SCHOOL ELECTIONS : In South Pasadena : Solid Academics Are Race Focus

Times Staff Writer

Maintaining a sound academic program with limited funding is the focus of the Nov. 5 election in the South Pasadena Unified School District.

Two incumbents and three other candidates are seeking three seats on the five-member Board of Education.

The district traditionally has rated above average on state test scores, even though it receives less money per student than state and county-wide averages. In the 1984-85 school year, for example, South Pasadena received $2,400 per student from the state, $400 below the statewide average and $100 less than the countywide average, Supt. Warren Newman said.

Major Changes in District


This year has seen major changes in the district, including turnover among its top administrators and the renewal of growth after several years of declining enrollment. The district has 3,488 students.

The Rev. Frederick Cook, pastor of the United Methodist Church, said he is seeking a second four-year term, in part, because he believes continuity on the board is particularly important. Cook, 53, added that the district already is in the process of forming a five-year plan for curriculum, surplus property and facilities. He said the board has done a good job, noting that during his term, the district has managed to beef up the honors curriculum even though it has a tight budget.

“Everyone realizes we’ve got a good school district, and everyone realizes that there are areas that can be improved upon,” Cook said. “It’s a matter of your interest. I would like to see the five-year plan implemented and increase staff development for employees.”

Two-term incumbent Yvonne Pine said she thinks the board has been successful in maintaining a high-quality program and contended that most people in the community agree with her. “I think the school district is what keeps this town together,” said Pine, 49. “It’s the reason that people move to South Pasadena.”


Pine acknowledged that the district is not without its problems. While a comprehensive academic program has been maintained at South Pasadena High School, Pine said the business and industrial arts curriculum has suffered because of financial pressures. Moreover, she said, with enrollment on the increase, the district faces serious overcrowding at Marengo Elementary School and at the high school, problems which now are being studied by the board. Two possible solutions being considered are the improvement of facilities at the high school and the reopening of Oneonta Elementary School, which was closed three years ago when enrollment was shrinking.

Cynthia V. Cable, a 41-year-old mother of two children in the district, is vice president of the Marengo School PTA Chapter and said that the board has become too complacent. She said more emphasis should be placed on basic instruction in reading, writing and math, adding that foreign language instruction should begin earlier than the ninth grade, when it is now introduced. Cable also said that the board has failed to adequately deal with the overcrowding of classrooms.

The solution, Cable said, “doesn’t necessarily mean (spending) more money. It means the best and most most effective distribution of funds. I would like to see administrators back in the classroom on a part-time basis. We’ve got to take a hard look at what we’re doing with facilities. I think the board is not. I hear an awful lot of ‘Gee, we do a wonderful job,’ and they’re patting themselves on the back. I’m not sure when I would ever say that a school system is good enough.”

For the most part, however, the current board’s performance received high marks from the candidates, although each specified certain areas that could be improved.


Ellen Hervey, a 33-year-old part-time instructor at Cal State Los Angeles who has two children in the district, said she is running as a “natural progression” of her involvement in local education. She is president of the Marengo School PTA chapter. Hervey said she is particularly interested in curriculum development and would become an active lobbyist for more equitable funding for the school district if she were elected.

“All of the candidates have said they recognize the excellence in the district and all of us want to improve on that base of excellence,” Hervey said.

Catherine Joan Sturkie, a former counselor in the district who has two children attending the high school, said she is running because she thinks her experience would be an asset to the board. Sturkie said she would like to see more communication between the district and the community, especially senior citizens, whom she views as an under-used resource. Sturkie, 53, also believes that decision-making should be taught at every grade level to help students avoid drugs.

Peter F. Rice, a 59-year-old cost analyst for Rockwell International Corp., said he has dropped out of the race because he has moved to San Marino.