Candidates in 3 School Districts Near End of Campaign Trail : Wiseburn Board Veterans Focus on Enrollment
Three incumbents and one former school trustee are campaigning for three seats on the Wiseburn School Board in a race marked by disagreement over the board’s disposal of an unused school site.
All four candidates started as appointees named by the board to fill vacancies, usually after a trustee moved from the district. Walter Guerrero, appointed in 1974, won subsequent election bids in 1975, 1977 and 1981 and has served as board president for much of his tenure.
Wayne Matthew and Marc W. Schramm were both appointed within the last year and face their first election Nov. 5.
The fourth candidate, Danny Juarez, was appointed to the board in June, 1981, but was defeated in an election later that year.
Children in School
With the exception of Guerrero, the candidates all have children attending Wiseburn schools--a factor, they say, that keeps them attuned to school board issues.
The small district, which includes portions of Hawthorne and unincorporated Los Angeles County east of the San Diego Freeway, has three schools that serve about 1,400 students from kindergarten through eighth grade. It gets its name from a former produce warehouse that was an early landmark in the area.
Declining enrollment and related budget cuts have plagued the school board since the California Department of Transportation started acquiring homes in the north end of the district 10 years ago to make way for the Century Freeway.
All four candidates say declining enrollment is the most important issue facing the board, but they disagree over the board’s handling of a lease of the Don Smith school site last year.
The school board awarded a lease agreement to a sole bidder, Morton Greenburg, who planned to build about 50 homes on the former elementary school site at Isis Avenue and 135th Street. Greenburg later applied for a purchase option that was approved by the board in May.
Some developers said they had not bid on the land because it was for lease only. They said the board should have allowed new bidding when the lease agreement was changed.
Of the three incumbents, Guerrero and Matthew voted for the contract change. Both said they stand by their decisions.
Third incumbent Schramm, who was appointed in July, said he would not comment on actions taken by the board before his appointment.
Juarez said the board could have gotten a better price if it had allowed new bidding. “Their kids and my kids lost about $1 million in income because they did not reopen bidding on that property,” Juarez said.
The candidates appear to be less divided by other issues. Some of their positions and background information:
Guerrero, 52, who is married with two grown daughters, works for Bob Benoit & Associates, a public relations firm in Westchester.
He said he hopes to rebuild the shrinking student population by attracting new housing and business development to the district. He cited that hope as one reason he voted for the disputed lease.
“The fewer students we have, the less money we will have to work with,” Guerrero said. “Already we have had to cut out programs. It will be difficult to maintain and improve our system if we continue to lose students.”
Guerrero said he hopes some of the single-family homes that were removed to make way for the Century Freeway are eventually restored because the roadway will pass through only a portion of the area.
- Juarez, 32, a surveillance manager for TRW Inc., is married with two children. His oldest child attends a Wiseburn school and the second will enroll next year.
Juarez said having school-age children prompted him to make another bid for a school board seat.
“This is a completely different race from 1981,” he said. “This time I’m closer to the issues and I’ve worked harder to determine what the community wants to see in its school systems.”
- Matthew, 34, who was appointed to the school board in December, 1984, said his first months on the job were “basically a learning experience.”
“I’ve had my fill of observation. Now I’m really ready to go to work,” said Matthew, who attended Wiseburn schools and has two boys in the system. He is married and works as a superintendent for Cannon Construction Co.
Matthew said he wants to make sure the district’s academic programs do not suffer as enrollment drops. “People have tried to cut off programs because there were not enough students involved,” he said. “We can’t let that happen. It only hurts the children.”
As to his qualifications, Matthew noted that he and his wife are officers of the American Youth Soccer Association.
- Schramm, 32, was appointed to the board in July to replace a member who moved out of the district. A former teacher, he works as an administrative assistant for Hughes Aircraft Co. He is married with two children, both in Wiseburn schools.
Schramm said he would like to see the district draw up a comprehensive plan for its share of California lottery funds. “We have to start thinking about this now,” Schramm said. “With our rate of declining enrollment, we will really depend on the lottery funds to maintain district programs.”