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Teachers Want Voices Heard in Hot Whittier School Race

November 02, 1989

Still frustrated by their longest-ever contract dispute last year, teachers in the Whittier City School District want their voices to be heard in Tuesday's election--making the quest for three open school board seats one of the hottest battles in the Southeast area.

For the first time, teachers in the 6,000-student district in the heart of Whittier have formed a political action committee and pledged to support three candidates: Owen Newcomer, Reed Wilson and Dave Thomas.

Members of the committee have walked door-to-door, written letters to voters and held yard sales to raise money.

"We've been politically active before, but not at this level," said Barbara Gaborko, president of the Whittier Elementary Teachers Assn. "We are trying to elect people who are understanding and have empathy for what goes on in the classroom. We have not felt we have had that for some time."

Last year, the teachers and district officials battled for nine months over details of a new contract. The teachers wanted a 7% pay increase but settled for 5% just before a planned strike.

Hard feelings persist, Gaborko said. The election could help heal the wounds.

Nine candidates, including one incumbent, are running for three seats on the school board. Board members Ermila Corral and Janet Henke are retiring. Candidates include:

James Albanese, vice president of business services at Mt. San Antonio College. Albanese has been active in school issues since the 1970s. His wife served on the school board from 1972 to 1976.

Incumbent Mildred A. Early. Running for a fourth term, she has been on the board for 12 years and involved in school issues since 1969.

Sandra Kersley, a librarian at the Rosemead Library. She has two children enrolled in the Whittier district.

Peggy Mathews, a nurse.

J. C. (Mac) McFarland is president of McFarland Energy Co. in Santa Fe Springs. He has three children in the district, which is what prompted him to become involved in school politics, he said.

Owen Newcomer, a political science and speech teacher at Rio Hondo College. He is a member of the Rio Hondo teacher's union and is currently negotiating for a new contract.

A. Roy Salas, a business development loan officer for a commercial lending company. Salas has served on school boards for the Los Nietos and Whittier Union High School districts. This is the first time he has run in the Whittier City School District.

Dave Thomas, a teacher in the Los Nietos school district. He has also been active in contract negotiations.

Reed Wilson, an accountant for Powerine Oil Co. in Santa Fe Springs. He has two children and has been active in parent-teacher groups for several years.

Downey Unified

A dentist and a chiropractor are vying for a seat on the Board of Education of the Downey Unified School District.

Robert E. Riley, a 49-year-old dentist who was first elected to the board in 1981, faces chiropractor Donald K. Hopkins, 25.

The Downey Education Assn., which represents district teachers, has made no formal endorsement, but it is telling members in its newsletter that Hopkins would be more sympathetic to teachers if elected.

Association Executive Director Richard Ruether said Riley has consistently opposed salary increases for teachers during negotiations.

Riley said this week that he supports good salaries for teachers but that he has opposed some raises because it was unclear whether the district would have enough money in the future to cover higher personnel costs.

Hopkins, whose wife, Cynthia, teaches math in the district, said he supports giving the district's instructors good wages to do good jobs.

The term of office is four years, and board members receive a $400 monthly stipend.

Board members Grace E. Horney and Walter S. Temple are running unopposed. Horney was first elected in 1965, while Temple began serving on the board in 1981.

East Whittier City Schools

Ten candidates, including one incumbent, are running for three seats and one unexpired term on the East Whittier City School District board.

Paula Hodgin, owner of an interior design business, is seeking reelection. She has served on the board for four years.

Other candidates include Susan Hunter Eiden, a teacher at a junior high school in East Los Angeles; Michael E. Martinet, personnel director for the city of Bell Gardens; David Perry, a truck driver; Benjamin Rich, economics teacher at El Rancho High School in Pico Rivera; R.F. Valdez, owner of a bookstore in Whittier; Cathy Warner, a dental hygienist; and David F. Weitzel, a physician's assistant.

Board members James Stewart and Shirley Nielson have stepped down.

Candy Harris, a businesswoman, and C. Randy King are competing to fill the unexpired term of Fred Campbell, who resigned in August because he moved out of the district.

El Rancho Unified

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