The three candidates elected Tuesday to seats on the La Canada school board had identified a lack of community involvement as a major problem facing the financially troubled local schools. Even after an estimated turnout of only 12% of the district's registered voters, the winners say they are not discouraged.
"It is my belief that a lot people are willing to volunteer. I'm grateful for anything," said Joel Smith, the top vote getter in Tuesday's election. The turnout, he said, still represented "a lot of people."
Five candidates sought three positions on the five-member La Canada Unified School District Governing Board. Smith received 1,537 votes, or 30% of the total cast. Anne Galloway got 1,400, or 27%, and Irene Mendon, the only incumbent, received 1,242, or 24%. Each voter could vote for three candidates. The other two seats on the five-member board will be up for election in two years.
Trailing the top three were Anne Kalkstein with 659, or 13%, and Bill Koury, whose name appeared on the ballot even though he withdrew from the race several weeks ago, with 229 votes, or 4%.
The La Canada turnout was slightly higher than the overall 10.9% turnout in Los Angeles County for Tuesday's election. But it was lower than the average 20% turnout for school board elections in La Canada in recent years and well below the 38.6% of district voters who turned out for the special March election in which a proposed parcel tax for schools was defeated.
Smith, 50, is a senior manager at Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a director of the La Canada Flintridge Educational Foundation, a private organization that raises money for the school district. He ran unsuccessfully for a school board position in 1983.
Galloway, 41, is an associate professor in the Graduate School of Education at California State University, Los Angeles. She has trained teachers for 11 years and has been a consultant to various school districts.
Mendon, 49, a homemaker, was the only incumbent running. She has served on the school board for four years and has been board president for the past two. Two other incumbents, Linda Vine and Richard Macumber, did not seek reelection.
The new members will be installed Dec. 3.
Although disappointed by her loss, Kalkstein said, she plans to run again.
"I am not that well-known in the community, and the people I know are not getting out and voting," said Kalkstein, who said she was largely uninformed about district issues until last spring's tax ballot measure.
During the low-key campaign, all candidates stressed increasing community involvement as a way to help solve the district's funding problems through donations, volunteerism or another attempt at passing a parcel tax.
The school district, which has 2,998 students and four schools, has had to close four other schools in recent years because of declining enrollment and the corresponding reductions in state funding. Eight teachers and one library aide were laid off this year, and a special high school English program was dropped.
In the next four years, the five-member school board will continue to seek new methods of financing, the election winners said. "Funding is the overriding concern. I'm sure all of the board will be working to achieve stability," Mendon said.
The proposed parcel tax had been expected to generate $900,000 to $1 million annually for La Canada schools. Each of the newly elected board members said they favored another parcel tax attempt and are not expecting a lot of income from the state lottery.