Two incumbents, Buddy Takata and Lois Brodersen, face one challenger, retired principal Eleanor Neville Escalante, in the Hawthorne Elementary School District elections Nov. 3. The two candidates with the most votes will win seats on the board.
The 5,400-student district, which had a 6% growth in enrollment this year, has been free of public disputes for as long as most residents can remember.
That tranquil image, the incumbents said, grows from a tradition of unity on the board and what Takata calls a "positive, upbeat attitude" among administrators and teachers.
Escalante, a self-described maverick, agrees that Hawthorne has a good elementary school system, but she would like to shake things up a bit. District leadership, she said, is too autocratic and "independent thoughts are not allowed."
Now 65, Escalante retired in 1984 after 20 years as a teacher and administrator in the district, the last eight as principal of Yukon Intermediate School. She is the wife of Michael Escalante, a trustee of the Centinela Valley Union High School District, and her son, Michael Jr., is a vice principal at Hawthorne High.
Takata, 57, corporate manager of personnel development at Hughes Aircraft Co., has served on the board since 1977. He said the district has moved ahead with a number of projects, such as more emphasis on science and math instruction by specialists, adding computers and other equipment and more in-service training for teachers.
To better prepare students for the next step in their schooling, he said, the district's intermediate levels have been restructured on the high school model. Rather than remain in the same classroom with the same teacher throughout the day, students now move from class to class to receive instruction from teachers who specialize in various subjects, Takata said.
Brodersen, 49, who owns a Los Alamitos company that makes aircraft windshields, has been on the school board since 1981. A resident of the district for 27 years, she worked in PTA and as a teacher's aide while her children were in school. She is the guardian of another child now in a local school.
"This has been a wonderful school system for my children and me, and I think we're making it even better," Brodersen said. "Good results come from a lot of dedicated people working together."
Escalante said the district's headquarters has too many senior administrators and it does not provided medical benefits for retired teachers, "who are having a hard time financially." She said the district could do more for senior citizens generally by making unused bungalows and classrooms available for senior activities.
She conceded that the election odds favor the incumbents, but she said she is working hard on her campaign and "I'm going to give them a good run for their money."