4 Seek Seats on Board Governing Hermosa District’s Single School

Times Staff Writer

Four women, each with at least one child in city schools, are vying for three seats on the board of the Hermosa Beach City School District as it prepares for its first year as a single-school system.

Candidates in the Nov. 5 election include two incumbents, one of whom voted against the board’s decision to close two of its three schools and to consolidate the elementary and junior high programs at Hermosa Valley School. The third incumbent, Leslie Murdock, decided not to seek reelection.

A $3.4-million renovation project is under way at Hermosa Valley, and all 645 of the district’s students should begin classes at that school next September. The two schools to be closed, North School and Hermosa View, will be leased, district officials said.

The Hermosa district offers classes from kindergarten through eighth grade for children living in the city. Graduates attend South Bay Union High School District schools.


The school board, which acts as a policy-setting body for the district, meets once a month and its five members are paid $20 each per meeting. The top three vote-getters in next week’s election will win seats on the board.

Following are the four candidates, in alphabetical order, and some of their views on issues facing the district.

- Karen Gale, 42, has served on the board since 1981. Gale, a former first-grade teacher in Los Angeles, supported the decision to consolidate the district into one school.

Gale has two children in Hermosa schools and has served as president of the Hermosa View PTA. She is running on her record, saying the district has added educational programs during her four-year term on the board. She said the knowledge she has gained about the district during her tenure strengthens her qualifications.


Gale said she is seeking reelection to help guide the district through the consolidation. “I have a 3-year-old who will be coming into the district and we are just moving to the K-8 school,” she said. “I want a board that will be open to all kinds of ideas as we start the new school.”

Gale said she is confident that educational programs will be strengthened as a result of the consolidation, but she said the district needs to do a better job in explaining changes to the public. She said the board should consider hiring a part-time public relations officer.

“The district has changed a lot from what it used to be,” Gale said. “But people don’t know that. In Hermosa, we have the longest school day and the longest school year in Los Angeles County. But people don’t know that.”

- Lynne Gonzales, 38, has served on the board since last year, when she was elected to complete the term of former trustee John Cioffi, who resigned when he was elected to the City Council. Gonzales, a marketing secretary for an insurance agency in Torrance, has a son at Hermosa Valley.


Gonzales has held various jobs with the school district, including classroom aide, librarian and secretary. She also has been active in the Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) at both North School and the now-closed South School.

Gonzales opposed consolidating the district at Hermosa Valley because she believed elementary and junior high school school students should be taught on separate campuses, she said. “I was afraid the little guys would get lost in the shuffle,” she said. “I felt the junior high kids should be with their own.”

But Gonzales said her opposition to consolidation is no longer a relevant issue, and said she will work hard to make the K-8 school a success. She said she will concentrate her efforts on strengthening science, physical education and computer programs at the new school.

Gonzales is the only candidate to suggest that Supt. Marilyn Corey, who has headed the district since 1978, consider resigning. Gonzales said she has no complaints about Corey’s performance, but said the district needs a change.


“If I am elected again, I may run again, but then I will choose to let someone else come in with a fresh approach and a new perspective,” Gonzales said. “She has given us her expertise and has done very well at her job, but I would like to see some fresh approaches, et cetera.”

Gonzales said, however, that she will not ask Corey to resign if she is reelected. Corey has a contract with the city through 1988, district officials said.

- Angela Peterson, 39, a former junior high school teacher in Torrance, has two children in district schools. Peterson, an advocate of the consolidation at Hermosa Valley, lost to Gonzales last year in the race for Cioffi’s vacant seat.

Peterson has been active in the PTO at North School and has been a classroom volunteer for four years, she said. She said her experience as a teacher and at various jobs in private industry give her a well-rounded background for the job.


Peterson said the biggest challenge facing the district in the next four years is making the transition from a multischool system to a single-school system a smooth one.

“We need to unify the faculty and staff so that they are all pulling together to improve the programs so that we have continuity from kindergarten through eighth grade,” she said. “We need excellent communication between the board, the administration and parents. Communication has been a problem.”

Peterson proposed that the new school board work with Storer Cable, the city’s cable-TV franchise, to get the monthly board meetings televised. She said many parents with small children would like to attend meetings but are unable to find baby sitters or spare time from their jobs and families.

Peterson also suggested that the district begin an optional full-day kindergarten for youngsters who need more instruction before beginning first grade and that after-school child care be provided.


- Mary Lou Weiss, 47, a housewife, is president of the North School PTO. She has two children in district schools, and is chairman of Art at Your Fingerprints at North School, a program in which volunteers teach art to elementary students.

Weiss opposed consolidation, arguing that neighborhood schools are important to communities like Hermosa Beach. She participated in a recall effort this spring against four board members--including Gale. The recall failed because organizers failed to collect enough signatures to qualify it for the ballot.

Recall proponents complained that the board was selling too much surplus property, including parts of the former Prospect Heights School. Weiss and others argued that the property should be leased by the district.

Weiss said, however, that the consolidation debate and the recall effort are “water over the dam” and that the school board should work to make Hermosa Valley the “best program going.”


Weiss said the biggest problem in Hermosa Beach is declining enrollment. She said the district needs to improve its educational programs--as well as the way it is perceived by the community--so fewer parents will send their children to private schools. A survey conducted this year by the district showed that 130 Hermosa Beach students attend private schools, although some of those students are in preschools and child-care centers.

“If we buckle down and improve our programs--science, physical education as well as fine arts--it would encourage people to stay in the district,” Weiss said.