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15-Year Trustee Faces 1st Election Challenge

October 26, 1989|JANET BERGAMO

A member of the Ventura County Board of Education is being challenged in an election for the first time in her 15-year tenure on the board.

Fauvette Bean Rollyson, who was appointed to the board after her husband's death in 1974 left his seat vacant, faces Al Rosen, a teacher from Simi Valley, for a seat representing Simi Valley, Moorpark, Fillmore and Piru on the five-member body.

Board members Robert Viles and Doylenne Johnson are running unopposed in the Nov. 7 election.

Rosen, who recently retired from the Los Angeles Unified School District, criticizes the board for what he views as complacency.

"I'm not saying they don't care," Rosen said. "But maybe they're not paying enough attention to the issues."

After studying the minutes of meetings for most of 1989, Rosen claimed that the board's total meeting time over an eight-month period was a little more than five hours. Rosen contrasted the meetings with those of the Los Angeles County board, which he says are longer, livelier and more frequent.

The Los Angeles County board directly serves about 35,000 students and has a budget of $247 million, according to a board spokeswoman. The Ventura board serves about 1,400, with a budget of $34 million.

County school boards are set up to act as liaisons between local school districts and the state. They are also responsible for occupational education, special education and business services. While they advise local districts on curriculum, administrator training and technology, they have no direct control over them.

Rollyson defended the board's record, citing the success of its vocational training programs and the Gateway school for "high-risk" students. Gateway, whose enrollment consists largely of problem students from local districts, as well as court referrals, sends more than 50% of its graduates to college, she said.

Rollyson said she is not ashamed of the board's brief meetings. "We depend on the superintendent and his staff to give us information and plan programs for us to act upon," she said. "We have few problems, but we're certainly capable of taking care of them if they arise."

County Supt. James Cowan explained that most of the board's budget is already designated by the state for exclusive use in such areas as special education or vocational training. "There isn't much for use as discretionary funds," he said.

Rosen also took aim at the proposed closure of the Dean Triggs Special Education facility in Thousand Oaks. Because the Triggs school has only special education students, it is out of compliance with a state law mandating some degree of interaction between special education pupils and normally functioning students.

"If the board was truly interested, they would have been discussing this back in the spring of 1988," Rosen said of the Triggs School closure. "They could have had the legislation changed--it could have been adjusted."

Rollyson replied that the board has been aware of the issue, and emphasized that students there "will not simply be mainstreamed into regular education classes."

According to Cowan, the decision on the Triggs facility is the responsibility of the Special Education Local Plan Area Council, which includes superintendents from all school districts in Ventura County.

"Although the board has discussed the matter in recent meetings, it was not their responsibility to vote on the issue, unless we had to approve the $800,000 it could have cost to move the students," Cowan said.

The Conejo Valley Unified School District has volunteered to build special education classrooms on existing sites in exchange for taking over the Triggs campus.

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