Rancho P.V. to Work With Eastview Parents in School Secession Bid

Times Staff Writer

Admitting that they are facing an uphill battle, Rancho Palos Verdes officials are joining forces with residents of the city's large Eastview section to bring their children into the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District.

"You must petition for this, but we can help you through the process," Mayor Jacki Bacharach told residents at Tuesday's City Council meeting. The council will vote Sept. 19 on a resolution supporting the transfer of Eastview from the Los Angeles Unified School District to the Palos Verdes system so that all peninsula youngsters will be in the same district.

Task Force Proposed

Anticipating opposition from the Los Angeles district, which vigorously fought a 1987 school secession bid in Lomita that failed, the council also proposed that a task force of involved public agencies and residents be formed to work on the transfer proposal.

The task force would include representatives of the two school districts and state Sen. Robert G. Beverly (R-Manhattan Beach) and Assemblyman Gerald N. Felando (R-San Pedro), who represent the peninsula. It would also include members of the East Peninsula Educational Council, a parents group that has sought to split the district and prevent the proposed closure of Miraleste High School.

The school board voted to close the east-side school in 1987 because of declining enrollment, but the decision has been delayed pending the outcome of legal action against the district.

Walt Yeager, president of the Rolling Hills Riviera Homeowners Assn. in Eastview, said the community is not dissatisfied with the quality of Los Angeles education but wants to complete the annexation process begun in 1983. At that time, Eastview--which constitutes 20% of the Rancho Palos Verdes population--came into the city, but the students remained in the Los Angeles district.

They attend Dodson Junior High School and Crestwood Elementary School in Rancho Palos Verdes, and San Pedro High School.

Councilman Robert Ryan and Jeffrey Younggren, president of the Palos Verdes district Board of Education, termed the secession effort an uphill fight.

Saying the proposal will never survive the process of petition and hearings at the local and state levels, Ryan urged that the city hire a lobbyist and begin seeking special legislation to bring Eastview into the peninsula school system.

Younggren, who said it "makes sense" for Eastview to be in the local district, predicted that the proposal--which involves a predominantly Anglo student group--will run up against the ethnic balance criteria of the state Board of Education, which has the ultimate say in whether a secession election is held.

A key issue in the unsuccessful Lomita secession was whether it damaged school integration efforts. Bill Honig, state superintendent of public instruction, said in a report that losing Lomita students "would adversely affect existing desegregation programs" in the Los Angeles district and urged that it be denied.

Number of White Students

Ron Apperson, Los Angeles district legal adviser, said the district's major concern about the Eastview secession is that Los Angeles would be giving up a substantial number of white students in an area bordered by ethnic communities.

"We are committed to a court plan and court order, and here you have a substantial white population in a district of diminishing whites," he said. "Our sense of integration would counsel the board to look critically at this."

School district boundary matters are handled by the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization, an arm of the Los Angeles County Office of Education. Its 11 members are elected by the 95 school districts within the county.

Petitions to transfer territory must be signed by 25% of the registered voters within the transfer area, and if they are held valid, the committee conducts public hearings in the districts affected. A recommendation is then made to the state board, which holds a public hearing and decides if an election on the district change should be held.

Town Hall Meeting Planned

In addition to forming the task force, the council authorized assigning a staff member to work with Eastview residents and will conduct a town hall meeting in Eastview on the proposal.

Yeager said the residents, who have yet formally to circulate petitions, have held off for years in the belief that they could not overcome opposition by the Los Angeles district. But, he said, they have been encouraged by the success of the east-side parents group in delaying the Palos Verdes proposal to close Miraleste.

Eastview resident Craig Kelford told the council that his community can contribute to that effort. "We can get 300 to 600 kids to Miraleste, . . . keep that campus open," he said. "And don't turn it over to developers."

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