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Enrollment Levels, Pay at Issue in School Races

This is another in a series of stories on school board elections in the San Gabriel Valley.

October 24, 1985|RENATE ROBEY | Times Staff Writer

Overcrowding in Azusa and declining enrollment in neighboring Glendora present widely divergent problems for school districts as candidates face off for the Nov. 5 elections.

In the Bonita Unified School District, where teachers have threatened to strike if they do not receive pay raises, how to finance an increase has become a major issue.

Nine candidates, including three incumbents, are competing for three seats on the Azusa Unified School District board. In addition to overcrowding, candidates also cite the need to raise basic skills standards.

Enrollment in the Azusa district, 9,535 this year, is up 235 from last year, district officials said. To handle the unexpected overload, 55 students are being bused from schools near their homes to others that are less crowded.

In the Glendora Unified School District, five candidates, including three incumbents, are competing for three seats. While neighboring Azusa must grapple with overcrowding, the Glendora district is trying to cope with a continuing decline in enrollment, which has resulted in cuts in state funding.

In Bonita, where three candidates, including two incumbents, are vying for two seats, teachers have urged that the district, which encompasses San Dimas and La Verne, use a portion of any lottery funds the district receives to increase their pay.

Teachers also have suggested that the district use part of a $2.6-million surplus from last year to help finance a pay hike. The surplus is the result of a textbook purchase deferral and setting aside money for computer purchases.


In Azusa, district officials attribute the rise in enrollment to new housing developments and school policies limiting the number of students who can transfer to other districts.

Candidates agree that the district will have to take action on the overcrowding problem within the next few years.

- William R. Cavanaugh, 26, a student at Cal Poly Pomona, said he is considering becoming a teacher and is a candidate because "education is the focus of the future."

Cavanaugh is also concerned about the increasing number of students in the district. "The present school board is not planning for 5-10 years down the line," he said. "The population is growing. We should not be selling school sites. We need more school sites." (The district is trying to sell five acres of school property on which a school built of portable classrooms had been located. The classrooms have been moved to another location.)

- Incumbent Rosemary P. Garcia, 40, a consumer service representative for the city of Azusa, was appointed to the board in June to replace Dave Evans, who resigned. Garcia, who also expressed concern about overcrowding, said average class size should be reduced from 35 to 25 students. "This year every school was over our attendance expectations. At the moment the students are adjusting."

She also thinks curriculum should be standardized.

"We need a program of standardized classes throughout the district that would make it easier for students to transfer within the district," Garcia said. She also thinks the district should put more emphasis on college preparation. "It would have made it easier for my three kids, who are in college now," she said.

- Incumbent Inez Z. Gutierrez, 50, a homemaker, has served on the board since 1971. She called the problems with overcrowding "a bit of an overflow," and said that students had adjusted well to the busing program. "This is a temporary program for this year. We need to sit down and see what's in the best interest of the kids," she said.

Gutierrez said she believes that new spelling and math programs will improve scores on state tests.

- Incumbent Eunice P. Harrington, who declined to state her age, is a reading specialist who owns her own clinic. Harrington, who has served one term on the board, puts an emphasis on developing good basic skills in all students, including those who opt for an emphasis on vocational training.

She also is concerned that students attend class in crowded rooms that are not air-conditioned. "September is sometimes our hottest month, and if the room is facing west, temperatures are over 100," she said.

"We may have to shift the moneys from someplace else and put a priority on air conditioning and smaller classes," she said.

- Walter L. Harville Jr., 53, a warehouse expediter, said that he decided to enter the school board race "for the hell of it."

"This is a testing thing," said Harville, who ran unsuccessfully for the school board in 1983. "You have to start somewhere," he added.

"Who pays for the schools? We pay for it, but we're getting ripped off. We need to weed out the the people who are not doing their jobs and get down to teaching."

- Judy A. Holthaus, 35, a contracts administrator, said she had been active in the PTA and decided to run because "if you don't get involved as parents, you don't know what's going on. A lot of decisions are already made by the school board before the PTA hears about them."

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