Gershman Takes On Challenger in School Debate

Times Staff Writer

Incumbent school board candidate Alan Gershman focused on his record and challenger John Honigsfeld said he wanted to support the "rights of poor children" during a debate Wednesday morning at Kenter Canyon Elementary School.

Honigsfeld, a 42-year-old computer programmer who said he is affiliated with the Peace and Freedom Party, is not expected to beat Gershman, 44, in the Aug. 9 race for the Westside seat on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education.

During the debate, Gershman pointed to his record of achievement as a board member and what he termed his "wish list" of what he would like to accomplish in the future.

Gershman, who is seeking a second term, said that he has contributed to the removal of "rancor and conflict" that was associated with the Board of Education during the battle over integration. "No news is good news for once," he said.

Honigsfeld, a former math instructor, told the audience that he would reduce the power of school administrators and suggested that schools should be run by "a committee of parents and teachers."

Reduce Dropout Rate

He also said he would try to reduce the dropout rate by asking for funds to aid children who are identified as having learning problems.

Another goal, Honigsfeld said, would be to increase job opportunities for students who are tempted drop out of school to get a job because of financial difficulties. He also proposed increasing the salaries for math and science teachers to attract specialists from private industry.

The first question from the audience was on the board's recent decision to alter the ethnic ratio at four schools--including two Westside schools--from 60% minority and 40% white to 70% minority and 30% white.

As a result of the decision, 400 students from overcrowded inner-city schools will be bused into Charnock Road in Palms, Mar Vista Elementary School, Cowan Avenue Elementary in Westchester and President Avenue in Harbor City.

Marie Green, Mar Vista's PTA president, asked Honigsfeld for his position on busing children to the Westside to avoid overcrowding.

"I support the current program of building more schools in the overcrowded areas," Honigsfeld said. "Until then children should have the shorter route of traveling to the Westside to provide relief."

Gershman, who voted for the 70%-30% ratio, said his chief concern was "the educational programs" at the schools that inner-city children will attend. He said the program will work if more resources, such as bilingual aides and instructional material, are made available.

Study Alternatives

Gershman said that the district should look at other alternatives to busing children to the Westside and the Valley. He said the district should consider asking nearby school districts with low enrollments to take students. He also said that newer mobile classrooms should be built.

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