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THE CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS / A VOTERS' HANDBOOK: DECISION
'98 | Ventura County: Landmark Ballot Measure on Growth;
Congressional and Assembly Seats at Stake

Voters to Decide School Bond, Fates of 65 Candidates for Seats on 11 Boards

November 01, 1998|KATE FOLMAR | TIMES STAFF WRITER

You might have to pore over a cluttered ballot to find them, but Ventura County's school board races and the Thousand Oaks school bond measure reflect election issues that most directly affect the area's 132,000 students.

"I think the 21st century economy of Ventura County is affected by who gets elected to school boards, because those people make decisions that create the future work force and increase the value of homes," county schools Supt. Charles Weis said. "Schools affect everyone."

This year offers no shortage of hot school board races as voters prepare to choose from among 65 candidates seeking seats on 11 school boards from Ojai to Oak Park.

For the third time in a year, voters in Thousand Oaks will be asked to approve a school bond for additional air-conditioning, improved parking lots, new gymnasiums, computer wiring, new sewer lines and more. The $88-million Measure R follows the narrow defeat in recent months of two $97-million Conejo Valley bond measures. This time, bond supporters are heartened by the lack of formal opposition and the possibility a $9.2-billion state school construction bond could pass as well.

If passed, the state money could augment--but not replace--local dollars, Conejo Valley Supt. Jerry Gross said.

"If the state bond passes, our district doesn't automatically get $15 million; we have to provide a match," he said. "We could never get $15 million together as a match without the local bond."

Voters will also get a chance to elect trustees for local school boards and the fractious Ventura County Board of Education.

In Camarillo, the election affecting the Pleasant Valley school board has become a referendum on unification--bringing all Camarillo schools, including the high school now under control of a neighboring school district, into the local fold.

A slate of three challengers--homemaker Jennifer H. Miller, lawyer Roger L. Lund] and accountant Ron Speakman--have staked their candidacies around the unification issue.

"If people don't want unification, we won't do it," Lund said. "But if people do want it, they know who to choose to get it done."

Meanwhile, incumbent Val Rains and challengers Suzanne Kitchens and Thomas McCoy are urging a more cautious approach. They don't reject unification outright, but worry about the cost and impact on schools' racial diversity.

The election could also change the bent of the Ventura County Board of Education, which in recent years has been dominated by religious conservatives who clash with Weis over funding for AIDS education and programs for teen mothers. Former Rio Supt. Peter Rogalsky is challenging conservative board President Marty Bates while newcomer Kevin Desrosiers hopes to unseat Al Rosen, who allies himself with Weis.

Elsewhere, one incumbent and five challengers in the Oxnard area are portraying themselves as the right people to help the elementary district recover from last year's wiretapping scandal and restore community trust.

Elections in Conejo Valley and Simi will determine the fate of incumbents and school activists. Two incumbents in Moorpark face a challenge from tax auditor Ted S. Green Sr., who doesn't believe the district should ask voters to OK a bond.

Other school board races are occurring in the Oxnard Union High School District and the Oak Park, Santa Paula, Mesa and Mupu school systems.

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