Seven of the candidates competing for four open seats on the Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education are running on two slates that reflect the dominant political philosophies in the city.
An eighth candidate, Susan Bogdanow, is running as an independent.
Incumbent school board members Della Barrett and Bob Holbrook are on a slate called Best Education for Students Today (BEST), a group whose moderate candidates are backed by Concerned Homeowners of Santa Monica, the major homeowners organization in the city. Dorothy Koutouratsas and Catherine Williams are also backed by the slate.
The three other, Patricia Hoffman, Stephanie Oringer and Dan Ross, are backed by the Committee for a Responsive School Board, the liberal group of challengers who are backed by the major tenants' organization in the city, Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights.
All eight candidates agree that the district's first priority is to shore up its budget with additional sources of revenues. Voting in a new parcel tax, marketing surplus properties and soliciting gifts from the city, businesses and residents are the most frequently mentioned sources of revenue.
Claim to Represent Diversity
The candidates of the Committee for a Responsive School Board contend that they best represent the diversity in the district, not just the North Side and homeowner interests. Oringer is a single-parent resident in the mid-city area; Ross is the only candidate from Malibu, and Hoffman, a longtime activist in the district, lives on the wealthier north end of town.
BEST candidates said their election would add more balance to the board. They say that if the rival slate wins, the seven-member board would have six members who had been backed by the Committee for a Responsive School Board. Board members Connie Jenkins, Peggy Lyons and Mary Kay Kamath were previously supported by the committee.
Barrett said another difference between the BEST slate and the Responsive Committee is that committee's emphasis on such social issues as whether the district should divest its funds from companies that do business with South Africa rather than an on practical issues of finance and curriculum.
"We have emphasized more issues involving the practical money-raising issues," Barrett said.
But Hoffman said her group has been just as involved in the district's day-to-day financial problems. "The social issues are the added elements that we bring to the board," she said.
Bogdanow Tells Reasons
Independent Bogdanow said that her decision to run was prompted in part by her feelings against slate politics. "My concern is that they (members of slates) owe or are obligated to their slates or the group that backing them," she said. "I think the priorities of the school board should be the children."
Thus far, Barrett, Holbrook, Koutouratsas and Williams of the BEST slate have focused on their "experience" and years as incumbents. Both Koutouratsas, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for school board two years ago, and Williams have been active in the district for many years.
Barrett and Holbrook cite their board experience through which the parcel tax in 1984 passed, raising $1.5 million a year; the reorganization of the junior high into a 6th-, 7th- and 8th-grade middle school; the selling or leasing of surplus properties, and the hiring of a new superintendent.
Candidates Hoffman, Ross and Oringer on the Committee for a Responsive School Board slate contend they also have experience in the district. They said the district suffers from poor management and that employees have low morale.
Charge Failure to Act
They said the incumbents failed to act on management problems, contributing to the loss of $700,000 in the district's cafeteria funds. More specifically, they blame their opponents with failing to act to replace former Supt. George Caldwell who retired in June after nine years with the district.
Holbrook answered that the board did act promptly after it found out about the losses in the cafeteria accounts by replacing the manager in charge of cafeteria services and ordering other changes in food services. The manager later regained his position through a lawsuit but has subsequently resigned.
Barrett said that replacing Caldwell was never an issue. "We never voted on his contract. A year and a half after we (were elected to the board) he told us that he didn't want his contract renewed," she said.
The top four vote-getters will win seats on the board. The candidates are:
Della Barrett, 44, a Sunset Park resident who has served on board since 1983. She is the vice president of the board. She is a member of the Concerned Homeowners of Santa Monica .
Susan Bogdanow, 43, a special education teacher in the Mountain View School District in El Monte.
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