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Voters Approve School Bond for Renovations : Election: $28-million measure, which failed last year, will be used to revitalize campuses.


ARCADIA — In an extraordinary turnaround that school officials attribute to intensive door-to-door campaigning, voters in Arcadia and parts of Temple City on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a $28-million school bond measure they had rejected just six months earlier.

The bond issue, which will be used to renovate the Arcadia Unified School District's campuses, was approved by 71.5% (6,227) of voters, a comfortable margin over the 66.6% needed to pass the measure. Voting against the measure were 28.5% (2,483). Voter turnout was 33.2% of registered voters.

"We talked to virtually every association in the district," said Carol Curtis, Arcadia PTA Council president, who expressed delight at the victory. "We talked at retirement homes and the Chinese Assn. We reached out to the community."

Opponents of the measure could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

School bond measures are difficult to pass, especially during times of financial hardship, because they require a two-thirds approval vote instead of a simple majority.

Locally, school districts in San Gabriel, La Canada and South Pasadena have seen carefully drafted bond measures fail in the last five years. Since 1992, voters have turned down 42 of 74 school bond measures proposed statewide, according to a spokeswoman for School Services of California Inc., a private Sacramento firm that tracks educational statistics.

"This shows a tremendous citizen commitment to education of children in Arcadia and a reaffirmation of education as a priority for tax dollars," said Supt. Terrence Towner as he jumped for joy at the news.

Also celebrating Tuesday night were school board incumbents Joann Steinmeier and Mary Dougherty, who beat challenger Debbie Ewing in a three-way race for two seats.

Supporters were especially pleased because last September, the Arcadia bond measure failed to get the required two-thirds approval by less than one percentage point. In that election, 65.8% of 4,137 voters backed the measure.

But school officials said they learned lessons from their first defeat, when they concentrated only on parents of schoolchildren. This time, bond supporters took the issue citywide.

"We specifically targeted people who live in a Temple City area that is part of the Arcadia School District, people who live in apartments, the close to 900 retired teachers who live in Arcadia, those who use day-care facilities and will be the students of tomorrow," said Alvin Albe, a parent who led the bond campaign.

Albe said the district also sent citywide mailers to drum up support for the measure. Bilingual parents helped draft the leaflets into Chinese and Korean.

Even merchants were enlisted in the fight. Throughout Arcadia, placards at local businesses asked property owners to "bite the bullet" for the city's schools.

Steinmeier credits the bond measure victory to the proponents' educational campaign during the last six months, which she said "made converts of many opposed to further taxes."

The bond measure will cost property owners $20 per $100,000 of assessed value. A household with a property assessed at $250,000 would pay $50 a year. The average house in the city costs $306,522, according to the Arcadia Board of Realtors' March figures, but many homes are assessed at far less because they were purchased years ago.

The $28-million bond issue will pay for new plumbing, electrical systems, heating and air conditioning in the schools and add 14 classrooms to Arcadia High School. Some of the buildings, which serve 8,200 students at 11 campuses, are 80 years old, and the schools' electrical systems are not capable of powering modern technology.

The district is also planning to reconfigure its schools this fall. School officials will designate elementary schools for kindergarten through fifth grade, middle schools for sixth through eighth grade and high school for ninth through 12th grade. Sixth-graders now attend elementary schools and ninth-graders are in junior high.

Dougherty and Steinmeier won with 39.7% (5,595) and 34.5% (4,867) of the vote; Ewing garnered 25.8% (3,636).

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