Fiery Issues Lacking in Camino School Race
El Camino College is one of the few school systems in the South Bay that has not been rocked in recent years by leadership squabbles and financial woes brought on by declining enrollment. Not surprisingly, then, three candidates for the college board in the Nov. 5 election have not found the sort of burning issues that make for lively campaigns.
About 90% of the classroom seats on the bustling campus are filled by nearly 27,000 students. The budget is tight but relatively ample. The administration under President Rafael Cortada is almost universally praised. Harmony seems to prevail at what the candidates term “one of the best community colleges in the nation.”
Yet there is always room for improvement, the candidates say, and just maintaining what has been accomplished at El Camino will require strong leadership.
Candidates Stanley L. Dunn and Steven Busch offer their experience on the Torrance school board as evidence of leadership abilities, and Colleen Mock, wife of Torrance Councilman Tim Mock, has made proposals for a campus baby-sitting service the cornerstone of her campaign.
They are running for the Torrance-area seat of the five-member board held for 20 years by Trustee William Moss, who is not seeking another four-year term. They are running at large in the college district, which primarily serves five South Bay systems with high schools: El Segundo, South Bay Union, Torrance, Centinela Valley and Inglewood.
Four-term incumbent Lila S. Hummel has no opposition for the El Segundo-area post.
(Before a court decision in the early 1970s, trustees were elected by voters in their respective districts. The court ruling, based on the “one-man, one-vote” principle, held that larger high school districts were being underrepresented on college boards. Candidates must still reside in the communities they seek to represent. The suit was not initiated in the Camino district but the ruling was found to apply statewide.)
Here are the three candidates in alphabetical order:
Busch, 38, a deputy county probation officer for 16 years, served for four stormy years on the Torrance school board as part of a teacher-backed slate that reorganized the district’s administration. Dunn, who completed his 12 years on the board midway through Busch’s term, frequently clashed with Busch at public hearings on the reorganization plans.
Thing of the Past
Busch did not seek reelection to the school board in 1983 and later ran unsuccessfully for the Torrance City Council. He and Dunn say the battles of the past have no bearing on their bids for the El Camino post.
Busch said he supports the idea of a campus day-care center for children of students and believes that it can be made self-supporting. He opposes the $50-per-semester tuition that the state Legislature imposed to help finance community colleges.
“Based on my experience, I believe I have a lot to offer and I think I’m the most independent,” said Busch, noting that Dunn and Mock claim endorsements from a number of city and school officials. “I don’t think these elected officials have any business making endorsements that politicize the race.”
Dunn, 58, a businessman with a doctorate in law, said his bid for the El Camino post is a “continuation of the strong interest I have always had in education.” He said that expanding El Camino’s vocational programs will be among his top priorities if he is elected.
Emphasizes Vocational Classes
“They have good programs now,” he said, “but as a businessman familiar with the industry’s needs for technical skills, I want to be sure that vocational training is fully geared to the rapidly changing job market.”
Dunn, a 29-year resident of Torrance, recently sold his printing business to two of his four grown children and now operates a bindery.
Asked about his stand on the $50 tuition, Dunn said, “I’m from the old school. If you have to pay a little, you learn to appreciate what you’re getting--and $50 is a bargain, compared to fees at state universities.”
Dunn said he recognizes the need for a child-care center at El Camino but added that the proposal faces serious obstacles, such as financing and questions of management and liability.
Mock’s Major Goal
Mock, 31, is a program coordinator at the Harbor Regional Center, a private, nonprofit agency in Torrance that works with mentally handicapped youngsters. Her major reason for running for the El Camino board, she said, is to establish a child-care center on the campus--a goal that she said she achieved before at a community college she attended in the Pomona area in the 1970s.
“There are campus day-care centers at 98 out of 106 community colleges in the state,” Mock said. “I don’t see why El Camino can’t have one.”
She said she believes the center could be funded by the state, with additional money coming from educational foundations.
On the question of the $50 tuition, Mock said the expense is more than many students can afford. If the fee is canceled, she said, the loss in revenue can be offset by imposing stiffer penalties on students who drop out of classes and by cuts in the clerical help now needed to process tuition payments.