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ELECTIONS / L.A. SCHOOL BOARD : Slavkin Wins in Race for New District : Polls: Incumbent takes 52.9% of the vote, just over the amount needed to avoid a runoff for a seat in reapportioned area.


Incumbent Mark Slavkin eked out a slim majority Tuesday to win reelection outright in a redistricted Westside-west San Fernando Valley seat on the Los Angeles school board.

Final, unofficial results showed Slavkin with 52.9% of the vote, sparing him a runoff election that would have been needed had he gotten less than 50%.

His strongest challenge came from political newcomer Douglas Lasken, a second-grade teacher from Woodland Hills, who came in second with 34.4%. A third candidate, former teachers union President Judy Solkovits finished last with 12.8%.

"We're pleased," said Slavkin, who, like 60% of the district's voters, lives on the Westside. "My goal was to win outright."

Slavkin said Lasken made a strong showing because he was listed on the ballot as being a teacher and because of a generally low level of awareness among voters about the school board election.

Slavkin said his neighborhood visits showed that dismayingly few people were aware of the important issues facing the Los Angeles Unified School District. "Few people pay attention, and a certain segment just didn't want to support an incumbent," he said.

But he said those trying to salvage the public school system appear to believe in him and what he is trying to achieve.

"My immediate goal is to get the teachers contract formalized and then focus on implementing my plan for decentralization--working with schools to achieve charter status in the short-term and in the long-term to help all schools become autonomous and self-governing."

Lasken said Wednesday that he had hoped to force a runoff, but added: "I still feel pretty good. I knew I had support, but not how much. It . . . shows that people responded to the things I was saying about breaking up the district, bilingual education, violence and accountability."

Now that he has had a taste of politics, Lasken said he is seeking other ways to stay active in the process. But he is unlikely to mount another campaign for school board in four years, he said, because he does not expect there to be a district school board by then.

A proposal introduced by state Sen. David A. Roberti (D-Van Nuys) to make possible the breakup of the country's second-largest school district is wending its way through the Legislature.

"I support Roberti's bill and would like to help on that," Lasken said.

Slavkin based his campaign on his record on the board and on his proposal to abolish the school board and create autonomous complexes of high schools and feeder campuses. Under Slavkin's proposal, the central school district would be converted into an operations unit to provide transportation and other basic services to the smaller districts.

Lasken argued that the district should be completely broken into smaller units. Lasken also put forth recommendations for bilingual education and violence prevention based on his experience as a teacher and father.

As a teacher at Ramona School, he styled himself as the only candidate who was grappling daily with the staggering problems of public education in Los Angeles.

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