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VALLEY FOCUS | San Fernando

Mayor Urges Creation of New School District

March 07, 1998|DARRELL SATZMAN

Mayor Raul Godinez II has called for a task force to study the feasibility of creating a separate school district out of the Los Angeles Unified's San Fernando cluster.

"The bottom line is I think that we can do better," said Godinez, who suggested that the cluster, which has among the lowest standardized test scores in the Valley, could benefit by having control over its own finances and academic programs.

The San Fernando cluster includes 19 schools in San Fernando and Pacoima.

"We are a young community and education is our most important issue," Godinez said. "I feel intuitively that if we had a smaller district that we could make improvements for our students."

The 10-member task force will include teachers, school administrators and community activists, said Godinez, who pledged to form the panel by the end of this month.

The mayor's proposal drew the cautious support of school officials and local political leaders.

Board of Education President Julie Korenstein said a smaller district would not automatically translate into improved instruction.

"I don't see any problem with forming a task force to research the issue. If it's done right we can all learn from it," Korenstein said.

Korenstein, however, added that a new district might create a need for additional administrators and other services that would pull money away from instruction.

"If you bump up your administrative costs, what will be the result in the classroom?" she asked.

Korenstein said the panel should also consider the idea of forming a "charter cluster," which would have autonomy over its budget and educational programs but would remain a part of the LAUSD.

Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon said he supported the mayor's proposal to study the issue but expressed concerns about a smaller district's ability to build and maintain new schools in response to the area's growing population.

"I applaud the mayor for wanting to address the issue," Alarcon said. "It's premature to make a final decision but it certainly causes no harm to discuss the possibility."

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