The Los Angeles school board has a full, demanding agenda. How can the dropout rate be cut? What more can be done to combat overcrowding? How can the system deal with increasing numbers of students who don't speak English? How can students and parents know that school grounds will be safe? How can teaching be improved so that all students are challenged to do their best work?
This list of questions requires board members who understand education, are open to new ideas, are effective in dealing with legislators and administrators in Sacramento and are sensitive to the needs of their communities. For that reason we endorse three candidates: Alan Gershman on the Westside, Betty Blake in the West San Fernando Valley seat being vacated by Tom Bartman, and Mary Louise Longoria for the East Valley seat.
District 2-- For the last four years Alan Gershman has ably represented the district that stretches from Venice to West Hollywood. A former high-school teacher, he has supported reforms to put more emphasis on academic courses as well as the requirement that students maintain C averages to participate in extracurricular activities. He was the board sponsor of the district's homework hotline television program, saying that "instead of worrying about all the time our children spend in front of TV, we have put the medium to use--teaching."
District 4-- Betty Blake is the strongest candidate in a field of seven seeking to replace Tom Bartman, who chose not to run for reelection. Blake has long been active in local, district and state parent-teacher associations. She has already demonstrated her commitment to the system by years of volunteer work, including service on committees concerning programs for gifted children, textbook selection, equal access for men and women to all education programs, collective bargaining and dropout prevention. In her campaign she stresses the need to identify and motivate potential dropouts well before they reach high-school age--a process that she thinks would be greatly aided by providing more counselors at the elementary-school level.
District 6-- Mary Louise Longoria is a former teacher in the Los Angeles public schools who is now working on her doctoral degree in educational policy and administration at the University of Southern California. She has served as an intern in Washington, learning how federal policy is shaped, and has been active at the state level in trying to get parents more involved in school programs--a factor that she says is crucial to improving schools throughout the city. Longoria faces an uphill battle. The incumbent, Roberta Weintraub, has matured in the job and has the advantage of incumbency. But Weintraub does not demonstrate Longoria's solid understanding of a range of educational issues and sensitivity to the needs of all groups in this increasingly diverse district.
We recommend the election of Gershman, Blake and Longoria for the school board. They would give the board a firm grasp of the district's problems, and its best shot at solving them.