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Recall Target Calls Foes' Tactics Illegal

February 21, 1988|JEFFREY MILLER | Times Staff Writer

Discontent among teachers and parents peaked last spring, when teachers staged a one-day strike and some parents kept their children home from school for a day in support of the teachers' position.

Critics of the school board said its members had become politically entrenched and unresponsive to the community. Green was singled out for recall in part because his term does not expire until December, 1989, but also because some parents found his attitude toward them "condescending" and "capricious."

"He was the prime target for a lot of people's anger, concern and dissatisfaction," Weiss said. "He was the most outspoken member of the old board."

In addition to complaining about Green's demeanor, recall backers questioned his ethics in accepting campaign contributions in 1985 that had been solicited by then-Supt. James T. Johnson in a letter written on district stationery. Last March, Johnson received a "private admonition" from the state Commission for Teacher Credentialing for soliciting contributions for Green and board member Frank Bingham.

"Robert Green knowingly took that money and spent it on his campaign," Hawkins said.

Green has denied doing anything unethical and said complaints about his personal style are based on the teachers union's resentment of his uncompromising fiscal conservatism.

From the start, Green said he doubted that the recall would get much support from the voters. When the recall measure qualified for the ballot in October, Green said he was less concerned about that than about the reelection campaigns of fellow board incumbents Sue Moran and Roger Campbell.

But on Nov. 3, Moran and Campbell were voted out of office. Biff Green and Robert Watanabe, both of whom had been endorsed by the teachers association, were the two top vote-getters, with Scott winning the third open seat on the school board.

'Power Base'

"I didn't misread the community," Robert Green said. "What I misread was the power of the power base that wanted to get Biff and Robert Watanabe elected."

Robert Green said the recall effort is the last step in the teachers association's efforts to control a majority of the school board, adding that it would be financially disastrous for the district if the union is successful.

"They're getting people elected to the board and then saying, 'You owe us,' " Green said. "If (board members) succumb to the salary demands the union has placed on the district at this time, the Bonita Unified School District will file for bankruptcy by the end of the school year."

Teachers association President Dan Harden said the endorsement of candidates, such as Biff Green, Watanabe and King, merely reflects the wishes of the union's 385 members and is not an effort to wield influence over the board.

"(Green) is trying to imply that we control these members, and I would suggest to you that you talk to those people and ask them if they feel controlled," Harden said. He added that union support of the recall effort would not be decisive.

"I think the issues have already been debated, and I think the people have already reached their decision," Harden said. "I think they want to complete the change (begun with the November election), and I think Bob Green will be soundly defeated."

No Strings Attached

King said he did not see any strings attached to his union endorsement.

"I appreciated the teachers association coming out and endorsing me . . . but as far as what happens and how I do things, that's up to me," he said.

Among the other board members, only Biff Green has taken a stand in support of the recall. He also said King is the better of the two replacement candidates, but stressed that the teachers association's endorsement exerted no influence on his position.

Watanabe said he is remaing neutral during the recall campaign.

Scott, who was one of the principal organizers of last year's student boycott, said she initially supported the recall as the only means of dealing with an intractable school board. However, she said the situation in the district has changed considerably since then.

Scott said that relations between teachers and the district have improved and that Robert Green has "admitted he made some mistakes." But, she said, a vocal minority in the teachers association has continued to foment discontent against the school board, particularly Green.

"The (recall) movement was intended to better the district, not to be a personal vendetta against any individual," Scott said.

However, Hawkins has accused Scott of vacillating on the recall issue. "The lady constantly spins," he said. "You never know where she's going to be from week to week."

Cost Criticized

Scott maintained that she has been consistent. "The recall committee is well aware of my position, which has been the same since last April. It shouldn't come as a surprise."

Both Robert Green and Scott have criticized the cost of the recall election, which the county registrar-recorder has estimated at more than $47,000.

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