EL MONTE — In the races for the El Monte City and El Monte Union High school district boards of education, qualifications rather than issues seem to be the battleground for the campaigns.
The races have been low-key, with candidates mostly touting their backgrounds and experience rather than raising specific issues of concern or opponents' shortcomings. They are walking door-to-door distributing leaflets, but there have been few face-to-face meetings of the candidates.
Nine candidates, including two incumbents, are seeking three seats in the El Monte City School District. The district has about 10,450 students at 18 elementary schools in El Monte, South El Monte and parts of Temple City and Arcadia. Terms are for four years and the board has five members.
Incumbents Bob Camerota and Jim R. Marin are seeking second terms, and a third seat is open because board member Terry Kempton resigned. Marin has served only two years, winning a special election in 1983 to complete an unexpired term.
Camerota, 27, and Marin, 33, lead a solid board majority that has guided the district through a major turnover in administrators and other changes in the past few years, including lengthening of the school day and creation of a new homework policy.
The incumbents say they are running again to continue the progress for which they claim credit. They cite improvement in the district's performance on this year's California Assessment Program test scores, which increased in all categories--reading, writing and math--in nearly every school. They also claim credit for helping to turn around the district's financial situation from a $781,000 deficit in 1981 to a projected $660,000 surplus this year
Camerota, a financial services manager who has one child in the district and is board president, and Marin say they view the central issue in the campaign as a mandate for continuing their policies. They say they have succeeded in raising expectations of students and instilling a more "progressive attitude" on the board. Both are supported by the El Monte Elementary Teachers Assn.
Education 'Fire Burning'
"The fire is burning in El Monte," said Marin, a high school administrator in Pico Rivera who has two children in the district. "We can't let the fire be put out."
Few have challenged the board's direction under Camerota and Marin, but some candidates question their methods, asserting that they have been heavy-handed. Among them are Shirley A. Mante, a secretary for the school district, and David B. Reed, a production engineer for a shoe company who has been active in the PTA.
"They came in here and more or less took over," said Mante, 48, who would have to quit her job with the district if she won. "Boards are responsible for setting policy. We pay managers good money here so the managers should be the ones managing the district."
Reed, 41, acknowledges that the current board has improved education but says more improvement is needed. He also contends that the district, where he has two children enrolled, has yet to deal with the problem of overcrowded classrooms and suggests that he would more aggressively pursue state funds for construction. He says that his experience in business and with the PTA qualify him for office.
'Room for Improvement'
Ramona Moraza, 52, a longtime school and PTA member, says she supports what the board has done but sees "room for improvement." Moraza says she would work for more funding of the district's bilingual education program.
Chester L. Smith, an electronics technician, has dropped out of the race, his wife said. Allan M. Mudrack, 22, a crew leadman from El Monte, could not be reached for comment. Candidates Liz La Chance, a purchasing agent from Temple City, and Vivian V. Duncan, a word processor from Temple City, did not return phone calls from The Times.
One incumbent is among the six candidates running for three board seats in the El Monte Union High School District. The district serves more than 24,000 students at a half-dozen campuses in El Monte, Rosemead and South El Monte. The terms are four years and the board has five members.
Helen T. Archer, an educational representative for Southern California Edison Co., is seeking a second term. She stressed the need for continuity on the board because the district is in the process of gearing up for changes required by Senate Bill 813, which include reforms in graduation requirements and establishment of mentor teacher programs. Archer takes some credit for what she says is a positive sense of direction, adding that the district's state test scores have been at the top of their category in comparison to similar districts for several years.
'Sense of Direction'
"I think one of the things we've developed is a sense of direction," said Archer, 46. "There wasn't a true sense of direction. Attitudinally, there is a sense of a district on its way."