South Whittier School District

Enrollment: 3,647 students, kindergarten through 8th grade.

Area Served: Unincorporated South Whittier and part of Santa Fe Springs.

On the Ballot: Seven candidates, including three incumbents and four challengers, for three seats.

INCUMBENTS

*David Gonzales Hayes

Board member since 1985

Age: 44

Residence: South Whittier

Occupation: Retired officer, L.A. County Sheriff's Department

Remarks: The most important issue facing the district is financing, he said. "As a member of the California School Board Association, I go up to Sacramento periodically and lobby for funds." As a board member, he said he is proud of helping to forge a "closer relationship with the unions. Also, when I ran the first time, the district was insolvent, and we paid back our debt one year early. We've added automation that allows us to monitor students' (test scores and attendance) throughout the year. Test scores have gone up every year, so I'm happy with what we've done." A major problem that needs to be addressed, he said, is graffiti, since district anti-graffiti efforts cost more than $100,000 a year. He opposes a proposed merger of the school system with the area's high school district unless in the future "we see that our students are being cheated at the high school level."

*Manuel R. Magana

Board member since 1989

Age: 63

Occupation: Union representative for a local custodian and service employees union

Residence: South Whittier

Remarks: He said he strongly opposes a proposed merger of the district with the area's high school school system. "I don't believe that bigger is better," he said, citing the Los Angeles Unified School District as an example. In a smaller school district, he said, the parents and community have more input and can be more involved. A father of 10 whose youngest son attends a district school, Magana said he supports increased health care for students, which would be one benefit of the state's Healthy Start preschool program. "We applied last year and didn't get it, but I have been working on this for three years and I'm confident we can get it this time around. The program would bring in extra funds for inoculations and medical problems, both physical and mental, that would put students in a better position to be able to learn."

*Tim Schneider

Board member since 1988

Age: 47

Occupation: 6th grade teacher, Whittier City School District

Residence: South Whittier

Remarks: "As president of the board, I have contact with legislators in Sacramento. We're working the best we can to try and restore some funding. I don't think that kids should have to bear 'their fair share' of the state budget, and I hate it when (state officials) say that. I guess I'm not 'reasonable' about it when it comes to kids." Schneider said he also wanted to pursue private donations to combat the effects of dwindling state funds. "We want to continue the slow process of building those relationships." He said he is proud of the rise in district test scores and the addition of new carpeting and air conditioning in most district classrooms. "I've been working hard at strengthening community support and involvement," he said. He opposes a proposed merger with the area high school system. "I don't think kids would be getting the same services they are now."

CHALLENGERS

*Elias Alvarado

Age: 53

Occupation: Independent study teacher and grant writer for Whittier Union High School District

Residence: South Whittier

Remarks: "Our greatest priority is enhancing the teacher-student learning relationship. That's where the rubber hits the road. I do not want peripheral issues, important though they may be, to take away from academic programs." He cited student transportation as an example of a service whose cost should not be allowed to encroach on funds for academics. He said the district must seek additional, creative ways to pay for transportation and other student needs. In addition, the school system must adapt its curriculum and outreach efforts to do more to combat gangs. "We have to explore the horizon, not only to find anti-gang programs that are working, but to invent things for ourselves." He also wants the district to maintain a "high profile" and improve communication with parents, "so the information goes both ways." He opposes a proposed merger of the district with the area's high school system.

*Jeff S. Baird

Age: 38

Occupation: Business attorney

Residence: South Whittier

Remarks: "I would say the district's fiscal issues are the most important. These are lean times for education, and the only solution is strong and sound fiscal management, operating the district within its budget. The funds that are available this year are substantially less, and this presents an issue of how we offer the same services with less money. The district this year is spending its reserves and we will need to look at cutting costs in areas that do not affect teachers or school children. We need to look for fat in administration." A father of three children in the school district, he said his broad business background would be an asset. He would support merging the school district with the area high school district "only if it were shown to have a resultant cost savings and greater efficiency. I would have to see the facts and figures before making a definite decision."

*Ralph Hernandez IV

Age: 25

Occupation: Admissions counselor, University of Southern California

Residence: South Whittier

Remarks: A district alumnus, Hernandez said he sees himself as a role model. "I'm a fairly recent product of the district," he said. "I enjoy coming back into the classroom and showing the kids that it works . . . In my job, I've worked extensively with school counselors and I know what it takes to get into college." In addition to focusing on college preparation, the district should provide more vocational training. "There needs to be an extensive job-training program, even at the elementary and junior high level, to get these students interested in a trade even before they get to high school so they have a focus once they get there. The idea being that they come out productive citizens, doing what they want to do and staying out of trouble." He said he does not have a strong opinion on a proposed merger of the district with the area high school system, but "would be inclined to say no."

*L.H. (Butch) Redman

Age: 50

Occupation: Substitute teacher in the Whittier Union High School District and free-lance financial consultant.

Residence: South Whittier

Remarks: "My top campaign issue is reform at South Whittier Intermediate School . . . The teachers' attitudes are: they don't care. There are improper textbooks. The problem is that you have to take information to the level of the student, and that's not being done." He plans to distribute flyers to residents outlining his complaints. "I understand the needs of the kids and their problems." He said he has mixed feelings about a proposed merger of the district with the area's high school system. "I love the concept of a small district and the things you can do with it. The problem is that a small minority can control it. . . . At the junior high level we've completely lost it. Kids are coming out of there without the education they should have. Overall, I think it's better to stay small, though." The board is "looking out for the business side but has lost touch with the educational side."

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