In the Rowland District : Candidates Differ on School Crowding

Times Staff Writer

How to end the overcrowding that has plagued the Rowland Unified School District has kept eight school board candidates at odds in their race for three seats in Tuesday’s election.

All do agree that there is overcrowding in the two high schools, Rowland and Nogales, where officials said enrollment is 1,125 more than it should be. Forty-one portable classrooms are used to handle the overflow, but officials said both schools are running out of space.

Several candidates favor adding more portable classrooms and realigning attendance boundaries within the district, which includes all of Rowland Heights and parts of La Puente, Walnut and West Covina.

Other candidates advocate building more schools or adding a vocational high school, and one would like to see district boundaries redrawn.


Terms are for four years and there are five seats on the board. The top three vote-getters in the districtwide election will win. Voting hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

- Incumbent Dean F. Anderson, 60, is a civil engineer for the California Department of Transportation who has served on the board for 13 years. Even though the need to realign attendance boundaries has grown in the last three years, Anderson said new schools are not needed.

“The students come through in waves, and the peak of the wave is just hitting the high schools,” he said. But Anderson, whose two children graduated from district schools, predicted that the number of students should decrease in the next few years because of the smaller size of current kindergarten classes.

Anderson said he also would like to see the academic program at the alternative high school, Santana, “a little more structured.”


- Rolland M. Boceta, 39, a certified public accountant, thinks one solution to overcrowding would be to reassess school boundaries. But the district also needs new schools, he said.

Boceta, who has two children in the district, said “the single most important issue is the maintenance of consistent and high standards of student discipline in the classrooms.”

Boceta also wants to see more programs paid for by industry. “The state of California can fund only so much of the instructional needs of the schoolchildren.”

- Marsha Davis Bracco, 37, a field representative for Assemblyman Frank Hill (R-Whittier), said that another possible solution is a year-round high school and that a forum should be held with parents to discuss the idea.


Three of Bracco’s four children attend Oswalt Elementary School in the north part of the district. “The school just keeps busting at the seams and it is only two years old,” Bracco said.

Bracco said she would like to see programs directed at students and parents who do not speak English. “Over half of our school is Asian” and there are 21 languages spoken by students, she said.

- Incumbent John J. Castro, 41, a teacher in the Garvey District who has served on the board for eight years, said overcrowding is temporary.

“We have a bulge of kids in high school right now. We have handled that by adding portable classrooms. It looks like we will be passing out of the bulge.”


Castro said the board is considering building a vocational high school. That school should not “just be a wood shop and metal shop,” he said, suggesting that several districts sponsor the school so that it could offer better programs.

- Anthony Estrada, 27, a community enforcement conservation representative for Lakewood, said he supports implementing a year-round school and possibly building more schools. “With the students continuously in school they don’t forget as much as when they have a three-month break.” Estrada would like to see bilingual education phased out. “I think it inhibits students’ growth in English and other subjects,” he said. Funds could instead be used on tutoring for students who do not speak any English, he said.

- Robert Lee Heeren, 18, an accounting student, said he is against year-round schools because the 15-day breaks cause students to forget what they have learned during the 45-day class periods.

“I think I can solve our overcrowding problem through re-drawing district lines with Hacienda La Puente, taking our kids out of the Rowland district and putting them in the Hacienda district.”


Heeren said that some people “do think I am too young, but I am a hard worker.”

- Mary Jo Maxwell, 45, a housewife, said she favors using portable classrooms so students could continue to attend neighborhood schools.

But Maxwell said that any anticipated decrease in students will not come soon enough to help students already in the district. “The school districts around us are declining, but it took 20 years and that is a long time.” The solution, she said, may be to build more schools.

Drug and alcohol abuse is another concern, Maxwell said, suggesting that a program be started to urge students not to give in to peer pressure to use drugs.


- Incumbent Edwin (Gene) Phillips, 54, a swimming pool contractor, has served eight years on the board. Phillips is also concerned with drug and alcohol abuse. “We need to inform and shape the opinions of young students starting about the fourth grade about the problems they are going to have to face about drugs and alcohol.”

Phillips said a vocational high school could ease overcrowding. “If there was a high school that was going to close in the area (surrounding districts) that we could use for a vocational education program, we could take up to 400 kids from each of the two high schools in the district now and then really ease the overcrowding.”

Year-round schools are a good idea, according to Phillips, but he said he thought that community support would be essential to start the system.