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Chaffee Resigns From Santa Ana School Board

May 30, 1996|JEFF KASS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SANTA ANA — School board member Tom Chaffee, who frequently found himself on the losing end of 3-2 votes on social programs in the schools, resigned Wednesday.

Chaffee, an engineer, said in his resignation letter that he was moving out of the school district boundaries, but did not say why. His resignation is effective immediately.

"It is with deep regret that I must submit my resignation from the Board of Education effective this date, May 29, 1996," Chaffee wrote in a two-paragraph letter to Supt. Al Mijares. "This resignation is based solely on the fact that I am moving out of the Santa Ana Unified School District at the end of the month and will no longer be eligible to serve."

Chaffee, 44, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. His decision brought a range of reactions from other board members.

"I'm pleased," said Trustee Audrey Yamagata-Noji, who frequently differed with the conservative Chaffee over accepting federal funding for social programs and bilingual education. "I thought his serving on the board was very inappropriate. I don't think he was in touch with the district."

Chaffee often expressed fear that the schools were becoming hubs of social services for students, many of whom come from low-income families.

But Trustee Rosemarie Avila, who often sided with Chaffee, said she was sorry to see him leave.

"I'm really going to miss him," she said. "He had the ability to say that one thing at the right time. He was concise."

Mijares and board members said they were surprised by Chaffee's resignation. Chaffee was elected to the board in November 1993 and a year later came under criticism for enrolling his four school-age children in a private Christian school. His four-year term was extended to November 1998 when the school board voted to consolidate elections to even years.

Mijares said Chaffee's seat will be filled in the November election, when three other seats also will be contested.

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