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Tragedy strikes Taft 7-12 over the Christmas Break

Kathryn West, Special Education Assistant (L)
Joe Furlan, Student (R)

Taft High Coping with Student, Staff Deaths
By Mary Jo Kerlin, LCSD

With the two-week winter break just ended, students and staff returning to Taft 7-12 High School were greeted with sad news: the unexpected deaths of a student and a longtime staff member.

Lincoln County School District’s Crisis Response Team was already in place at Taft High this morning to help students cope with the death of a fellow student that occurred at the beginning of the two-week break; then, the team learned of the second loss just this morning.

Joseph “Joe” Furlan, 17, of Lincoln City died Saturday, Dec. 17, at a Portland hospital following heart surgery. He was a junior at Taft High. A celebration of life for Furlan was held on Friday, Dec. 23, in Cloverdale.

Kathryn “Kathi” West, 50, died at a Portland hospital early on Tuesday, Jan. 3, following a brain hemorrhage. She was a special education assistant who had been employed with Lincoln County School District since 1993. West grew up in the Lincoln City area and was a Taft High graduate. Funeral arrangements are pending.

District administrators who have worked with West through the years describe her as a “great employee who was very loved by all. She will be greatly missed by her students and fellow employees, as well as those throughout the community who were privileged to know her.”

Lincoln County School District activates its Crisis Response Team for times when there is a serious loss in the school community such as the death of a student or staff member. This trained team helps students and staff in the grieving and healing process. One way they do this is by setting up “care rooms” in the school that are available to students and staff who may need to talk to someone about their grief.

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