The Long Beach Unified school superintendent and school board members have urged voters to cast ballots for one of two Latino candidates vying for a board seat in the April 12 election, a move criticized by the third contender, who is not Latino.
A letter signed by Supt. Carl Cohn and the five board members did not endorse the Latino candidates by name, but said: "The Latino population . . . served by the Long Beach Unified School District deserves--yes, even demands--a board member representing them."
Olivia Herrera, a community activist, and Jerome Torres, a city employee, are running for the District 3 seat being vacated by the board's only Latina, Jenny Oropeza, who is seeking a City Council seat. The third board candidate, who criticized the letter, is Bonnie Lowenthal, a white family counselor.
"District elections were not about race," said Lowenthal, who cites her longtime involvement in the Latino and Cambodian communities. "The community has a right to make the choice it wants."
Cohn was unavailable for comment. But Board President Karin Polacheck said the letter was not intended to be racist. She pointed out that more than a third of the district's 77,000 students are Latino. The District 3 seat represents central Long Beach, an area populated predominantly by Latinos, African Americans and Asian Americans.