Bureaucracy, Communication Key Issues in School Election

Times Staff Writer

Lack of community involvement, a growing bureaucracy and poor communication between parents, teachers and administrators are the main issues fueling the three-way race for a school board seat in Tuesday's election.

Arlene Moncrief, Roberta M. Moon and George A. Padilla are competing for the seat vacated by Kathryn Nack, who is running for the Board of Directors.

If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, there will be a runoff April 21.

Although none of the three has served on the board, all say they have close ties to the district as parents and volunteers.

Moncrief, an accountant with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, said she has reared 15 children--nine from her husband's previous marriage, two grandchildren she took in after her daughter's death, and four adopted children. All but two attended Pasadena schools, she said.

She is a member of the John Muir High School Parent-Teacher Assn., serves on a citizens task force looking at ways to implement the district's drug policies, and has been a junior high school teacher in Compton and a narcotics agent for the IRS.

Moncrief, who had raised $740 for her campaign as of Feb. 19, the latest reporting date, said her top priority is to increase community involvement in the schools.

She said the district has failed to draw upon "rich resources" in the area that could enliven the schools at little expense. For example, she said, Caltech students could help teach science classes, and businesses could "adopt" schools to broaden students' educational experience.

Moncrief, who ran unsuccessfully for the board two years ago, added that she is also interested in revamping the district's accounting procedures.

"We have a $75-million budget that is not meeting the needs of students or teachers," she said. "It's obvious to everyone that they need an accountant on that board."

Moon, a computer consultant and former owner of a needlework store in Pasadena, is a graduate of the Pasadena school system and has two children attending district schools. She is president of the Altadena Elementary School PTA and helped start the district's Tutoring and Homework Assistance Network, a program that involves residents in after-school tutoring.

Moon has focused her campaign on the need to improve communication between parents and the district administration.

She said the district, under Supt. Phillip B. Jordan, has added new layers of administrators who insulate the district from parents' complaints. "We seem to be drifting into becoming a large bureaucracy that is not listening to teachers and parents," she said.

Moon, who has raised $11,250 for her campaign, also emphasized the need for an improved district policy on computer education.

"They have the computers, but they don't know what to do with them," she said. "One school has a superb program; at another, they barely play games on them."

Moon said her computer programming background and her ability to communicate clearly make her the best qualified candidate for the board.

Padilla, who owns a structural engineering firm in Pasadena and is president of the Pasadena Scholarship Committee, a private group that distributes scholarships to graduating seniors, said his top priority is increasing the district's expectations for students--especially minority students, who make up 78% of the enrollment.

Padilla said the district has failed to emphasize that every student can and should go to college. He said he would raise expectations by bringing business people and educators from Pasadena City College and Caltech into the schools as role models for students.

"The resources are there," he said, "but no one has asked to use them."

Padilla, who has raised $7,023 for his campaign, also said the Board of Education has become too "formal and unapproachable."

"The have become so rigid that it doesn't let the dialogue flow," he said.

If elected, Padilla said, he would urge the board to meet in schools and community centers around the district to reach out to minorities.

He also emphasized his background as an engineer, which he said made him more pragmatic in his approach to improving the district.

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