Class Size, Anti-Drug Efforts Dominate Conejo Valley School Election : Education: Tuesday's voting finds 12 candidates, including three incumbents, vying for four seats on the board.


Reducing the size of classes, expanding anti-drug programs and finding the money to accomplish both are top issues in the Conejo Valley Unified School District's Board of Education election Tuesday.

The district encompasses Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park and the Ventura County portion of Westlake Village.

Twelve candidates are seeking four seats on the five-member board. The trustees are elected to four-year terms and are paid $4,800 a year plus medical benefits.

Two candidates are vying to complete the unexpired term of George Hatcher, who was elected to the board in 1987 and moved out of town last year. His term ends in 1991. Dorothy Beaubien, a retired teacher who was appointed to Hatcher's seat, is running to retain the position. She is being challenged by Thomas M. Murphy, a small-business owner.

Ten candidates are competing for three full terms on the board, including incumbents William H. Henry Jr. and Mildred C. Lynch. Board member Ellen Wilkins is not seeking reelection.

Nearly all the candidates cited community concern over class size, especially the combining of first- and second-grade and second- and third-grade students in elementary school classes.

Supt. William Seaver said primary grades have been combined in recent years in an effort to meet state limits on the numbers of students in each class. The number of students entering elementary schools has been climbing at about 200 per year because of an increase in the birth rate, he said. Yet, he said, the district has not had the funds to hire more teachers.

Seaver said the district is beginning to bring in new teachers and is reducing the number of combined classes.

Last year, 21% of elementary school classes were combined, while that figure dropped to 7% this year, he said. The average class size in the Conejo district--about 30 in elementary schools and 32 in high schools--was similar to those in neighboring school systems, he said.

The district hopes to use about $1.2 million in state education funds from Proposition 98 to add 11 teachers. Under the district's present labor contracts, however, teachers and other school employees are entitled to a portion of that money for salary increases. Negotiations are under way with three unions that represent teachers, school psychologists and support staff.

Seaver said the district hopes to receive an estimated $50,000 from a new tobacco sales tax to expand drug education programs.

The candidates for full terms, in alphabetical order, are:

* N. (Chuck) Castaing, 51, owner of a dental supply company. A political novice whose three children have graduated from the school system, he said seeking office was a natural progression from his volunteer work in the district and in the Optimists and Elks clubs. Castaing said the school board should "have a little more backbone" on tough issues. He cited class size as a crucial issue and said Proposition 98 funds should be used to hire more teachers, not to give instructors salary raises.

* Martha deBurgh, 40, who has children ages 9 and 11 in the school system and is a volunteer at Acacia Elementary School and Redwood Intermediate School. She said she is running for the school board, her first attempt at public office, because she views the job "as a logical extension of what I've been doing." She said she is concerned about improving academic standards for all students. She said she is concerned about class size but believes that it is a statewide issue that ultimately must be solved on that level.

* Henry, 62, director of training and development for Lockheed Corp. who is seeking a second term. He served about three years on the school board in Plainfield, N. J., before he was transferred to California seven years ago. Although his three children are grown, he said he is running because he has a doctorate in education and considers it his business. He acknowledged community concern about class size but said, "I worry we're focusing all our attention on that, and feel we need to be careful we're not overlooking other things we can do to maintain and improve upon educational excellence generally." Henry said he wanted to raise expectations of students, teachers and parents, and suggested that could be achieved by reducing permissiveness and "not tolerating poor work by those who are capable of doing better."

* Lynch, an incumbent and retired high school English teacher who taught for 35 years in Los Angeles County. She said she is seeking a second term to finish projects undertaken during her first four years--mainly the strengthening of the English honors program in the district's three high schools.

* Michael Sean Markey, 34, a detective in the Compton Police Department's traffic division. Although this is his first attempt at elected office, Markey serves on a traffic safety committee in Compton and was a member of a citizens general plan advisory committee in El Segundo, where he lived prior to moving to Thousand Oaks a year ago. He recently served on a community development grant-allocation committee in Thousand Oaks. Markey has children ages 4 and 1 and said he is running because he wants to improve the district for his own children and others. He said the two issues that concern him most are drugs and crime in the schools, particularly a recent vandalism attack on Newbury Park High School that caused an estimated $30,000 in damage to a home economics lab.

* Richard F. (Dick) Newman, 61, a retired Simi Valley police lieutenant and a seven-year member of the Conejo Recreation and Park District board. He said he would resign from the parks board if elected to the school board. Although his three children are grown, Newman said he considers himself a district parent because he and his wife are foster parents who have taken in 42 children over 23 years. A volunteer drug-abuse counselor at Sequoia Intermediate School, Newman said providing a quality education is his top priority, especially to children who are neither gifted nor disabled.

* Ken Penchos, 46, director of information systems for Superior Industries, a maker of cast aluminum automotive wheels. Penchos has children ages 10 and 6 in Banyan Elementary School, where he serves as chairman of the school site council, a committee that decides how to use state funds for improvements. He said he decided to run because he believes that the district has made poor use of computer technology, a field he considers essential to graduates entering the job market. He also said the district could run more efficiently and ease overburdened student-teacher ratios by increasing its use of computers.

* Charles E. Rittenburg, 38, an operations research and systems analysis engineer for Northrop's Ventura County division. He said he is running because he has four children, three in the school system, and because, as a West Point graduate, he has been imbued with the ethic of service to nation and community. A political novice, he cited efficient financial management as the key to the district's problems, whether expanding drug-abuse education programs or hiring more teachers to reduce class size. One way for the district to save money would be to take better advantage of volunteer organizations' contributions and labor, he said.

* Vance (Skip) Rodgers, 36, a construction company owner. A political novice, he is running because he has two sons, ages 12 and 7, in the school system and has been "personally dissatisfied with overall test results and the way the schools have been slipping in overall ratings." Rodgers said the school board should be more aggressive in getting funding from the state. He said he believes that many students are using illegal drugs or alcohol and could benefit from a program geared toward teen-agers but similar in approach to Alcoholics Anonymous. He said teen-agers could talk with peers, rebuild self-esteem and receive treatment referrals.

* Jeanie Mortensen Savage, 34, a computer program analyst who has children ages 12, 9 and 5. She said the chief reason for running is her concern that none of the board's present members have children enrolled in the district. Her first priority would be reducing class size because "parents feel it's extremely important and have been promised it for years and years and not seeing anything being done." She favors using Proposition 98 money to hire more teachers. She also wants to expand drug education programs, especially in elementary schools.

For the unexpired term of George Hatcher, the candidates are:

* Beaubien, 57, the incumbent appointed last year to replace Hatcher. She is a retired teacher with 26 years in the district. She was chairman of the English department at Newbury Park High School, a work experience coordinator at Westlake High School and now teaches part time at Cal Lutheran University. Beaubien favors using Proposition 98 funds to hire more teachers and reduce class size. Her top priority would be strengthening the district's vocational program.

* Murphy, owner of a small business who provided neither a work nor home phone number in public records and could not be reached for comment.

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