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2 Incumbents, Challenger Win School Seats in Culver City

November 09, 1989|BARBARA KOH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a close race, voters Tuesday elected two incumbents and one newcomer to the school board of the Culver City Unified School District.

The three seats will be filled by the top vote-getters: incumbent Julie Lugo Cerra, who got 1,548 votes, or 26.11% of those cast; challenger Jim Quirarte, with 1,544 votes or 26.04%, and incumbent Robert G. Knopf, with 1,465 or 24.71%.

Thomas Supple came in a close fourth with 1,371 votes or 23.12%.

Cerra, first elected in 1985, vowed Wednesday to "continue to be an informed member of the Board of Education." She said she will work on implementing strategic goals for the district, revising the curriculum and increasing "accountability for everyone--parents, teachers, students, staff."

The 44-year-old consultant said she wants to see a contingency program developed that will deal with "any disaster--gang activity, threats, an earthquake." She added that student-athletes should be encouraged to strive for "lofty goals. . . . We don't want the athletes just to be athletes--we should be monitoring their grades, giving them the tools to succeed," so they do "not just play a good game of football."

Quirarte, 44, who manages property and is in the jukebox and vending machine leasing business, said he was surprised that he came in second and by the voter turnout.

"Four years ago, (it took) about 800 votes, and you were elected," he said. "This time, it was (1,400). . . . The community is trying to send us a message that schools are important."

Quirarte, who ran unsuccessfully for the board in 1987, said he stood out from the other candidates in his call for beefing up vocational arts. Noting that only 34% of high school students nationwide graduate from college, Quirarte had stressed a back-to-basics curriculum.

Knopf, 46, said he placed third, behind a challenger, probably because his name was listed last on the ballot. The Hughes Aircraft Corp. engineer, who has been on the board since 1981, said he wants to expand the district's child-care programs and use computers to place students at their proper learning levels.

But Knopf said the board's first job is to reach an agreement with teachers over salaries and benefits for this year. "Until the contract is settled, it's a (distraction to) the educational program. We're in the business of educating."

The teachers union and the district have a bargaining session set for today.

Noting that Los Angeles teachers recently won 8% pay raises for each of the next two years, Culver City teachers last month rejected a tentative agreement that included a 6% pay raise and new health benefits for retirees but had higher health insurance co-payments. Bess Doerr, president of the Culver City Teachers Assn., had recommended that the teachers approve the contract.

Doerr said this week that a new survey of the rank and file showed that teachers, by at least 5 to 1, put salary as a top priority. She said the union would propose an 8% raise today.

She said Cerra, Quirarte and Knopf will "do just fine for us."

Cerra said: "Culver City is in a very bad position because of Los Angeles settling for 8%." She added: "It's also quite obvious that Los Angeles has bitten off more than it can chew," referring to the $180 million in budget cuts the Los Angeles Unified School District has said may be needed in 1990-91, largely because of rising salaries for teachers and administrator.

Cerra, Quirarte and Knopf all said they would like to see Culver City teachers get pay hikes but only if the district is not forced into deficit spending. "I can't in good conscience lobby for something that will break the district," Cerra said.

Supple said he was disappointed at losing but said he knew the race would be close. He lost, he said, because "I'm too straightforward, too blunt and I'm Republican."

Supple, a parent and software engineer, said he would remain active on district advisory committees.

The newly elected members will be sworn in at the board meeting Dec. 5. Culver City Unified 100% Precincts Reporting 3 Elected

Votes % Julie Lugo Cerra * 1,548 26.1 Jim Quirarte * 1,544 26.0 Robert G. Knopf 1,465 24.7 Thomas J. Supple 1,371 23.1

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