Ruth Morales, a retired school administrator and two-term incumbent, faces Steven D. Swain, a computer manager, in the only contested race for a seat on the Centinela Valley Union High School District board in the Nov. 3 elections.
A third candidate for the Area 4 post, the Rev. Chet B. Gean, withdrew from the contest, citing an unanticipated increase in demands on his time in his ministry. His name will, however, appear on the ballot.
Trustee Michael A. Escalante is running unopposed for a second term as the Area 3 representative.
Board members must live in the areas they represent, but they are elected at-large by the district's voters. The district serves graduates from the Hawthorne, Lawndale, Lennox and Wiseburn elementary systems.
In seeking a third four-year term, Morales, 63, noted that her tenure on the board began in a period of declining enrollment and emotional controversy over the closing of high school campuses in Lawndale and Lennox. Now enrollment has leveled off at about 6,000 students, Morales said, and in recent years the district has been able to concentrate on improving programs and facilities.
The district has two high schools and a continuation high school. Its budget of $22.9 million supports a system with 220 teachers.
Morales said the district also has been giving increased emphasis to curbing truancy and drug abuse, to stronger parental involvement in school affairs and to more accountability by teachers and administrators.
Morales began her school career as an elementary teacher in Lennox in 1970. She was director of bilingual programs in the Centinela Valley and Culver City districts, then served as director of education in the El Rancho Unified School District and as a principal in Inglewood until her retirement earlier this year.
Swain, 27, a native of Lennox, attended elementary schools there and graduated from Lennox High in 1978. After completing his college education, he moved to Hawthorne in 1983. He is married, has one child and manages computer programs for a private firm.
"I have firsthand knowledge of the district, and I've always been interested in its needs and problems," Swain said. "Now that I'm settled in a job and have a child of my own who will attend the local schools, I want to become more actively involved in district affairs."
Swain said schools now deal with too many social problems and he would like to help restore an emphasis on the basics of education. He said he favors aggressive measures to remove drugs and gangs from campuses, so long as the efforts do not "infringe on personal liberties." He would not, for example, go along with random searches of student lockers.
Swain said he has no specific criticism of the incumbent but believes that he can be "more available and responsive to the community at large."