Ten candidates--ranging from a 20-year-old college student to a crusader against drugs and alcohol who was once ousted from the PTA--are vying for six openings on the school boards of Beverly Hills and Culver City unified school districts in the Nov. 2 election.
They can't be in it for the money: Beverly Hills board members receive no remuneration for their services; Culver City offers its board $1,200 a year plus medical and dental benefits.
In Beverly Hills, the school board election shares the ballot with a proposed $77-million school bond issue, which has eclipsed all other issues. All six candidates support the bond proposal.
There, incumbents Lillian L. Raffel and A. J. Willmer are being challenged by Josh Gross and Tricia Roth for four-year terms, while two other candidates seek to fill a single two-year unexpired seat.
Gross, 20, a writer who attended Beverly Hills schools and graduated from Beverly Hills High, says his recent student experience has given him a firsthand understanding of "what it is like to be a student in a district that is no longer No. 1." He says the board needs an infusion of new blood, and that the city's buildings and teacher morale both need rebuilding. He also wants to make community service a high school graduation requirement and would tap into the alumni for expertise and money.
Gross attended UC Berkeley for two years, and says he intends to finish college at UCLA after the election. His first book, a film retrospective called "The Last Word," was published last year. The Beverly Hills Education Assn., made up of teachers and support staff, supports him and two-year candidate Jo Ann Koplin.
Roth, a pediatrician long active in fighting tobacco, drug and alcohol abuse, ran unsuccessfully for City Council in 1990. The mother of four children who all attended or now attend local schools, she advocates a review of the current tenure policy, including peer review. Her persistent anti-drug and anti-alcohol campaign led to her ouster as historian of the El Rodeo School PTA a few years ago after members termed her "antagonistic."
One of those who voted for Roth's ouster was then-treasurer of the school, Lillian Raffel, whom Roth now hopes to unseat.
Most local observers say incumbents Raffel and Willmer are likely to be reelected.
Raffel, a registered nurse and college instructor, was elected to the board two years ago and is now its vice president. She has a daughter at Beverly Hills High and has long been active in education and charity work. A member of the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization, she has also served on the California School Board Assn.'s legislative action committee.
She has been endorsed by the Westside chapter of the National Women's Political Caucus, the Beverly Hills Democratic Club and Concern for Tenants' Rights. Raffel said that during her time on the board she has helped to reduce expenditures in general and cut costs of workers' compensation, plant facilities administration and food services, and implemented an early retirement program.
Willmer, the other incumbent, nearly edged out board veteran Peggy Goldwyn two years ago, then was appointed to the board when Goldwyn resigned just after the campaign. A computer systems consultant with two children in Beverly Hills schools, Willmer says he will continue fighting for stronger budgetary controls, staff development and strategic planning.
He helped develop a plan to introduce more computers and other forms of modern technology into classrooms, and was a leading force in linking Beverly Hills schools with the Getty Museum's Institute for Visual Arts Education, a relationship he seeks to duplicate with the Los Angeles Music Center. He is an elected delegate to the California School Boards Assn., a delegate to the L.A. County School Trustees Assn., and a member of the Assn. of Supervision and Curriculum Development.
A closer race is predicted for the two-year seat, for which Michael Karlin and Jo Ann Koplin are the candidates.
Karlin, who failed in his bid for a seat on the board two years ago, is a partner in a major tax firm and an advocate for modern technology in the schools. He has two children in local schools, and has taught in them as a volunteer on subjects ranging from computers to earthquake safety.
Koplin is a business owner, architect and construction manager with three youngsters in local schools. She has been an active volunteer in the schools--"from the bottom up," she emphasizes--from the classroom and cafeteria to district committees.
If elected, Koplin says, she will closely oversee the building renovations that the $77-million bond issue will finance if it is approved. She said she also plans to work to increase parental participation at schools, explore new ways of looking at education, and squeeze the most out of scarce financial resources.