School Board Hopefuls Decry ‘Sardine Syndrome’ : Cut Class Size, Candidates Say

Times Staff Writer

Candidates for the West Valley school board seat repeatedly called for smaller classes Thursday night at the first joint gathering of the campaign, a forum at Stagg Street Elementary School in Van Nuys.

Elizabeth Ginsburg, a candidate who is a history and government teacher at Chatsworth High School, said crowded classrooms had created a “sardine syndrome” in the district.

“Every year we are told it will get better and it doesn’t,” said Ginsburg, the only Los Angeles Unified School District teacher running.


Of the seven candidates vying for the seat being vacated by Tom Bartman, only David Armor, a former Rand Corp. social scientist, questioned the wisdom of reducing the number of students in classes.

1 Backs Larger Class

“I would perhaps see larger class size and pay teachers more for the added workload,” he said. “Let’s pay teachers more, but let’s have them teach more kids. That’s an obvious solution.”

The candidates also listed safe schools, an innovative curriculum, fiscal responsibility and a fare share of education dollars for the West Valley as priorities.

But few heard what they had to say. Only about 30 were in the audience.

“Unfortunately, so many people take the issue of education for granted unless there is a touchy issue like busing,” said Dave Lorenzen, a Stagg School parent who moderated. “What is neglected are the day-to-day issues . . . that have an impact on our children.”

Two of the candidates, Armor and Claude Parrish, have previously run for Congress, a record that drew criticism from candidate Carie Vacar. Vacar, a former schoolteacher, said the district fared much better when more educators were on the board instead of “political opportunists.”

No Response

Neither Armor nor Parrish responded to the criticism. Armor said school safety would be his top priority. Parrish said he had received tax-cutter Howard Jarvis’s endorsement in the race and promised to bring a businessman’s fiscal approach to the board.


Parrish noted that the school budget over the past seven years increased from $1.3 billion to $2.3 billion, while the dropout rate has risen to 42%. “That type of results would not be tolerated by private corporations,” Parish said.

Betty Blake, a PTA activist, said her first priority would be to bring counselors into elementary schools to ward off emotional, disciplinary and dropout problems.

Carolyn Brent, a retired teacher with 27 years’ experience in the school district, said she wanted computers and other aids used to better address the needs of children in a technical age.

La Follette Bill

Several of the candidates said they support a bill that Assemblywoman Marian W. La Follette (R-Northridge) has said she expects to introduce this year. The bill would reduce the size of school districts throughout the state, leading to the creation of one or two separate districts in the San Fernando Valley.

Robert Worth, an adult-education specialist, Vacar and Blake said they support the proposal. But Ginsburg, Brent and Parrish said they would have to study the issue further.