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Lawyer, Executive, 2 Incumbents Vie for 3 Seats : Reinstating Classes Focus of School Race

March 21, 1985|MARC IGLER | Times Staff Writer

A local lawyer, a corporate vice president and two incumbents are quietly battling for three open positions on the Glendale Unified School District Board of Education in a race that has primarily focused on reinstating classes that have been eliminated in past years.

At least one newcomer will join the five-member board after the April 2 election because current board president Carl Raggio has decided to run for City Council.

Running for the three open seats on the school board are incumbents Jane Whitaker and June Sweetnam and challengers Charles Whitesell, a Glendale attorney, and Richard Matthews, corporate vice president of communications for Carnation Co.

The major issues in the race so far have been reinstating the sixth period for seventh- and eighth-grade students and balancing the number of academic and vocational classes taught in the district.

Experience Stressed

Sweetnam, 58, seeking her third four-year term, and Whitaker, 55, running for her second, have stressed their board experience and their work in implementing state-mandated changes in curriculum and in guiding the district through the lean years when public schools fell victim to statewide budget cuts.

Sweetnam, a city resident for 35 years whose five children went through Glendale schools, is a member of the Glendale College Patrons Club, Glendale Beautiful and the Glendale Historical Society.

Whitaker, whose two sons graduated from Glendale's Hoover High School, is the district's appointee to the Foothill Youth Services Project and is a member of the board of directors of the 1st District of the state Parent-Teacher Assn. She has lived in Glendale 15 years.

Whitesell, 48, in his first quest for public office, and Matthews, 46, making a second stab at a Glendale school board seat after his 1983 defeat, point to their community work and their backgrounds in the legal and business fields.

Experience Listed

Whitesell is a past president of the Glendale High Boosters and is on the board of directors of the Glendale Community College Foundation, a fund-raising group for the school. He has lived in the city 15 years and his three children have attended Glendale schools.

Matthews, who also volunteers as an aerobics instructor at the Glendale YMCA, is on the board of directors of the Glendale Symphony. He has lived in the city for 17 years and his two children have attended Glendale schools but are now enrolled in a private school.

Besides the school board posts, three positions on the Glendale Community College Board of Trustees are up for reelection. However, there are no challengers to incumbents Phillip Kazanjian, Ted Tiffany and Kenneth Sweetnam, who is no relation to June Sweetnam.

The school board race has been low-key, with the candidates making the usual campaign appearances before gatherings of clubs and organizations in the city.

Campaign Literature

As of the latest filing, none of the candidates reported receiving contributions of more than $500, but all said they had raised enough money to mail campaign literature later this month to selected groups of city voters.

The issue that has generated the most talk in the race has been reinstating the sixth period for junior high students, a move that would cost about $500,000 a year. The extra period was eliminated in 1981 because of reduced state funding, and all four candidates agree that it must be restored to the schedule so that seventh- and eighth-graders can be better prepared for high school.

District officials said they will include the sixth period in next year's budget but are awaiting word from Sacramento on whether state funding will cover the expense.

"We have to get the sixth period back, and that's my No. 1 financial priority," said Whitaker, who was the only board member in 1981 to vote against the period's elimination.

Sixth Period Wanted

Whitesell said that the sixth period is at "the top of my list" and that students need "as much time in class as possible in order to get entry-level employment skills once they get out of school."

Reinstating the sixth period has been a thorny issue for Matthews, who took his two children out of Glendale schools three years ago and enrolled them in private schools because, without the extra period, he said, his children "would be getting shortchanged."

During several campaign appearances, he has had to defend his earlier move, saying that he does not regret taking his children out of Glendale schools "and would do it again."

"The main reason I am running is to get that period reinstated," Matthews said. His children, one an eighth-grader and one a high school sophomore, will return to Glendale schools when the class time is restored, he said. "What I did was look after my kids' welfare just like I would look out for Glendale's welfare," he said.

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