COMPTON — Control of the long-suffering Compton Unified School District and possibly the job of Supt. Ted D. Kimbrough will be at stake when 17 candidates battle for three board of trustee seats in the Nov. 3 election.
The candidates are led by two incumbents--Mary B. Henry, 60, and Bernice Woods, 63. And their challengers include a former school board member who is a convicted felon, two other candidates who face criminal charges, and a dozen other contenders with varying degrees of political experience.
The election comes only months after the district--third-largest in Los Angeles County--suffered millions of dollars in losses from a bitter strike by teachers over low pay and poor working conditions. And Kimbrough's performance as chief executive remains a major issue, as it has been in every Compton school election since 1982, when he took the job and began a series of administrative reforms.
In recent years, Kimbrough's job has hung by a thread: Henry and three other trustees support him while Woods and two others want him fired. But that one-vote margin became even more precarious when supporter Lynn Dymally, daughter of Rep. Mervyn Dymally (D-Compton) decided not to seek a second term on the board.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday November 1, 1987 Home Edition Long Beach Part 9 Page 2 Column 1 Zones Desk 5 inches; 150 words Type of Material: Correction
A story in the Long Beach section of The Times on Oct. 25 noted that Compton Unified School District board candidate Saul E. Lankster had been convicted of a felony related to selling phony diplomas at a driver-training school he operated. The story further stated that state law prohibits anyone convicted of a felony from holding public office unless there has been a pardon from the governor. That information came from a spokeswoman for the county registrar-recorder's office.
However, Registrar-Recorder Charles Weissburd said last week that the law is not that clear and it would be up to a court to determine whether Lankster, if elected, could serve. To be eligible to hold public office, a person must sign a statement that he or she is not "currently imprisoned or on parole for the conviction of a felony." Lankster received probation. Lankster has obtained an opinion from attorney Gus T. Poole of Gardena that there is nothing in the law that would disqualify him from "being elected to and serving as a member or officer of any school board in the State of California."
Nine Candidates Appeared
Of the nine candidates who appeared last week at a forum co-sponsored by the PTA and an organization of school administrators, only Henry said she would continue to support the superintendent if she wins a second four-year term.
With Woods not present, Henry also suggested--without naming names--that voters take a close look at any candidate who shows a "flagrant disregard for the administrators of this district (exhibited) by those persons who dared not show up this evening."
Henry and Woods have often quarreled over board issues, with Henry calling Woods a "pathological liar" at one point last year. After several of the challengers said at the forum that they would be a unifying force between the two board factions, Henry said she would have "serious problems working with anyone who can work with somebody who lacks integrity," an apparent reference to Woods.
Last year, Woods filed a workers' compensation claim against the district, seeking lifetime medical benefits based on her contention that continuing disputes with Kimbrough had left her "psychologically disabled."
During hearings on her claim, Woods was unable to prove that she earned many of the academic achievements that she has long listed on her resume. Among other things, district lawyers presented evidence that two doctorate degrees that Woods said she had earned were in fact purchased from a pair of diploma mills.
A judge eventually awarded Woods $30,327 and a $26.65 weekly pension for injuries suffered in a 1984 fall on school property. But he rejected her psychological disability claim, advising her instead to quit public office if the stress was too great. Nevertheless, Woods chose to seek a fourth term.
Woods did not return several phone calls from the Times last week.
In other comments to the forum audience of approximately 30 people:
- Henry said she believes the district is a "microcosm of society," and the board by itself cannot solve the community's drug and gang problems. She said, however, the district can help develop a child's self esteem, which in turn will help the student in and outside of school.
- Margaret D. Comer, 57, a homemaker, said no improvement of Compton as a community will occur unless its schools improve first. Comer said she would work to improve teacher attendance and morale.
- Margaret Moore, 54, a school district community aide, said she wants to see a district-wide lesson plan adopted for each grade level. Moore also wants to find ways to reduce class size.
- Hubert L. Parker, 66, a retired high school principal, said he was not going to "insult" the audience by saying that he could solve all of the district's problems. He said most of the problems are because of the district's negative image in the community.
- Cloria L. Patillo, 55, a counselor and homemaker, said special emphasis should be placed on reading in ways that make it "fun and interesting" for students.
- Frederick D. Shaw, 59, a youth administrator, said that while he agrees that the teachers deserve more money, that is not going to solve academic problems as some other candidates suggest. He said the teachers are also going to have to be held accountable for their students' performance. Shaw said he opposes Kimbrough's Administration.
- Mae Thomas, 48, a library assistant, criticized the district's recent decision to hire a food service consultant for $680,000. District administrators contend that the expenditure was necessary to improve the poor quality of food now being served in schools. But Thomas said the money should have gone to improving teacher salaries. Thomas said she also objects to Kimbrough's Administration.