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5 Candidates Vying for 2 Vacancies in El Segundo School Board Election

October 15, 1987|TIM WATERS | Times Staff Writer

Five candidates, including one making his fifth try, are campaigning for two seats on the El Segundo school board in the Nov. 3 election.

Only one incumbent, Alan Leitch, a 42-year-old optometrist, is seeking reelection. Leitch was elected last year to fill the unexpired term of Alan West, who was elected to the City Council.

Other candidates are part-time graphic artist Patricia Pjerrou-Paynter, attorney Andrew Wallet, real estate agent George Ray and county librarian Dennis Martin, who has unsuccessfully sought a seat on the board four times since 1981.

Account Shrinking

The other incumbent, Richard D. Work, said in August that he would not run for reelection because he wanted more time to pursue private interests. He has served on the board for eight years.

The only point of discussion in the campaign has been the district's finances. In recent years, the district's reserve account has continued to shrink. Last fiscal year, the district had a reserve of about $250,000, contrasted to an expected $101,000 this year. The district's budget for the 1987-88 is $7.6 million.

To raise additional money, school board members have leased two unneeded schools to the Los Angeles Raiders and Hughes Inc. Together, the leases bring the district $16,700 a month.

A majority of the candidates say the district could bolster its meager bank account by leasing, possibly to the city or to a developer, a parking lot it owns at Mariposa and Main streets downtown.

Although teachers and students use the lot, the district has also allowed the city free use of it in exchange for maintenance.

Development Favored

Board members have held preliminary discussions on leasing the quarter-acre parking lot either to the city or to a developer, but no vote has been taken.

Of the candidates, only Wallet, 34, has said that the land should be developed for retail purposes by a private developer. However, he said he would oppose selling the land outright in case the district ever needs it.

In an interview, Wallet criticized present board members for failing to take a more active role in the day-to-day operations of the district. For instance, he said, the board should be more active in areas such as determining curriculum.

"The school board really doesn't understand its full responsibilities in meeting the needs of the community," Wallet said. "They are not performing their function in the area they have authority over. They have abdicated it to the superintendent."

Wallet also said the private El Segundo Educational Foundation has not been "really successful" in raising money for the district. He said that by using professional fund-raisers, the foundation could probably tap into new sources of money for the district.

School district officials say the foundation raises between $50,000 and $75,000 annually.

Pjerrou-Paynter, 38, said she believes a partial solution to the district's financial problems could come from the city. For example, the city could provide the district with free trash service, saving the district $12,000 a year, she said.

Within the last two years, the city has agreed to provide the district with free water and maintains the district's vehicles at cost.

Pjerrou-Paynter also said the board should develop a plan to increase the amount of instructional time given to students in the first three grades. Compared to other South Bay school districts, El Segundo students in those grades go to school 35 minutes to one hour less each day, she said.

School officials said that with the exception of one or two districts, El Segundo students receive the same amount of instruction time as children in other districts.

Pjerrou-Paynter said she would work to rejuvenate the school district's libraries--which she maintains have been hard hit by budget cutbacks in recent years--and to update the district's audio-visual equipment.

Martin, 48, who describes himself as a "reform candidate," said he favors leasing the parking lot to bring in additional funds. He also maintains that the district could earn money by charging outside groups to use its recreational facilities when school is not in session, such as on weekends.

Martin said he advocates a greater use of computers within the district. He said that for about $1 million, the district could put computers in every classroom. He also said the district should expand opportunities for its gifted students and introduce health and fitness programs at all levels.

Incumbent Leitch said he believes the district must work out an "equitable solution" with the city about use of the parking lot. "I don't think you would find an argument from anyone that we need to bring in some income off of the lot," he said.

Leitch praised the district's recent accomplishments, saying its math and science curriculum meet state guidelines in all grades. By the end of the year, the district's language arts curriculum, which includes classes such as English and social studies, will meet state guidelines, he said.

Within the past year, Leitch said, the district has established a day-care center and has been able to install new lights at the high school's football field. "I really, strongly believe we have one great school district," Leitch said.

Leitch said that he would like to see the district offer more elective courses. Many electives, such as home economics, were cut as the district worked to meet state educational guidelines, he said.

"It's just been one little thing after another," Leitch said.

George Ray, 64, said he is was not familiar with some of the issues confronting the district and did not make any specific proposals.

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