Castaic Union to hold elections for four seats in November

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One thing’s for certain after November: there’ll be at least one new face on the Castaic Union School District’s governing board.

A series have appointments and the school district’s move to trustee areas and a November election aligned terms so that four seats will be on the ballot — including  one for a two-year term — and one incumbent has already made her intentions not to seek re-election known.

Susan Christopher, an attorney from Castaic who will have served nine years on the board as of this fall, felt the district was in “a really good place” now, and that it was someone else’s turn.

“I have had two full terms and this term was actually extended so we could move our elections to even-yeared terms,” Christopher said Thursday. “I feel like it’s a great opportunity to give someone else a chance.”

Christopher, along with oversight the board brought on to respond to a financial crisis, have helped turn things around financially over the last few years.

Christopher’s tenure recently saw its first raise for teachers, a 3 percent schedule increase and an additional one-year 1-percent bonus, things that hadn’t happened in more than a decade. Castaic teacher Erin Oxhorn-Gilpin recently won the state’s Teacher of the Year award.

The indicators represent significant progress for the kindergarten-to-eighth-grade district, which just a few years prior saw longtime former Superintendent Jim Gibson placed on “paid non-disciplinary administrative leave” and ultimately resign amid district officials wrestling with a multimillion-dollar deficit.

The crisis was years in the making, with a halt in development and a resulting drop in enrollments leading to deep, difficult cuts for staff and administrators.

Now it’s also looking like the district could stave off pink slips this year, which are annual notifications a district must hand out to a teacher, if the teacher’s position might be eliminated.

The district set about making numerous changes, including in its governance, as well.

Christopher is the only board member who’s announced she isn’t seeking her seat again, while current board President Laura Pearson, is planning to run for re-election.

The seats held by Mayreen Burk and Fred Malcomb are also on the ballot for November.

Whoever wins Burk’s seat will serve a two-year term, as Burk was appointed in March 2017 to fill the seat of Victor Torres. That appointment was originally set to end in November 2017, but when the Castaic district moved it’s election to consolidate with L.A. County’s general elections in November, the term was extended a year.

Whatever group that inherits the district after the next election will have a group of Castaic school’s in a much better spot than where it was when Christopher started nine years ago, which made her feel as though it’s as good a time as any to step away.

And she plans to remain involved as an active member and supporter of the Castaic community.

“We’re in a really good place as a district,” Christopher said. “It just feels like it’s the right time to have someone else take on the mantle in Castaic.”

Stacy Dobbs holds the lone board seat not up for re-election in 2018. Her current term expires in 2020.

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