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Disney Will Hire Coordinator to Aid School Districts : Education: The action is seen as a way to ease the remaining tension between the two sides over the amusement park's $3-billion expansion plan.

August 17, 1993|TERRY SPENCER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

ANAHEIM — Disney officials agreed Monday to hire an education coordinator who will help bring the amusement park's expertise and money to the city's school districts.

Officials said the plan would further lessen whatever tension remains between the school districts and Disneyland over its proposed expansion.

After the Disney director of education programs is hired in October, each of the seven school districts with campuses in Anaheim will be able to come to Disney with ideas for programs in the arts and sciences that might not be possible without the park's help, officials said.

In return, district officials said, Anaheim will have a better prepared work force 10 years from now when the $3-billion expansion is completed and Disney begins to hire the thousands of new employees it will need.

"I see this as a two-way street," Supt. Cynthia F. Grennan of the Anaheim Union High School District said of the burgeoning cooperation between the schools and Disney.

Grennan's district, which has 23,000 students at 16 junior and senior high schools, has already made plans with Disney for the company to sponsor student music, art and journalism programs, as well as a recognition program for top students.

"We need technical assistance in many of our programs," Grennan said. "In return, we have some very talented youngsters who, with Disney's help, can become their artists and performers of tomorrow. I'm very pleased."

Disneyland President Jack B. Lindquist said that the tension that existed just two months ago between the park and the school districts has been replaced by "a very positive relationship."

"We're all looking forward to developing a meaningful program that's beneficial not only to the city and to Disney, but to the young people in our schools," Lindquist said.

Approved by the Anaheim City Council in June, the expansion is to consist of a new theme park called "Westcot," an amphitheater, 5,600 new hotel rooms, shops and the two largest parking structures in the country. Officials say the project will provide 28,000 new jobs in the area, both inside and outside the park.

Earlier this year, the districts and Disney were at odds over whether the expansion would harm the schools by adding new students to their already overcrowded classrooms. The districts were threatening to sue Disney and the city if the expansion was approved and funds to build new schools were not made available.

But since the city approved the expansion, six of the city's school districts decided not to sue after Disney made overtures of assistance, even though that help will apparently not include money to build new classrooms.

The seventh, Anaheim City School District, did file a lawsuit last month, but officials on both sides say an out-of-court settlement is likely to be forthcoming. The district's Board of Education held a closed-door meeting Monday night to discuss what has been described by each side as a "minor snag" that has developed in the settlement negotiations, but nothing was decided.

Meliton Lopez, the district's superintendent, said that despite the ongoing legal battle, he is looking forward to Disney's future assistance. He said that because of budget problems, the district's fine arts program has been diminished in recent years. But with Disney's help, he said he hopes it will make a comeback. The district has 16,300 students at 21 elementary schools.

"The arts is an area we have grossly neglected," Lopez said. "We also need help in other areas, and I'll be discussing that with my staff."

The other districts that will receive assistance are Centralia, Magnolia and Savanna school districts and Orange and Placentia-Yorba Linda unified school districts. All have at least one school in Anaheim.

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