School funding and a controversial health clinic on the high school campus have dominated the debates in this year's race for the Culver City Board of Education.
Six candidates are vying Tuesday for two seats on the board, including incumbent Bess Drust who is seeking a third term. Incumbent Diane Pannone will not seek a second term.
The other candidates are Linda L. Price, 42, an accountant and president of the PTA council of presidents; G. James Quirarte, 42, who owns and manages apartment houses and commercial properties; Roger Aiken, 61, a retired elementary school teacher; Marcella T. Melendez, 45, a secretary, and Elliot Heffler, 36, a Culver City recreation supervisor.
Health Clinic Assailed
Melendez and Aiken have attacked the health clinic, which is scheduled to open in two weeks at Culver City High School and offer a variety of medical services including family planning, pregnancy testing, counseling and referrals. Students will be required to obtain parental permission to use the clinic's services.
However, the major issue in the campaign centers on the district's financial health and a drop in state funding because of declining enrollment.
This year, the district balanced its $18.4-million budget by cutting more than $600,000. Fourteen teaching and classified positions were eliminated through attrition, and the district cut back on books, supplies and other purchases.
"The lack of money is a real issue," said Drust. "The district needs to look into ways of developing additional sources of revenue, such as developer fees. I think it is a legitimate source of raising revenues even though some developers don't think so."
Price agreed that funding is the most critical problem facing the district. "The district needs long-term planning and effective day-to-day management," she said, adding that she would work toward improving teacher morale and reducing class sizes.
Quirarte also listed funding at the top of the district's priorities and said the district should focus more attention on "average students."
Too many programs aim at the high achievers and low achievers, Quirarte said, adding, "I would like to see the district do more with the children in the middle who are getting lost in the shuffle."
Heffler said he would like to eliminate some of the barriers between the board and the parents. He suggested that the board meet with parents in informal settings "to talk about the different problems we have."
Heffler, Quirarte, Drust and Price support the idea of having a health clinic on the high school campus. Melendez and Aiken have spoken out the most against it.
"I believe the clinic usurps parental authority," Melendez said. "It is everything we don't need. We have sufficient medical facilities in this community, and I don't see how the district is in a position to be responsible if a medical malpractice suit should result from it."
Melendez also disagrees with her opponents on the district's financial crisis.
"Many seem to think that money will solve our problems," she said. "Our schools are provided with sufficient funds. The question is what do we do with the money. This last week's events on Wall Street should convince us that we need to tighten our belts and get the most value for our money."
Aiken, who said he also disagrees with the establishment of a clinic on the high school campus, said the district needs to "get back to our spiritual heritage, sharing spiritual values with our kids."
He said he would support the teaching of creationism over evolution.