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Decathlon Coach Backs Selection Method


San Gabriel High School's new Academic Decathlon team members--two-thirds of whom are Asian-American--are unfairly shadowed by the controversy surrounding last year's all Asian-American team, Coach Julie Rivera said this week.

Rivera said she did not consider the race or ethnicity of team members, who were selected based on test scores after a six-week summer school session that ended July 29. "We don't think in terms of that," Rivera said.

The team, which will compete in the decathlon's highly charged academic contest, is composed of eight Asians and four Anglos.

The team last year was recognized for its third-place regional trophy and ninth-place Los Angeles County finish. Its makeup became an issue in December, 1992, at a Board of Education meeting of the Alhambra School District, when board Vice President Dora Padilla said that the team's all-Asian makeup failed to reflect the high school's diversity. The 3,200-student high school is 44% Asian, 43% Latino, 9% Anglo and 4% other groups.

In response, protesters organized by the Chinese American Parents & Teachers Assn. of Southern California demanded an apology, pointing out that the decathlon team is open to all students and that the ethnic and racial makeup of the football team or other groups is not similarly scrutinized. Padilla later wrote an apology to each member of the decathlon team.

Padilla declined to comment on the makeup of this year's team, saying only that she is "glad to see that San Gabriel High School will have another Academic Decathlon team this year . . . that the budget allowed for that process to take place."

After the controversy, Padilla issued a statement that "recruitment would encourage broader participation." However, she offered no recommendations on how to improve recruitment.

Recruitment this year was the same as always for the program, which began in 1988, Rivera said. In March, Rivera posted flyers on bulletin boards and asked counselors for recommendations. She sent letters to recommended students, inviting them to sign up for the free summer-school class, which met from 8 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday.

About 40 students completed the class, compared with 75 last year. The students were from various ethnic groups, Rivera said.

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