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Culver City School Board Race a Low-Key Affair : Elections: Safety, quality of teachers, curriculum and child care are the key issues for four candidates.

November 05, 1989|JOCELYN STEWART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Four candidates are running for three seats on the Culver City school board in a campaign the superintendent called "neither heated nor sedate."

Thomas J. Supple and James Quirarte are challenging incumbents Julie Lugo Cerra and Bob G. Knopf in Tuesday's election.

Kay Lyou, 59, a two-term member of the board, will not seek reelection, citing the need for a breather.

The candidates, whose campaigns have been low-key, raised the issues of school security, quality of education and child care.

Thomas J. Supple 48, a software engineer at TRW, has five children, two graduates and two eighth-graders. Supple said the schools are less safe than when his oldest child graduated in 1984. But, he said, rather than spending more money on security, those responsible for ensuring school safety need to be held accountable when they fail to do so.

Curt Rethmeyer, superintendent of the 4,500-student district, said there is an increasing concern about security.

"There's an emerging concern about gangs. We have some students who are members of gangs, but we're on the fringe of that. . . . We're trying to be very vigilant and make sure that doesn't disrupt the school program," Rethmeyer said.

Last year's board voted to spend $40,000 more on security than in the previous year. The money was spent primarily in the secondary schools, increasing security personnel and fencing the campuses.

Supple also expressed concern about the hiring of high-quality teachers for the district.

"I have a concern that the new salary agreement in Los Angeles is going to have an impact on Culver's ability to retain and attract good teachers," he said.

"I think we have to offer a competitive salary and benefit package. To do this, we're going to have to look and see how our non-teaching dollars are being spent."

Supple, who has never run for election before, has served on three school district committees.

Jim Quirarte, 44, who manages property and owns a jukebox and vending machine business, serves on the district's strategic planning committee. He has one daughter who attends elementary school in the district and two sons who have graduated.

Quirarte said security was at the top of his list of concerns. He also stressed a need to improve the vocational arts department at the high school and to improve communication between parents, teachers and the community.

"I would like to have more input from the teachers concerning how to improve education," he said, suggesting a shared decision-making program similar to that in some Los Angeles schools.

Quirarte said the city's dropout rate should also be addressed.

"I want to implement programs to identify at-risk students in the elementary level . . . those students who have the possibility of dropping out in the future."

He proposed a "stay in school" program for the upper-level schools and a similar program for the elementary schools.

In 1987, Quirarte ran for one of two open seats and came in third in a field of six.

Incumbent Bob Knopf, 46, a senior scientist at Hughes Aircraft, was elected to the board in 1981 and has served two terms.

"We added technology to our district with the use of computers by making it available as a learning tool and a management tool for our teachers. We've cultivated business partnerships," Knopf said of his tenure with the board.

For Knopf, a single father of two, child care has been a key concern.

"I'm addressing the issues as a single parent would address them. . . . Parents need the child care but can't afford it in a lot of cases and that's really a very important issue," he said.

The school district has child-care programs at all four of its elementary schools, for which Knopf said he helped lobby the state. Parents can bring their children for care before work and keep them there until 6 p.m. Each school has a long waiting list, Knopf said. "I think we need to expand it even more so we can address the needs of our students."

Knopf predicted a difficult year because of budget cuts, derived from the need to pay teachers more.

"I'd like to see a state salary adopted so we won't have this inconsistency between districts," he said.

Incumbent Cerra, 44, a public relations consultant, was elected to the board in 1985. She stressed the need to continue to work on changes in school security and curriculum started during her term.

"People who live in Culver City, and I've lived here since birth, have a false sense of security. We've always been like an oasis within an urban metropolis, but we can no longer ignore the problems at our borders, for example the gangs, so we need to protect our students."

Cerra said the population of the city has changed over the years, requiring schools to change as well. Twenty-six languages are spoken in the district, she said.

"You're not catering to a homogeneous population. We need to be able to provide all our kids with the tools to succeed. Not everybody goes to college. . . . Because the assistant principal is now in charge of curriculum, we're re-evaluating curriculum to see that it satisfies the needs of the student population."

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