE) programs are vital to our kid’s success.

The closest to my heart however is the amount of homeless students in our local Keizer schools.  I know Kathleen will fight for these issues, our issues! She is passionate, compassionate and willing to fight the fight for what is right. This is the kind of human we need on our school board. I know the programs and initiatives she has been working towards and she believes in collaboration and utilizing our local resources above all.

I also believe she will be a good steward of our school budget keeping the needs of our kids at the forefront. I am proud to recommend this quality candidate to you my neighbors not only do I recommend her as your local community leader who truly understands the issues of our local schools but as a neighbor and mother who has raised her kids entirely through Keizer school system and knows firsthand the struggles our schools, neighborhoods, teachers and kids face daily. Our choice today will be the determination of our success tomorrow for all of our kids so please take the time to vote, I’m voting Kathleen Harder. Your vote matters.

Amy Ryan

McNary student’s convenience

To the Editor:

Regarding Newberg Drive student parking:

There have been many incidences of cars parked in front of driveways, sometimes it’s even two times in the same day. In addition there is trash on the streets, trash on my roof, trash in yards, loud noises from cars, stereos and kids yelling, speeding cars, vandalism and even sex. I have seen students openly carry guns, sharing pipes for smoking and just plain over-crowding our streets here. This neighborhood should never be used as a high school parking lot. Just lock the gate to McArthur to stop it.

The city says they can not lock the gate but they can put up another gate fence on our side of the school property line. They could post a sign on the gate that says something like: “By Order of the City of Keizer this will no longer be an access point to the school grounds.” Before doing that they could inform the school of this plan and if they know the city will actually block it then I bet McNary principal Erik Jespersen will comply with the ruling of the city. A fence is for both sides of that fence and each side of any fence can be constructed by either party, it is not an “immature” move it’s just common sense.

The point that the City Council misses or can not wrap their heads around (Mayor Clark’s words) is that this was not a problem two years ago in this neighborhood, so this extra high school parking is nothing more then a convenience for student parking and is “not a necessity” since the population of the school is the same as it was before the word got out to the students of the “free parking.” Plus it’s a huge safety issue as a drop off point and a huge waste of police resources, too.

Charles Anderson

Herrera-Lopez for Salem-Keizer schools

To the Editor:

About a year ago, while doing volunteer work with Catholic Community Services in its effort to reopen the Cat Cavazos Center, I had the pleasure of meeting Levi Herrera-Lopez.

More recently, I was pleased to learn Levi is running for the Zone 5 position on the Salem-Keizer School Board. Levi’s commitment to public education is unparalleled. Moreover, Levi’s a graduate of the district’s school system, and for 15 years Levi has lived in Zone 5 (which sets him apart from some candidates who, oddly enough, have lived only a few days in the zone they hope to represent). If you live in the Salem-Keizer School District, I urge you to vote for Levi Herrera-Lopez for school board.

Jesse Barton

Riddell-Norstrom for Keizer Fire Board

To the Editor:

I write to support Ms. Riddell-Norstrom’s candidacy for the Keizer Fire Board. As a native Keizerite with long family ties to our fire department she has the fire department’s and city’s best interests in mind, not any personal ego or ambition. Ms. Riddell-Norstrom also brings a PhD level patient care perspective to the board. Having known her for over 20 years, I know she is professional, dedicated and diligent, she will not only show up for board meetings but will go the extra mile to make sure Keizer Fire is run efficiently and effectively and to the benefit of Keizer’s residents.

Heather Van Meter

Best school board candidates

To the Editor:

Your vote for the best Salem Keizer school board candidates is important.  There are three candidates that really stand out as very qualified and committed to working on behalf of our public school students:  Kathleen Harder, Sheronne Blasi, and Levi Herrera- Lopez.  We can vote for all of them since each is running from a different zone.  They are dedicated to improving our school system and insuring all students have the resources to succeed.

Please join me in electing Kathleen Harder, Sheronne Blasi, and Levi Herera-Lopez to the school board.

Anita Owen

Will Trumpcare be Obamacare 2.0?


Comedian Jimmy Kimmel went to the heart of the debate on pre-existing conditions during a monologue last week. He talked about the birth of his son Billy, who was born with a heart condition that required surgery within days of his birth. Billy Kimmel is doing fine now, but the situation was traumatic for Kimmel and his wife, Molly. At least, Kimmel noted, they didn’t have to worry about whether their child would be treated.

“Before 2014, if you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance you would never be able to get health insurance because you had a pre-existing condition,” Kimmel said.

Kimmel was referring to Obamacare’s most important benefit—the requirement that health care plans offer coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions at the same rates healthy people pay. No longer would working people with chronic illnesses, or their families, be priced out of the quality health care.

President Donald Trump agreed with Kimmel when he was a candidate. Then Trump said he would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but retain the mandate for covering pre-existing conditions. The first version of his American Health Care Act reflected that promise—and it never made it to a vote.

The version passed by House Republicans Thursday is different. Under the new version, states will be able to apply for waivers from the Obamacare pre-existing conditions mandates. To qualify, states would have to set up pools for high-risk individuals.

Or as Trump told CBS News’ John Dickerson Sunday, “We’ve set up a pool for the pre-existing conditions so that the premiums can be allowed to fall.”

There’s one little problem with this so-called remedy. It’s a gimmick that throws the hot potato where there are few if any hands are eager to claim it. How many governors want to incur the wrath of their voters by announcing that they want to get rid of a benefit that Kimmel and Trump himself in 2016 framed as American as apple pie?

Asked how many states were likely to apply for pre-existing conditions waivers, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy answered, “It could be a lot. It could be none.”

White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders referred a reporter to the Department of Health and Human Services, which would not respond on the record. Be it noted, governors and state lawmakers are not clamoring for the opportunity to do what House Republicans would not do themselves.

Forget governors. “There isn’t a single insurance executive I know of who wants to get rid of pre-x,” said health-care policy guru Robert Laszewski, using the lingo.

So why did House Republicans go after a reform that even insurance executives don’t want?

A large chunk of the premium increases that hit the market with Obamacare are due to pre-existing conditions. In 2014, the Affordable Care Act caused individual premiums to increase 40 percent, said Laszewski, with about 30 percent due to pre-existing conditions.

Since then, premium increases have been in the double digits because Obamacare policies are so unappealing that healthy people aren’t buying, while sick people are clinging to their plans. In the industry, this is known as a death spiral. And it is the reason why insurers are running headlong from the individual market. Humana is pulling out of the market in 2018. After terminating plans in 11 states, Aetna just announced it will pull out of Virginia. The Trump White House is correct when it says that Obamacare is unsustainable.

Or as Trump put it during the Rose Garden celebration of the House passing the bill, “It’s dead. It’s essentially dead. If we don’t pay lots of ransom money over to the insurance companies, it would die immediately.”

Still, Trump seems poised to make the same mistake President Obama made before him—making huge promises on which he should have known his plan would not deliver.

Obama promised, “No matter what you’ve heard, if you like your doctor or health care plan, you can keep it.”

Trump says, “Yes, premiums will be coming down. Yes, deductibles will be coming down. But very importantly, it’s a great plan.”

But if the key to cutting costs is a stunt—asking state politicians to do to their neighbors what D.C. Republicans will not do from afar—better not to hold your breath.

(Creators Syndicate)

The example Australia sets


Reported out of Australia is the way that nation proposes to conduct tests to determine whether immigrants are granted citizenship. For openers, those interested must live there for at least four years before filing an application.  Also, a person with such a desire must speak English fluently and conform to “Australian values.”  These conditions would be good for the United States.

Among questions on the Aussie test are whether they believe in forced marriages for children, genital mutilation, striking a spouse and prohibiting girls from attending school.  Some questions seem aimed at Muslim immigrants but there are many entering from other faiths as nearly 30 percent of Australia’s 6.9 million population is foreign-born. Here again, we in America don’t know what to expect next from immigrants, legal or otherwise, when borders here are too often disrespected and ignored.

Speaking for his government, Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that Australia is “not defined by race or religion or culture.”  To the contrary, Trumbull says, they’re defined by a commitment to common values, the rule of law, democracy, freedom, mutual respect, and equality for all. The citizenship process, he says, must deliver citizens who conform to what Australians have determined they stand for and believe in.  I wish, big-time, we’d copy them.

The citizenship test  there, at one time, amounted to knowing the nation’s history and political system while it afforded applicants unlimited opportunity to pass it. Under the proposed new design, three tries and you’re out while a rap sheet with domestic violence on it means a trip to the “door” as do other unacceptable behaviors.  Very appealing requirements.

Having spent enough time in Australia to get a feel for the place, conclusions reached were that the Aussies have a better chance to establish and maintain a common values culture than most anywhere else.  Maybe it’s because Australia is so far away from Europe and North America that the typical Aussie guy is a friendly “bloke” who’ll refer to you as his “mate” during the first “pint” of beer and will seek your friendship rather than getting at your U.S. dollars.

The genuine friendliness that was observed by this American was experienced in a lengthy visit awhile back. My spouse and I were able to walk the streets of any of Australia’s bigger and medium-sized cities without fearing for our safety. Hopefully, living conditions have not changed since our visit and that the proposed effort to keep the place livable is a general desire to preserve that nation’s way of life.

With a population of about 24 million and surrounded by ocean, Australia has some advantages over the U.S. when it comes to immigration controls which those folks have maintained for the last 100 years. Unlike the U.S., having become a very seriously fractured country with churlish leadership and hourly incidences of murder and mayhem, Australia by comparison is a peace-loving nation with no NRA and strict gun controls.

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)