COMPTON — Five incumbents were reelected to the Compton Unified School District board despite heavy criticism from several challengers about perpetually low test scores and deteriorating facilities.
Trustee Kelvin Filer led the balloting in the race to fill the four open seats that carry four-year terms. Behind him came Sam Littleton, Manuel Correa and John Steward.
Lynn Dymally swamped her three opponents, winning a two-year term. The daughter of Rep. Mervyn Dymally (D-Compton) was appointed in July to replace Bernice Woods, who resigned to become a city councilwoman. Dymally will serve the remaining two years of Woods' term.
In the wake of their victories, the incumbents agreed that their first important task will be to find a replacement for schools Supt. Ted D. Kimbrough, a strong administrator who has had considerable influence on the board. Kimbrough is leaving in January to head the Chicago school system.
"The No. 1 thing now is a new superintendent," said Littleton, a medical social worker who will be serving his third term on the board. Littleton, a political ally of Dymally and her father, hosted a victory party for himself and Dymally at his home Tuesday night.
Correa said he wants a nationwide search for the new superintendent. "I know there is strong feeling that we should stay within the confines of our city," he said, "but I would not overlook any nook and cranny to get the best person."
Tuesday night Correa celebrated his seventh school board election victory. The only elected Latino in the city, the retired Compton police commander has been on the board 24 years.
Correa and the other incumbents said they carried the election because the school district has made progress in recent years in raising the quality of education.
Filer said: "I have always maintained that there has been improvement, not the degree of improvement we want, but there has been improvement."
An attorney who has already served two terms on the board, Filer says this is his last term. Twelve years for an elected official in the same office is enough, he said.
Filer said Tuesday night that he will not commit himself at this time to either a nationwide search for a superintendent or to hiring from within the district.
Dymally said the hiring of a new superintendent was one of the challenges facing the board, but she would not comment further. The second critical challenge facing the board, she said, is to raise student test scores.
She attributed her large victory margin to the fact that she previously served on the board. She did not seek reelection in 1987 after serving four years. "The voters voted for me the first time I ran and obviously they felt I did an excellent job and they voted for me again."
The next highest vote-getter in her four-way race was Omar Bradley.
In all there were 30 candidates vying for five seats, which contributed to the incumbents' sweep. Though some of the challengers are active in the schools, none had a political base in the district from which to build a campaign.
The challenger who came closest to winning was Margaret Moore, a community liaison with the school district, who was making her second bid for a board seat.
Steward, a probation officer who has already served two terms, was the only incumbent working actively for some challengers, particularly Kalem Aquil, who was running against Dymally. A longtime critic of the board majority and of Kimbrough, Steward wanted to break the majority's lock on the board. But Aquil was defeated soundly.