Yaras Wins Moorpark Schools Race


Parent volunteer Mindy Yaras easily beat IRS auditor Ted Green on Tuesday in the race to fill an open seat on the Moorpark school board.

With all 17 precincts reporting, Yaras received 75.3% of the vote, compared with Green's 24.1%. The vote total was 1,441 for Yaras and 461 for Green.

"I'm ecstatic," Yaras said. "I feel fantastic that the community has seen how committed I am to all the students of Moorpark."

As election officials expected, voter turnout for the special election was low. Only 12.6% of the city's 15,251 registered voters cast ballots.

Yaras, the first woman elected to the board in more than five years, will be sworn in as a trustee of the Moorpark Unified School District at the Aug. 24 meeting, school officials said. Her term will run through December 2000.

The seat was vacated last December after Clint Harper was elected to the Moorpark City Council. The board appointed Yaras to the board, but removed her in March after community members gathered the more than 258 signatures needed to force a special election.

Yaras, 42, has lived in Moorpark for 12 years and has two children, both of whom attended local schools. A past president of the district's PTSA, Yaras campaigned on improving school safety and bolstering art education.

"I would like to see the district step up to the plate and incorporate culture into the core curriculum," she said.

Yaras' endorsements included county schools Supt. Chuck Weis, the Moorpark Educators Assn., the California State Employees Assn. and several City Council members, including Harper.

"Mindy is a very fast study and extremely capable, and she is going to be an excellent addition to the board," Harper said. "To me, there is not even a comparison. On one hand, you have a superb candidate. And on the other hand, you have somebody who I think is incapable of holding an elected office."

Green, 52, is a three-time candidate for the school board. He has lived in the city since 1985, and has two sons--both graduates of Moorpark High School.

Green also stressed the importance of increasing safety in the schools, and he said he wanted to continue decreasing class sizes. He said he represented the "common people," and hoped to challenge the district's status quo.

Green frequently attacked Supt. Thomas Duffy as being too secretive. "We have a superintendent that lives behind closed doors," he said. "I bring integrity to the board. I bring openness."

Other community members criticized the board for the way it handled Yaras' appointment. Ten candidates were interviewed by the board before Yaras was unanimously chosen.

Some critics argued that the community should vote on school board members.

"Elected officials should be elected and not appointed," said Eloise Brown, a former city councilwoman and the force behind the special election. "How can a board of education say an election is not important enough to bother with?"

David Pollock, board president, argued that the appointment process was fair, and that the special election cost the district too much money--up to $22,000.

"I thought it was very unfortunate," he said of the special election. "I'm for all elections, but our resources are very scarce. And this seat is up for election in November 2000 anyway."

The new board member will face several important decisions in the coming year, Pollock said. The middle schools and the high school are at capacity, and the district may have to campaign for another school bond to raise money for additional schools. That won't be easy, Pollock said, because voters have rejected two bonds in the last two years.

In addition, the district faces the challenges of maintaining diverse schools, possibly reconfiguring elementary school boundaries and implementing a host of new state education reforms.

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