CERRITOS — Petitions with more than 300 teachers' signatures were turned into the ABC Unified School District Board of Education on Tuesday, requesting that a fact-finding committee be formed to investigate concerns raised over Whitney High School, the district's college preparatory school.
The petitions, which were circulated at the district's five junior high schools and the three other high schools, were started by two veteran teachers who teach academic honor courses for college-bound students at regular comprehensive high schools in the district.
The two, Cerritos High School biology teacher Richard Neville and Gahr High School math teacher Steve Murray, have charged that Whitney is an elitist institution that receives preferential treatment from the district.
The teachers have also said that Whitney's students are mostly Asian and that blacks and Latinos are under-represented. Whitney students are required to take entrance examinations. The school, which has existed for nearly 12 years, has nearly 1,000 students. Nearly all its graduates go to college.
The two teachers also have said that Whitney should be closed and its students transferred to the regular high school campuses.
The board listened to more than an hour of testimony Tuesday from both dissidents and supporters of Whitney without much comment.
However, board President Elizabeth J. Hutcheson asked District Supt. Kenneth L. Moffett to investigate the various charges leveled.
Cerritos Mayor Daniel L. Wong was one of those who spoke in support of Whitney.
Wong said he was in favor of not only keeping the school open but expanding it and having it serve as a role model for the entire district.
Not Viewed as Racist Issue
Wong said he did not see the Whitney issue as one of racism.
"The Chinese and Asian students who are admitted to Whitney are not geniuses but they are there because their parents care and place a high value on education," Wong said in an interview.
Neville and Murray, who have each taught in the district for more than 20 years, said they had become upset by a proposal to build a gymnasium with lockers and showers at Whitney.
Last month, Moffett proposed using $3.2 million from the building and deferred-maintenance funds to renovate the district's Culinary Arts Center next to Whitney for a gym and multipurpose room for art, music and food services. The culinary arts program is being eliminated this summer as part of a budget-cutting plan adopted earlier this year.
Neville and other critics have said that there are other needs at other schools that should be met.
Hutcheson said the district's Capital Improvement Committee is investigating all the schools' needs. A committee report is expected within a couple of weeks, Hutcheson said.
Needs identified in the report will be assigned priorities and "will influence what direction we want to go. We will look at Whitney. It is also our responsibility to see if there are inequities to correct them," Hutcheson said in an interview.
Meanwhile, Neville said he and other supporters have formed a political steering committee to explore the possibility of selecting candidates to run in the Nov. 3 school board election.
"We believe we should find board members that are sympathetic with us," Neville said.
Four school board members on the seven-member board, including Hutcheson, are up reelection. The others are Richard Arthur, Homer Lewis and Dianne Xitco.
Only board member Arthur has indicated publicly his intentions to run for reelection. The official nomination period for the Nov. 3 election is from July 13 to Aug. 17. Others indicating that they intend to run include community activists Julie Hanson and George Medina and Bob Hughlett, a Cerritos College administrator.