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School District Breakup On Hold

A judge puts in abeyance a March election on Wiseburn's bid to leave Centinela Valley Union.

December 11, 2004|Jean Merl | Times Staff Writer

Backers of a bid to split off an airport-area school system from the Centinela Valley Union High School District suffered at least a temporary setback Friday when a judge granted Centinela's request for a preliminary injunction.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Yaffe's action puts on hold a March 8 election on whether to add four years of high school to the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade Wiseburn School District.

Yaffe set a March 30 hearing on Centinela Valley's contention that an environmental study should have been prepared and considered before state and county agencies allowed the Wiseburn proposal to proceed.

Saying they were fed up with low achievement and other problems in the high school district, Wiseburn leaders four years ago began their campaign to leave Centinela Valley and form their own kindergarten-through-12th-grade district.

On Sept. 9, the state Board of Education authorized an election on the proposal and limited the balloting to voters in the Wiseburn district.

The high school district soon filed two lawsuits. One is the environmental case in Yaffe's courtroom. The other attacks several aspects of the Wiseburn proposal, including a provision for Wiseburn property owners to continue paying on a 2000 school facilities bond measure even though none of the facilities lie within the Wiseburn boundaries. Centinela Valley, eager to halt the election, contends the state had no authority to make such an agreement.

A request for a preliminary injunction in the second suit was scheduled to be heard Monday, but Daniel E. Wright, an attorney representing the high school district, said he would ask to have that hearing dropped now that Friday's action gives time for both cases to be heard on the merits.

"We think there are a number of significant problems with the state board's decision that the court must hear," Wright said.

John Peterson, a leader in the Wiseburn campaign, said he was not particularly bothered by a delay in the election and expressed confidence that it would go forward.

"We've been working on this for four years, so a few more months isn't going to hurt much," Peterson said. He did, however, express frustration at what he saw as Centinela Valley's efforts to thwart Wiseburn's wishes for self-determination.

Wiseburn serves two unincorporated communities and the western part of Hawthorne in the South Bay, and is one of four elementary systems that comprise the high school district. Although it sends the fewest students to the high school district, it provides by far the largest portion of Centinela Valley's assessed property tax valuation.

Centinela Valley leaders want the election halted altogether, but if they can't have that, they want the balloting expanded to include the entire high school district.

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