Unresolved Lynwood School Issues Hinge on Special Election

Times Staff Writer

No matter how next month’s Lynwood Unified School District special election comes out, it will resolve a political logjam on the school board that has lasted since the resignation of the fifth board member more than four months ago.

In the March 5 election, voters will chose among V. James Edner, a former board member; Mark Gonzales, a telephone company technician, and Willard Hawn Reed, a retired professor of engineering.

The winner will replace Jo Evelyn Terrell, who resigned Oct. 1. Terrell, who had served more than eight years on the board, said she resigned because the meetings were time-consuming and did not address curriculum, her primary concern.


Some of the key issues, which the board has been unable to resolve without a fifth vote, include the selection of a principal for the high school and the annual reorganization of board officers.

Another issue that the new board will have to resolve is the continuing battle over where to construct a second high school. More than a year ago, the state approved $32 million for the complex, but there is no agreement on where to put the school in this city of 54,000 residents.

Lynwood High School, which was built in 1931 to house about 1,000 students, now has an enrollment of more than 2,800.

The district has proposed building a new high school on 31 acres, partly on Ham Memorial Park in the southeast portion of the city. But city officials maintain that because of a deed restriction, the land can only be used for a park.

The candidates agree that Lynwood High is overcrowded. However, they do not agree that a new school should be built, or where one might go.

Edner, 66, said he believes the district should acquire the Ham Park site and build there.


“I support the Ham Park site. The area could be better used by the school district,” said Edner, who was elected to the school board in 1977. He was defeated by Joe Battle, the current board president, in 1981.

Gonzales said he “wants to see a new high school built. It’s kind of dumb that the school board can’t agree on a place to put it.

“There are lots of open spaces to put a high school,” said Gonzales, 25, a political novice who briefly attended Compton and Cerritos community colleges.

Reed agreed that Lynwood High School is overcrowded but suggested that perhaps “the new school can be built onto the old school. Studies need to be done.”

As part of his campaign, Reed has criticized Supt. Charlie Mae Knight, saying she selected the Ham Park site and “not the Board of Education. Most of the problem lies with her. She is in charge. She is the boss--not the board.”

Knight, however, denied bossing the board around.

“I take my direction from the board. I don’t give directions,” said Knight, who spearheaded a three-year campaign for state funds to build the high school.

To answer questions about the construction of the proposed high school, the county will conduct an environmental impact study of two locations, including the Ham Park site.

The other site, about 30 acres, is in the northeast portion of the city and includes land owned by the Seventh-day Adventist Church and Zody’s department store.

A spokesman for the county said the study will determine the effects a high school would have on traffic, pollution, businesses and private property and if there are any toxic dangers at the sites.

Reed, 67, who is also throwing his hat into the political ring for the first time, said he supports an extensive study of the areas.

“That is the only way we will know for certain what impact building a new school will have on the community,” Reed said.

“One thing is for sure. The (present) high school is a disaster. There is no principal. It is overcrowded,” Reed said.

Knight doubles as principal of the school, a job she was given after the board reached a stalemate over two candidates. Lynwood High has been without a principal since August, when Harold Cebrun resigned to become director of pupil personnel services for the Tustin Unified School District.

Reed is the only candidate to pay to include a candidate’s statement on the election ballot. Including the statement cost him $450.

He said he always promised himself that when he retired he would run for public office. He has lived in the city for 44 years.

Reed is professor emeritus in the Cal State Long Beach school of engineering, where he now teaches part-time. He retired from full-time teaching at the university in 1983 after 23 years.

Edner, an ordained minister, came to Lynwood in 1975 as pastor of the First Christian Church. He is now staff chaplain and director of public relations for the House of Winston, a Los Angeles mortuary.

Edner, who was born in Houston, Tex., holds a bachelor degree in physical education from Texas College in Tyler. He has a master’s degree in education from Texas Southern University in Houston and a divinity degree from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif.

As a former Lynwood school board member and a former junior high school teacher in Flint, Mich., Edner said he believes he is the best qualified of the candidates.

Gonzales, a graduate of Lynwood High School, said he is running because, as the telephone serviceman for the 12,800-student, 14-school district, he is aware of the problems it faces.

“I think there is a lack of quality teachers. The district needs to acquire teachers with better credentials. Things have gone downhill since I graduated in 1978,” said Gonzales, a telephone technician for Pacific Bell.

The Los Angeles County registrar-recorder predicts a light voter turnout. The city has 16,594 registered voters. Traditionally, fewer than 11% of the voters go to the polls in special elections of this type, said a spokeswoman for the registrar-recorder.