WHITTIER — With eight days left before the Aug. 11 filing deadline, 19 candidates, including six incumbents, are seeking election to seats on six Whittier-area school boards this November.
The hottest contests are expected in districts where the hottest issues have developed. The Whittier City and Whittier Union High school districts have been racked by debates and controversies and have drawn the largest number of candidates for the Nov. 7 election.
Seven candidates, all newcomers, were vying for three seats on the Whittier City School District board by Tuesday afternoon. And five candidates, including two incumbents, were competing for three seats on the Whittier Union High School District board.
Neal Avery, superintendent of the Whittier City School District, an elementary and intermediate school district with 5,900 pupils, said he was surprised at the number of candidates.
"It's the first time in years we've had this many people running," Avery said. One reason, he suggested, is that at least two of the three incumbents on the district board have decided not to run. "Normally, it's the incumbents and one other person running."
Last spring, the board and district teachers disagreed on a number of issues, including terms of a two-year contract.
The Whittier Union High School District has also seen its share of problems.
A $1.8-million accounting error by Los Angeles County forced school officials to cut several programs and positions, then appeal for state relief.
Problems Far From Solved
On July 20, the Legislature ordered the money to be paid back to the district with state funds.
But the problems are far from solved, said Supt. Lee Eastwood.
"We're facing dramatic decreases in enrollment and the financial consequences that come with it," Eastwood said. "Over the past 20 months, we've had to cut $3.5 million out of our budget.
"Our financial problems have been an albatross around our necks for the last couple of years. Now we're into the bone."
Meanwhile, the districts without controversy are off to a slow start.
No one has signed up to run in the East Whittier School District election, where four board seats are vacant. And only a handful of people have expressed an interest in running in the Los Nietos and South Whittier school district elections, said Marcia Ventura of the county registrar-recorder's office.
Dorothy Fagan, superintendent of the East Whittier School District, the largest elementary and intermediate school district in the area, said candidates have traditionally filed their papers on deadline day.
"It's characteristic of this district," Fagan said. "People will file at the last minute. They always do."
Ventura said one person has signed up to run in the South Whittier School District election, and two incumbents have filed to run in the Los Nietos School District.
"From my perspective, this is going to be a quiet election," said Bill Brown, director of instructional services for the Los Nietos district. "There's really no burning issues. That seems to be what draws candidates."
Ronald Randolph, superintendent of the Lowell Joint School District, said he expects the race in his district to be low-key. Four candidates, including three incumbents, are competing for three seats.
"I don't know of any outstanding issues," Randolph said. "The community seems to be satisfied with the district."
Ventura said the following people have filed papers to run in the November election:
Whittier City School District: Owen Newcomer, James Albanese, A. Roy Salas, Sandra Kersley, Reed Wilson, J.C. (Mac) McFarland and Pam Mathews.
Whittier Union High School District: John Rios (incumbent), Bruce Sago, Octavio (Toby) Chavez, Charles Henderson Boles Morgan and Eve Burnett (incumbent).
East Whittier City School District: None.
Los Nietos School District: Paul Delgado and Alan Kartsman.
Lowell Joint School District: Jerry Powell (incumbent), Janet Averill (incumbent), Joyce Canfield (incumbent) and Pam Overstreet.
South Whittier School District: David Gonzales Hayes (incumbent).