LYNWOOD — A retired professor of engineering and a 67-year-old political novice, Willard Hawn Reed, was elected to the Lynwood Unified School Board on Tuesday.
Reed easily defeated two other candidates in Tuesday's special election. He received 983 votes, 55.4% of the total.
His nearest opponent, V. James Edner, received 706 votes, or 39.8%, while Mark Gonzales received only 86 votes, or 4.8%.
Reed said he hoped he will be able to bring stability to a school board that has been politically divided since the resignation of its fifth member more than four months ago.
"The board needs something to pull it together, to weld it together. I hope I can be it," Reed said during a telephone interview Wednesday.
The Los Angeles County registrar-recorder said 11%, or 1,811, of the voters went to the polls.
Board member Richard Armstrong expressed satisfaction that a fifth board member had been elected and said he was particularly satisfied with Reed.
'Going to Be Fine'
"I'm happy with him. He's going to be fine," Armstrong said.
"We have had so many things on the back burner--now we will be able to resolve them," Armstrong added.
Reed said one of the first issues he hopes to resolve is the selection of a principal for Lynwood High School.
The high school has been without a principal since August, when Harold Cebrun resigned to become director of pupil personnel services for the Tustin Unified School District.
Charlie Mae Knight, the district superintendent, is also serving as principal of the school, a job she was given after the board reached a stalemate over two candidates.
Another issue that the new board will have to resolve is the continuing battle over where to construct a second high school. More than a year ago, the state approved $32 million for the complex, but there is no agreement on where to put the school in the city of 54,000 residents.
Lynwood High School, which was built in 1931 to house about 1,000 students, now has an enrollment of more than 2,800.
The district has proposed building a new high school on 31 acres that include parts of Ham Memorial Park in the southeast portion of the city. But city officials have maintained that because of a deed restriction, the land can only be used for a park.
In the post-election interview, Reed said that he supports building the new high school, but he said he believes the community and teachers should be involved in deciding where the school should go. He said he would ask for public hearings on the siting question.
2 Sites Will Be Studied
The county will do an environmental impact study of two locations, including the Ham Park site. The second site, about 30 acres, is in the northeast portion of the city and includes land owned by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and Zody's department store.
The proposed hearings would not delay any plans the district has on the construction of the new school, Reed said.
As part of his campaign, Reed had criticized Knight, saying she selected the Ham Park site and "not the board of education. . . . She is the boss--not the board."
Knight, however, has denied bossing the board around.
During Wednesday's interview, Reed said he is willing to work with Knight, but said, "I have come to believe that she hasn't been given direction. Her job must be defined."
Reed is a professor emeritus in the Cal State Long Beach School of Engineering, where he now teaches part time. He retired from full-time teaching at the university in 1983 after 23 years.
Reed and some of his supporters had been concerned that a letter sent to voters from Rep. Mervyn Dymally (D-Compton) backing Edner would hurt Reed's campaign. Dymally's 31st Congressional District includes Lynwood.
"Well, it obviously didn't hurt us," Reed said.
Dymally, in an interview from his Washington, D.C., office, said he supported Edner because he was the best qualified and "he asked for my support. The others didn't."
Reed replaces Jo Evelyn Terrell, who resigned Oct. 1. Terrell, who had served more than eight years on the board, said she resigned because the meetings were time consuming and did not address curriculum, her primary concern.