Mary Louise Longoria, an underdog candidate challenging Los Angeles School Board member Roberta Weintraub, was endorsed Tuesday night by the San Fernando Valley chapter of the Mexican-American Political Assn., a group formed to promote Latino political involvement.
The endorsement means the local chapter of MAPA, formed last spring, will contribute $500 to Longoria's campaign and provide volunteers to work for her in the April 9 election.
Longoria, a Latina who trails Weintraub in both money and in districtwide name recognition, has criticized Weintraub for not representing the interests of the growing minority population in the school board's East Valley district.
Longoria's endorsement followed the first face-to-face debate between the candidates, who spoke to about 40 MAPA members.
Questions in English, Spanish
The women were asked questions in both English and Spanish. At one point, Longoria used Spanish to answer a question that had been asked in Spanish and then translated her answer into English. When a Spanish question was directed to Weintraub, she told local MAPA chairman Raymond Magana that, although she understood the question somewhat, she still wanted a translation. Weintraub answered all questions in English.
Weintraub told the group that her stand on the issue of "sex equity" was "not as well-known as it should be" and recounted her work to ensure that 50% of all school district administrators will be women by 1990.
"It is my goal that, in the next five years, the district has women with the qualities and the qualifications to become superintendent," Weintraub said.
She also told the group that, as chairwoman of the district's Career and Continuation Committee, she has been involved in the first joint effort by the adult education and the senior high divisions to work together in establishing alternative programs attractive to potential dropouts and students who have already left the system.
"We have to offer students options; we have to offer them vocational education; we have to offer them adult education; we have to offer them courses at the Pacoima Skills Center. We have to do everything we can think of to get students to stay in the school system," she said.
Longoria also addressed the dropout question, suggesting that the school district improve its counseling services by working with students at the elementary level instead of concentrating dropout prevention efforts in high schools.
The addition of more counselors was one point in a three-part program that she outlined toMAPA members. Longoria told the group she would establish community advisory councils throughout the East Valley district as a means of staying in touch with the needs of individual schools. In addition, she said, she would work to improve the relationship among the board, schools and parents.
"The schools don't have the access to the board that they need," she said, "and there needs to be more communication between the board and the community."
Longoria, an Arleta resident, has been a teacher for 19 years and is a consultant for the county Human Relations Commission. Before publicly announcing her candidacy, she appeared before several East Valley community groups testing the political waters and asking for their support.
Although the early grass-roots work produced volunteers, Longoria turned to professional campaign managers Larry Levine and Jill Barad for help in the bid to unseat Weintraub. Levine and Barad are also running City Councilwoman Peggy Stevenson's reelection campaign in the Hollywood-based 13th District.