Navy honored at SSUSD ceremony

Linda Saholt

News Review Correspondent

Navy honored at SSUSD ceremonySitting in front of the curtain at Burroughs High School’s Parker Performing Arts Center, neither Captain Dennis Lazar, commanding officer of NAWS, China Lake nor Commander Rod Tribble, of China Lake’s Public Works Office, knew what was coming. And then the big curtains pulled apart to reveal the Burroughs orchestra, as well as the Choir, performing the National Anthem.

“What a surprise that was, when that curtain opened and there was the entire orchestra!” said Lazar later.

The Jan. 24 ceremony, given before a small audience of adults, aimed to show the Sierra Sands Unified School District’s heartfelt appreciation of the many years of partnership with the Navy at China Lake, enabling so many issues to be resolved over time: currently, the Navy’s assistance in getting funding to build a new campus for Murray Middle School, which will be out in town rather than on the base, as well as the expansion of Burroughs High School. Both projects have been in planning stages for a long time, and both will better serve local students.

Superintendent of Schools Joanna Rummer and Murray Principal Kirsti Smith both praised the Navy’s ongoing commitment to the community, all the hard work in getting so much done to facilitate the projects, and the helpfulness of Navy personnel.

“The legacy of China Lake is really something special,” said Tribble. “This was a labor of love.”

“We are here together in this,” said Lazar. “We are a family. This is unique to China Lake—there is no other community like this anywhere. We have a tight bond. Our biggest fans are outside the fence line. What’s good for the kids is good for the community. What’s good for the community is good for the base. It’s the right thing to do. We understand the obstacles that need to be overcome.”

Recognizing the great contributions of the officers and staff of the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake and the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southwest, SSUSD personnel put together framed collages to honor Lazar and Tribble and their respective staffs’ efforts.

The orchestra, under the direction of Mark Hatter and Simon Austin, played “Salute to Freedom,” Irving Berlin’s “America” and “Anchors Aweigh.” The choir sang with “Salute to Freedom.”

Rummer spoke on the Department of Defense grant to the district, made possible by the Navy’s assistance. “You made sure we were supported and our effort was sustained all along the way, and I can’t tell you how grateful we are for that,” she said. “Our students will go out into the world and compete internationally in the future. Thank you again for everything you’ve done to help us.”

David Ostash, principal of Burroughs, took a turn at speaking. “Captain Lazar is a very humble man. I can absolutely prove to you he goes the extra mile. Not even a ground squirrel or an earthquake fault has gotten in his way,” said Ostash. He told the story of going to Washington, D.C. with Rummer to facilitate getting the grant. “We learned about an agency administering a $250 million pot for projects. We met in Secretary of the Navy Juan Garcia’s office and put together the application.

“The new Burroughs campus will be a safer, modernized school with 21st century classrooms, more parking, landscaping and lighting, and even working toilets in the athletic stadium.” That earned a cheer from the audience.

“We are committed to support the children of the men and women who support the war fighter.”

Murray Principal Kirsti Smith described herself and Tribble as “behind-the-scenes people.” She went on to say, “We are looking forward to increased parent participation at the new campus, since it will be easier to get to. I know we’re not the only project you have going, but you always made us feel like we were top priority. You are our unsung heroes.”

“We stood shoulder to shoulder,” said Lazar.

Story First Published: 2014-01-29