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GLENDALE ELECTIONS : SCHOOLS : Challengers Call Incumbents Unresponsive

March 28, 1991|LORI GRANGE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a low-budget election with little disagreement on the issues, two challengers have questioned two veteran Glendale Board of Education incumbents over their age, vitality and long tenure on the board.

Meanwhile, a Glendale planning commissioner is winding up a low-key effort to unseat one of two incumbents running for reelection to the Glendale Community College Board of Trustees.

Neither race has been highly visible. The seven candidates have distributed postcards to voters, posted yard signs and presented their views at a handful of public forums. Most of the candidates have spent less than a few thousand dollars each on their campaigns.

Peter Musurlian, a 29-year-old congressional aide, and Robert Burlison, a 37-year-old attorney, are challenging incumbents Sharon Beauchamp, 50, and Blanch Greenwood, 74, in Tuesday's school board election. Beauchamp, who is president of the five-member board, and Greenwood together have spent 28 years in office.

The board oversees 27 schools, nearly 26,000 students and an annual operating budget of about $100 million. It voted last year to institute year-round education at six elementary schools in July, with two more slated to follow in July, 1992.

The candidates have discussed the year-round schedule, a lack of involvement in their children's education by parents, looming budget cuts of at least $2.1 million and upcoming contract negotiations with teachers. They have also targeted as a critical issue shortfalls in state education funds and a possible suspension of Proposition 98, which guarantees schools a share of state lottery income.

The Glendale Teachers Assn. has questioned the candidates about their positions regarding local discussions of ways to increase the amount of say teachers have in how schools are run as well as a statewide campaign by the union to make it easier to get bond measures for schools approved.

But the campaign has been dominated by charges by the challengers that Beauchamp and Greenwood are entrenched traditionalists who have lost their creativity. In response, the incumbents say they are seasoned board members who have the know-how to change with the times.

The Glendale Teachers Assn. did not endorse any of the candidates, but did issue a vague assessment of them. Based on the candidates' positions on five issues, however, the union gave Burlison six out of 10 possible points, Musurlian and Beauchamp five, and Greenwood three.

Musurlian and Burlison have sought to distinguish themselves from the incumbents by emphasizing their youth, vigor and newcomers' perspectives. Burlison jokingly has called the pair a "tag team," and they consistently have lauded each other's platforms.

"We're really the future-oriented candidates," said Musurlian, a field representative for Rep. Carlos J. Moorhead (R-Glendale). He and Burlison advocate a voluntary limit of two four-year terms for board members.

The incumbents have lost their energy and enthusiasm, he said.

Beauchamp, who has spent 12 years on the board, and Greenwood, who has served 16, staunchly maintain that questions about their vitality are meant to obscure a lack of more substantial issues. They said their long tenure demonstrates their dedication and experience.

They also said the decision to begin year-round education, their efforts to curb crowding in schools and the formation last year of a committee to draft a long-term strategic plan for the district reflect their ability to react to contemporary problems.

"Just because you've been there for 12 years, just because you're 50 years old, you lose the ability to think, to be creative?" Beauchamp said, facetiously. "I don't in any way feel that I'm a rubber stamp, that I can't think, that I don't have a lot of ideas."

The incumbents' longtime service has not been the only subject of the challengers' criticism. Musurlian chastised the board for voting recently to improve medical benefits for retired members, and he pledged to accept only half of the monthly $400 stipend paid to board members.

Musurlian also criticized the board for ignoring the growing problems of gangs and drugs in the schools.

"Certainly Glendale is not L. A. . . . but how much of a priority are school board members making crime?" he said. "I don't think they've been showing adequate leadership on this issue."

He and the incumbents have disagreed throughout the campaign over the number of students who are gang members and the frequency of campus assaults.

Burlison, a Hoover High School graduate, has criticized the board for rubber-stamping proposals made by Supt. Robert Sanchis and other administrators, and for being too complacent and unresponsive.

During meetings, he said, board members rarely ask questions or comment on issues. When he appeared last year before the board to present information on year-round education and ask for more involvement of parents, the incumbents were silent, he said.

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