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Little Discord Seen in Race for Burbank School Board Seats

Times Staff Writer

Candidates for the Burbank Board of Education have discovered that their race for votes has been more like a quiet stroll.

One candidate, 39-year-old William Abbey, is running unopposed to complete two years left of former board member Robert Bowne’s term. Three other candidates, who are vying for two seats, agree that they have little to disagree about.

“The No. 1 priority for all of us has to be more funding for the district and that is because anything that needs to be done to improve things takes money,” said Vivian Kaufman, 54, an escrow officer and mother of four.

Kaufman, like her opponents Tomme Lenz and incumbent board member Audrey Hanson, said her primary goal would be to push measures that will help improve the district’s overall quality. School board seats carry four-year terms.

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More Counselors Needed

At a forum Thursday night, the three candidates for the two contested seats said the district has a chronic need for additional guidance programs and counselors at all levels.

“There are only two counselors for 1,400 students at each of the high schools,” Lenz said in an interview, noting that students rarely see a counselor before problems arise. “You’re really just down to putting out fires at this point.”

Hanson noted that the school board recently released a committee report that recommended adding four full-time guidance counselors and two paraprofessionals to assist with academic and career planning. If reelected Tuesday, Hanson said she would push to create those additional positions.

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“I believe that helping students to set their own goals will help give them more of a feeling of ownership over their own school program,” Hanson said. Part of her original platform emphasized increasing student responsibility and discipline, she said.

Increased Lobbying Needed

All three candidates said they want to increase lobbying efforts in Sacramento to channel more state money into the district. State efforts to equalize school district funding have “pulled good districts like Burbank down to mediocrity so they could make the others come up to mediocrity,” Kaufman said.

She said she hopes to persuade officials in other districts to split the cost of hiring an additional professional lobbyist to coax legislators into allocating additional money to schools.

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The only ripple of discord during the school board race occurred last week when a volunteer at St. Finbar Catholic Church circulated a newsletter incorrectly stating that Kaufman opposed “religious release time,” a district practice that allows elementary school students to leave class an hour early once each week to attend religious training classes.

After several angry parents contacted Kaufman about the matter, the woman who produced the newsletter later apologized for her actions and retracted the statement. Kaufman said she has always favored the release policy, as do Hanson and Lenz.

A 31-year resident of the city, Kaufman said her experiences with her two grown children, who graduated from Burbank schools in the early 1970s, and her two younger children, who are enrolled at Burbank High School and John Muir Junior High School, help her compare today’s school problems with those of the past.

Named to Advisory Panel

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Hanson, an elected delegate to the California School Board Assn., was appointed to state Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig’s school board member advisory panel last year. If reelected, she would be the senior member of the Burbank board. She has lived in Burbank for nine years.

Lenz, a 25-year veteran of the Burbank PTA and currently an officer of the organization’s First District, which covers an area from Burbank to Pomona, was named “Woman of the Year” by the Woman’s Council of Burbank last year.


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