4 Vie for 2 Redondo School Board Seats : Campaign Focuses Mainly on What to Do With Closed Facilities

Times Staff Writer

One incumbent and three newcomers to political office are competing for two seats on the Redondo Beach City School District board of trustees in the March 5 elections.

The campaign, which has been low-key so far, has focused on how the under-enrolled district should dispose of its closed schools.

Over the past decade, district enrollment has shrunk from 10,000 to less than 4,000 this year. Six schools have been closed, leaving 10 still in operation.

Incumbent Rebecca Sargent, who is self-employed in sales, is seeking a second term. She said her main priorities on the board are to continue carrying out state-mandated reforms and to manage the district's assets and income so that educational programs can be improved.

To help head off what she called a "fast-approaching deficit situation," Sargent said, the district must realize the maximum financial benefit from its closed schools. She said the board is exploring the possibilities of long-term leasing of the property.

Candidate Howard M. Huizing, 65, retired five years ago after 27 years of service as principal of the district's Washington campus. In dealing with the surplus property issue, he said, the district's goal should be to "ensure that there are adequate schools for today and tomorrow. It may be necessary to sell some of the most profitable school sites, but at the same time we should save others for possible future needs."

Huizing said he also favors proposals to consolidate districts in Redondo Beach and other beach cities as a means of better utilizing facilities and easing problems of funding and under-enrollment. A Marine Corps captain who served on Okinawa and Saipan during World War II, Huizing is now working in retirement as a real estate salesman.

John W. Miller, 46, a facilities maintenance manager for a pen manufacturer, said that "under the present circumstances, I would oppose selling any of the surplus schools." He said he also opposed long-term leasing, since a "baby boom may come along and then we will need more schools."

Consolidation with other districts "may be a good idea," he said, and school library services should be improved. Miller has been a resident for 20 years and his four children attended the local schools.

Bart Swanson, 33, a security manager at Star-Kist Foods, said he is generally opposed to long-term leasing or sales of surplus school property, but maintains a "flexible" position on reasonable proposals. "Districts tend to think that selling schools will cure all of their financial woes," he said, "but once you get rid of the property, you can't get it back when you may need it."

Swanson and his wife, Judy, have three children in district schools. Both are active in community youth programs.

Trustee Robert Atkinson, who is completing his first term on the board, chose not to run again, citing a need to devote more time to personal and family matters.

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