SOUTHEAST AREA — Disgruntled teachers in the ABC Unified School District--fresh off an election-day victory for their endorsed school board candidates--could hardly be blamed for wanting district officials to eat crow.
Er, make that cow .
At Wednesday's school board meeting, dozens of teachers and their supporters donned bovine attire--including cow earrings, cow ribbons, cowbells and, in one case, a heifer costume.
Many wore black and white T-shirts trumpeting the message, "Mooove Over--We're Comin' Home."
The slogan referred to the end of a 12-day teachers' strike last week and a remark by Deputy Supt. Ira Toibin, who served as district spokesman during the strike.
Toibin told a Long Beach Press-Telegram reporter that if the union expected the strike to pressure the school board into negotiating a new contract, teachers would be on the picket line "until the cows come home."
Toibin insisted he did not intend to be confrontational--only realistic.
Teachers returned to work Wednesday with no contract concessions, but they hope to have better luck when newly elected Howard Kwon replaces incumbent Catherine Grant on the board in December.
Toibin accepted the ribbing and a cow calendar from a union leader in good humor.
"Funny how one little quote will become a symbol for something," Toibin said.
A crowd of 500, most of them teachers and supporters, attended the meeting at Gahr High School in Cerritos. They hooted and stamped their feet over their victory at the polls. They also called for the resignation or recall of board members who spoke out against the teachers' strike.
Supt. Larry L. Lucas, accused by critics of being autocratic, appealed for peace and congratulated the winners of the school board race.
"I'd now like to suggest that for the long-term welfare of our district's students, we can no longer wait to jointly improve relationships in an era of ever-increasing needs and rapidly decreasing funding and resources," Lucas said.
The district serves Cerritos, Artesia, Hawaiian Gardens and parts of surrounding cities.
A striking turnout. The teachers' strike and apparent interest over the school voucher initiative propelled voter turnout in the ABC school district to surprising levels. In the heated school board contest, 33.4% of registered voters cast ballots, almost five percentage points above the county average.
The top vote-getter, Kwon, received 8,240 votes. By contrast, the top finishers in the previous two races were Cecy Groom, with 2,466 votes, and Dean Criss, with 2,351 votes.
In 1989, Grant won her board seat by finishing second among seven candidates with 2,304 votes. Tuesday, Grant came close to doubling her total, with 4,026 votes. This time, she finished fourth in a field of six, well back of the winners.
Voter apathy. Organizer Royce W. Esters did everything he could think of--advertisements, press releases, flyers, appeals--to publicize a candidates' forum for the Compton Unified School District school board race. In the end, eight of 20 candidates showed up, and they nearly outnumbered the audience.
The forum was recorded for broadcast on local cable television and a frustrated Esters ordered the camera operator to pan across the rows of empty seats.
"Here you have an opportunity for people to come out and ask questions of the candidates so you can get the right people in office," said Esters, president of the Compton chapter of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People. "The education system is in shambles and you don't have the community coming out to ask questions. How are you going to solve the problems if the community doesn't get involved?"
Voter turnout on election day was 17.9%, compared to a countywide turnout of 28.7%.
But it could have been worse. Tuesday's turnout in Compton Unified was higher than the countywide percentage for school board elections in 1991, 1989, 1987, 1985 and 1983.
It pays to organize. They sent out more than 20,000 pieces of mail. They turned up at two dozen hearings, often booing city officials. They even dug into bankruptcy court records of an opponent's prior business ventures and reprinted the juicier parts in their flyers.
In the end, the grass-roots campaign organized by critics of the Powder Canyon project in La Habra Heights helped bring nearly 50% of the city's registered voters to the polls, one of the highest turnouts among cities in Los Angeles County.
The result: A plan that was soundly defeated, 1,163 to 501. They faced an equally organized developer, who hired a Westwood public relations firm to publicize the benefits of the pricey country club, golf course and lots for luxury homes proposed for one of the city's rustic canyons.
Members of the Committee to Protect the General Plan, the citizens group that fought the development, took every opportunity to get their story out during the last year.