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Ex-L.A. School Board Member Predicts Increase in Year-Round Classes, Busing

July 05, 1987|BOB WILLIAMS | Times Staff Writer

Suburban areas in the Los Angeles school district can expect year-round schedules and more bused-in students as the giant system accommodates a rapidly growing school population, former Trustee John Greenwood predicts.

In an interview, Greenwood offered his views on a wide range of school issues from the perspective of an outgoing board members who helped lead the Los Angeles district through an eight-year period of upheaval. He relinquished his South Bay and harbor-area seat on the school board last week to political newcomer Warren Furutani, who defeated him for reelection in April.

Communities Have No Choice

Greenwood expressed sympathy for the concerns of suburban communities affected by the district's overcrowding. But he said neither district leaders nor the various communities have a choice.

"As long as children keep showing up, we have a legal obligation to provide them with the best education possible," Greenwood said. "Space must be found for them where it exists, even in communities that are not themselves overcrowded."

Greenwood also said he sees a return to teaching traditional values in public schools. "Children need a set of core values that can help them evaluate the conflicting ideas and cultures to which they are exposed," he said.

As for his own political fortunes, Greenwood acknowledged that resentment of his support for more busing may have been a factor in voter rejection of his bid for a third term in the April election. "But this is not the end of the road for me," said the 42-year-old Greenwood. "You learn as much from losing as you do from winning, and I'm learning a lot."

Returning to Hospital Job

Greenwood said he will return to his job as an administrator at San Pedro Peninsula Hospital, but will be "taking a close look" at any new opportunities to run for public office. His school board district stretched from San Pedro to South Gate and included Wilmington, Lomita, Gardena, Harbor City and Carson.

Viewed as a moderate who sought to unify an often-contentious board, Greenwood began his eight years as a trustee in 1979, the first year of court-ordered busing to achieve racial integration. Busing again became a major issue as a rapidly growing immigrant population pushed enrollment to 590,000 and the district began to bus youngsters, most of them minorities, to fill open seats in outlying schools.

District officials say they will have to find room for 14,000 more students next year and they project a total enrollment of nearly 670,000 by the early 1990s.

New Schools Help

Construction now planned for the next five years, which is already generating resistance from residents who would lose their homes, will help relieve overcrowding. But school officials do not know when the spiraling need for more classroom space will level off. In the interview, Greenwood said the next year or two will be critical in determining the public's attitudes toward the district's overcrowding and financial problems.

"The time will come when the school board says to a community, 'You need to go year-round in your schools,' and the parents there will stand up and say, 'Why? Are we overcrowded in San Pedro? Are we overcrowded in Lomita and these other areas?' And the answer is no. The district is overcrowded, but you have the space and we can create additional seats by putting you on year-round and bringing in bungalows.

"Now that is going to be difficult to sell, because we're asking these communities to view themselves as part of the larger Los Angeles school district and its problems. And how many people are going to buy that?"

Greenwood said the board has not encountered much public protest so far. He added that "prior to mandatory busing 10 years ago, parents would have said, 'Go ahead and spend more money on your overcrowded schools, but leave us alone.' "

More Tolerant Now

He attributed more tolerant public attitudes to massive changes in school demographics that have left very few campuses, even in suburban areas of the district, with predominantly white populations. Sharing formerly white schools with minorities has become an accepted fact of life, he said.

"In dealing with this, the frustrating thing has been the realization that we have no other choice and we didn't create the problem in the first place," Greenwood said. "We weren't responsible for the immigration laws. These youngsters keep showing up and it's our duty to educate them."

Since more busing is inevitable, Greenwood said, the only advice he can offer to suburban parents is to get more involved in their local schools and work to see that the needs of their children are not neglected.

"When these things are done on a massive scale, adequate consideration may not be given to the local situation in some cases," he said.

Crowding to Continue

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