School Seat Awaits Final Count : Korenstein, Horowitz to Focus on Campus Violence If Runoff Is Required
The election for the school board seat representing the west San Fernando Valley still hangs by a thread, raising the possibility of a runoff election that apparently would be fought on the issue of what to do about dangerous students.
Both Julie Korenstein, the liberal incumbent, and Gerald Horowitz, the conservative challenger, say that if a runoff is needed, they will stress proposals to deal with campus violence.
Horowitz, principal of Byrd Junior High School in Sun Valley, said he would call for removing “recalcitrant . . . deviant” students, even on the junior high level, to special schools. He said students bused to the Valley from inner-city schools should not be allowed to transfer to another Valley school if they are expelled for violence or carrying weapons.
Korenstein said that she already has sponsored a resolution that set up a task force on weapons in the schools, and that she also opposes allowing violent students to take “opportunity transfers” to other Valley schools.
Campus violence was boosted as a campaign issue by two incidents in March--the stabbing of a teacher at Olive Vista Junior High School in Sylmar by a student, and the unsolved killing of a Grant High School teacher who was gunned down in his driveway.
Korenstein held a sliver-thin lead in the unofficial--and slightly incomplete--results announced after the election last Tuesday. With 32,840 votes, Korenstein had 50.03% of those cast in the six-candidate race. That was only 26 votes more than the 50% plus one she needs to escape a runoff.
When the final election results will be announced is not known, said Bernard J. Barrett, chief of the election division of the Los Angeles City Clerk’s office. By law, the office has 14 days after the election--until April 25--to certify the results. He would not predict when the final tally will be ready, but sources in the clerk’s office estimated that it will be finished late this week.
However, there were still about 10,000 to 12,000 uncounted ballots from throughout the city, Barrett said. They are mostly absentee ballots that voters either brought to the polls themselves or mailed so late that they did not arrive in the city clerk’s post office box until late on election day. All ballots, including absentees, received before the polls closed at 8 p.m. are counted, Barrett said.
How many of the uncounted ballots are from the West Valley school board district--basically the area west of the San Diego Freeway--is not known because the ballots are not categorized that way, Barrett said.
However, about 18% of the absentee ballots already counted were from that area. If the same percentage holds true for those still uncounted, roughly 2,000 votes were still to be tallied.
Korenstein did not do as well in the absentee votes already counted as she did overall, getting only 45.1%. Horowitz ran stronger among absentee voters, getting 27.5% to the 21.9% he won overall.
If the uncounted votes followed the same pattern, Korenstein would drop below 50% overall, setting the stage for a runoff with Horowitz, the second-ranking candidate in the election June 6.
Korenstein predicted that she would probably remain above 50%, saying that many of the still-uncounted ballots came from teachers who expected to be gone during spring break and citing her strong support from the teachers’ union.
“But the celebration is on hold” until after the final results are in, she said.
If there is a runoff, she is confident of winning, she said, arguing that “I received 2 1/2 times the votes” Horowitz got.
She pointed out that East Valley representative Roberta Weintraub got less than 52% of the vote, and Westside representative Alan Gershman was forced into a runoff with 48%, although they had fewer opponents than she did. Weintraub had three terms on the board to build name recognition, she said, “and I’m only a 20-month incumbent.”
Horowitz interpreted the vote as meaning that “51% of those who voted felt my opponent was not representing the district.”
He repeated charges that Korenstein was “bought and paid for” by United Teachers-Los Angeles, the teachers union, which has strongly supported Korenstein in both her races.
Korenstein said it was only natural that teachers would support her, calling Horowitz “probably the most hated administrator in the district.”
Horowitz said he would stress his 31 years of experience as a teacher and principal against Korenstein’s experience administering a program that placed Chatsworth High School students in jobs at day-care centers, hospitals and nursing homes.
“I have confronted drugs and gangs and juvenile crime in the schools on a daily basis, and I know that high standards and strict discipline will provide better results,” he said.
The number of weapons confiscated at schools has been rising sharply, according to the school district’s own figures, he said. “Last year, for the first time, the number of weapons confiscated on junior high school campuses surpassed those confiscated at high schools.”
The number of assaults in Los Angeles schools rose while the statewide total declined, he said.
“Drugs and gangs have turned our campuses into war zones,” he said. “Look at the vandalism, look at the graffiti.”
He said he favors neighborhood schools, opposes busing and favors reopening some closed Valley schools to reduce the need for busing. He said he particularly opposes allowing the “opportunity transfer” students from outside the Valley, who are expelled from a school for violence or carrying a weapon, to transfer to another Valley school.
“Buses filled with violent opportunity transfer students wander the freeways in search of schools, and they wind up here in the west San Fernando Valley,” Horowitz said.
He said the board should set “very firm policies on student behavior. You must let youngsters know that if they do something wrong, they’ll be held accountable.”
There should be separate “opportunity schools” for violent students, “where the recalcitrant ones with deviant behavior can be sent, so classroom teachers don’t have to take time away from . . . classes.
“The junior high students are critical because they’re not yet adults, but they’re not children any more. Youngsters who are violent must be sent to an opportunity school where their behavior can be modified.”
Korenstein said: “Horowitz talks a lot, but he’s not doing anything about it. I already brought forward a resolution, which the board passed unanimously, setting up a task force on what we do about weapons on our campus.”
The task force is “doing a study across the nation to see what other districts are doing, and by June 30, we’ll have a proposal ready to go before the board.
“We do have continuation schools now” for troublesome students, she said. “He may be talking about something a little different, but overall we already have that system. The hard-core kids are already in the juvenile camps. They should not be attending the schools and they’re not.”
Korenstein also opposes “opportunity transfers” to other Valley schools for students expelled for violence or carrying weapons. “They must be removed. They should not be O.T.-ed to another school. We cannot do that anymore.”
The system has already taken steps in that direction, she said. “Until a few months ago, when a student was sent to another school, nobody told the principal or the teachers why that student was transferred. Now they must be told. We can’t fool around with the safety of teachers or students or administrators. Teachers can’t be afraid to turn their back on a student because they’re afraid of being stabbed.”