Incumbents were returned to office in all but two of 11 school board elections in the South Bay on Tuesday as voters generally showed satisfaction with the way the trustees have been handling the declining enrollments, school closures and tight budgets that afflict most of the systems.
Trustee John Barberis narrowly lost his bid for a second term on the Torrance Unified School District, coming in fourth in a field of nine candidates. The winners of three open seats were community volunteers Ann Gallagher and Carol O'Brien and university administrator William Blischke.
In the Wiseburn Elementary School District, voters turned down incumbent Wayne Matthew, who had been appointed to fill out an unexpired term on the board in December, and instead chose Daniel Juarez. Two other incumbents, Marc Schramm and Walter Guerrero, were reelected.
On the Palos Verdes Peninsula, voters responded to board President Martin S. Dodell's offer to provide continuity on the new school board by giving him a comfortable margin in his bid for a two-year unexpired term.
Received 4,423 Votes
Dodell, who was linked by his opponents with the outgoing board's decisions on closing schools and relocating the four-city district's continuation high school on one of the abandoned campuses, received 4,423 votes (59%) against challenger Cindy Miller's 3,073 (41%).
Peninsula voters also rewarded many years of volunteer school and community service by giving four-year terms to two prominent PTA leaders, Sally Burrage and Marlys Kinnel. The third winner among six candidates for full terms was clinical psychologist Jeffrey Younggren, who edged out attorney Brenton Goodrich by 136 votes.
All three incumbents were returned to their posts in the South Bay Union High School District, which has been rocked in recent years by disputes over the closure and sale of Aviation High School and the demotion of former Supt. Hugh Cameron.
The incumbents, Josh Fredricks, Noel Palm and Lyn Flory, called for healing old wounds in the campaign and using the windfall from the Aviation sale to get on with the district's educational mission.
First Full Term
Flory, who joined holdover Trustee Armando Acosta in calling for Cameron's ouster earlier this year, won her first full term on the board despite allegations that she had misrepresented her academic and personal background when she ran for an unexpired term last year.
In a break with the trend elsewhere, voters in Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach indicated their unhappiness with school closures and plans to dispose of surplus district property by electing activists critical of those moves.
Mary Lou Weiss was the top vote-getter in the race for three seats on the Hermosa Beach City Elementary School District board, followed by incumbents Lynne Gonzales and Karen Gale, who were returned to the other two open seats.
Rosa Lee Saikley capped more than a decade of school activism by winning the most votes for a seat on the elementary school board in Manhattan Beach. She was joined in the winner's circle by attorney Robert Devine and incumbent Gary Collins.
Former Trustee Elected
Stanley Dunn, a prominent South Bay businessman and former member of the Torrance school board, outpaced two rivals for the Torrance-area seat on the El Camino Community College board. Veteran incumbent Lila Hummel was unopposed for the El Segundo-area post.
In the Peninsula race, some critics of the outgoing board had viewed the election as a referendum on the trustees' handling of complex and costly legal moves to close the Margate Intermediate School in Palos Verdes Estates and to establish a permanent home for the Rancho del Mar continuation high school on the closed La Cresta campus in Rolling Hills.
They hoped that voters would reject incumbent Dodell's bid for another term to show their displeasure with what they termed the "arrogant, unresponsive attitude" of board members in dealing with residents upset by the board's decisions.
However, none of the candidates who had been openly critical of the trustees won a post on the new board, while two of the newcomers--PTA leaders Burrage and Kinnel--have publicly supported the board's decisions. Only about 18% of the 41,810 registered voters in the district turned out for the election.
Seen as Endorsement
Dodell said Wednesday that he is happy to accept the election outcome as a referendum on the old board's handling of district affairs, but added a conciliatory note:
"I look forward to working with the new board members and with everybody--underline everybody--in the community," he said.
Before the outgoing trustees relinquish their seats on Dec. 2, Dodell said, they will, if necessary, vote on overriding a Rolling Hills zoning ordinance that bars the district from establishing the continuation school at the La Cresta site. He said officials of that city have not yet responded to a district request for a conditional-use permit.