Two Rosemead school board members who have long been at odds over the feasibility of adding more enrichment programs have put that disagreement at the forefront of their campaigns to retain their seats in the Nov. 5 election.
Although the two incumbents agree that enrichment programs, such as free preschool programs for disadvantaged children and accelerated classes for fast learners, are needed, they differ on how many special programs the district can afford.
Concerns over whether the district is properly meeting the educational needs of minorities also have been raised by several of the five candidates vying for three four-year terms.
In nearby Temple City, five candidates competing for two seats are focusing on what they agree is a need to strengthen the curriculum. The candidates believe that improving the curriculum will help raise standardized test scores, which they said have been declining.
Gary E. Goodson, director of instructions for the district, said that student test scores on state and district standardized tests have shown improvement, but conceded that scores in the Scholastic Aptitude Test, a college entrance examination, have been declining.
"But we are turning it around," Goodson said, adding that Scholastic Aptitude Test scores in Temple City reflect similar declines nationwide.
The most vocal candidates in the Rosemead enrichment program dispute are incumbents Elaine D. Pendleton and Alfredo Silvestre, who have long clashed over the number and kind of enrichment programs the district should offer.
Pendleton and two other challengers, Marie E. Ortiz and Dennis S. McDonald, have joined forces in what Pendleton hopes will be a successful effort to unseat Silvestre. The third challenger is Patricia Reynolds-Mejia.
Pendleton, 45, director of fiscal services for the El Monte City School District, was on the board that appointed Silvestre a year and a half ago to fill a seat that became vacant when Alex Brandon resigned.
"I've been disappointed in him," Pendleton said of Silvestre. "He's very interested in pushing certain auxiliary programs at the expense of regular educational programs."
Silvestre, 37, a telephone systems technician and the father of five, believes that the district should work to reduce the number of children who are not promoted out of kindergarten.
In the 1984-85 school year, the first year in which such records were kept, 37 of 312 kindergartners in the district were retained, said May Nitta, executive secretary to Rosemead Supt. Richard Harris. The district started keeping such records because "we were having an inordinate number of retentions," Nitta said. She estimated that before 1984, about 10 kindergartners were held back each year.
One way to ensure that students are promoted is to provide Head Start-type preschool programs, Silvestre said. Head Start is a 20-year-old federal program designed to improve the intellectual performance and personal adjustment of disadvantaged children.
He said that the experience of being held back may instill an inferiority complex in children, and that providing disadvantaged children with free programs that prepare them for formal education might spare students such trauma.
The students who suffer the most are minority children whose parents cannot afford to send them to private preschools, Silvestre said.
Although Pendleton, who has three children, said she supports the concept behind enrichment programs, she does not believe that there is enough money for all the programs the district would like to offer. She said that her experience in school-system financing has made her very aware of funding and funding sources.
"He (Silvestre) would like to see certain things happening and he's not aware of the complexities involved," Pendleton said.
Silvestre, a naturalized U.S. citizen who moved to the United States from Mexico when he was 6, also said that the interests of the district's large Latino population are not adequately represented on the board. "Since the city is changing so drastically, we need someone up there to reflect the feeling of the community," said Silvestre.
The most recent statistics on minority enrollment in the Rosemead School District indicate that 56% of the students are Latino and 12.5% are Asian.
But Pendleton, who is also Latino, said that the board has been "doing a pretty good job" of responding to the needs of Latino children.
"It is our responsibility to help the children learn English and to be able to succeed in English, said Pendleton, who favors programs in English as a second language programs over a bilingual approach. "It's not possible to provide for every child in their native language."
All of the candidates agreed on the need to better meet minority needs, including those of Asian-Americans, and to raise graduation standards in the district.
"We need to somehow solve the Asian linguistic problem because of the variety of dialects you get coming into the schools," candidate Dennis S. McDonald said.