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Tehachapi News: Golden Hills board elects new chair, hears from recall advocate, hires PR firm




District makes emergency space available to school

The Golden Hills Community Services District capped off their final board meeting of the year last week, on Thursday, Dec. 19, by restructuring the board, approving the services a communications firm, and agreeing to a request from Golden Hills Elementary to use district facilities in the event of an emergency.

Kennedy is chair

Despite a decision from most of the board members to nominate Laura Lynn Wyatt to continue as board president through 2014, Wyatt declined.

"Thank you very much, to members of the board for nominating me," Wyatt said. "However, I am not going to accept that position. I would like to step into another position for 2014. I'm a little bit tired, and got a lot of work to do in my other job," she went on.

Board member, Ed Kennedy, will instead take the helm in 2014, and Wyatt will step in as vice president.

School safety

Also discussed, in light of the recent increase in school shootings, the board approved plans to house students from Golden Hills Elementary in the CSD's facilities during times of emergencies.

According to Golden Hills Elementary's principal, Heather Richter, officials with the Tehachapi Unified School District have been reviewing alternative methods for responding to school emergencies, namely instances where an active shooter is present on campus.

"Currently, for our district, our protocol has been for teachers to hide if something were to happen on our school districts. Teachers were asked to get the students under their desks, to shut the blinds, to close doors and wait for directions."

But after examining tragedies that have occurred at schools like Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook, members of the district have chosen to adopt a less passive method of emergency response, known as "Run, Fight, and Hide."

With this procedure, teachers are given the permission -- after completing the necessary training -- to use force, throw books, barricade classrooms with desks, or flee campuses.

But "If teachers choose to run, we need a place to go," Richter said.

Richter added that the school has been searching for buildings in close proximity to Golden Hills Elementary, and decided the CSD's facilities would be provide a safe location for students and teachers to use as an escape.

The board voted unanimously to approve the plan.

"I definitely support it," Wyatt said. "Hoping we don't have to use it, but if we did, the thought that Golden Hills CSD would play a role in saving some kids, that would be an honor."

PR firm hired

Subsequent to that agenda item, board members also approved to retain the services of the Passantino Andersen communications firm, which will work with the board to enhance public outreach and facilitate more communication between the CSD and its constituents -- for the price of $3,800 per month.

Passantino Andersen, based in Lancaster, will provide many services, including social media management, event coordination, earned media consulting, website refinements and crisis consulting.

In the firm's proposal to the GHCSD, referring to the Local Agency Formation Commission's recent decision to affirm the CSD's power to manage curbside trash pickup, it said "While residents generally had strong awareness of GHCSD and were generally please with the services provided, it also became clear that many residents do not know what range of services are provided by the district. In the modern era of increased skepticism in government, it is vital that public agencies maintain heightened levels of accountability and transparency."

All board members, except Kathy Cassil, voted in favor of retaining the services.

Recall advocate speaks

Comments made from the public, including those of resident Virginia Staabs, echoed the need for improved communication between the board and the public.

"...That disconnect is huge," Staabs said. "One of the things is, a lot of know that we can ask or make comments up here and we don't expect to get answers in certain areas, like this particular point. But there is no notations in the minutes, so that we know that there is going to be an action item. Because even if we ask the question and know we aren't going to get a response tonight, we do hope that somewhere along the line we can get responses."

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