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7 Appointed to Education Board

Times Staff Writer

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger put his stamp on the state Board of Education Thursday, appointing seven members well known for their advocacy of charter schools, enhanced power for local districts, after-school programs and arts education.

Schwarzenegger reached across party lines and chose four Democrats to fill new or unexpired terms on the 11-member volunteer board, which sets policies for California’s 8,000 public schools on testing and academic standards, among other things.

Six of the appointees are new to the board, while its current president, Internet businessman Reed Hastings, received an appointment for another two years. Hastings, a Democrat, was originally put on the board by former Gov. Gray Davis, but five other Davis appointees were not renewed.

Among the new Democratic appointees is Bonnie Reiss, one of Schwarzenegger’s closest friends and aides in the Capitol.

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Reiss, 48, was one of the administration’s early appointments to a senior advisory post to help keep entertainment jobs in the state and promote children’s programs. She is a former member of the board of Pinnacle Entertainment, which owns casinos that compete with Native American tribes for gamblers, and was a founding director of “Arnold’s All-Stars,” a nonprofit organization that champions after-school programs for middle schools.

Reiss said she was delighted by the appointment and expected to serve as a link for both the governor and state Secretary for Education Richard Riordan.

“I certainly plan on being their conduit to the board, and that’s one of the reasons they wanted me ... to let the board know how important this is to them and to keep the governor’s office and Riordan’s office in close support of the board,” Reiss said.

Among the names conspicuously missing from the list of appointees was Riordan, who had expressed interest last fall in serving as its president while also being education secretary. Riordan, the former Los Angeles mayor, could not be reached for comment about the new board appointments, and a spokeswoman for Schwarzenegger declined to discuss the matter.

Educators said they were uncertain how the new appointments would affect the direction of the board other than possibly reflecting Schwarzenegger’s vision of giving local schools more control over their budgets and other matters. Most education policy is set by the Legislature, but the state board has a say on carrying things out and setting standards for classroom instruction and teacher preparation. For example, last year, it voted to delay the requirement for a high school exit examination.

“This board has a lot of people with in-depth education experience,” said Stanford education professor Mike Kirst, a former president of the state board.

“That can be good because they know a lot about the complexity of improving and changing education. It can be a hindrance because they are not coming from the outside bringing in new perspectives.”

Aside from Reiss and Hastings, the appointments are:

* Johnathan Williams, 37, a former teacher and co-founder of the Accelerated School, a charter school in South Los Angeles.

* Jeannine Martineau, 49, a former teacher as well as the immediate past president of the California School Boards Assn. and a school board member in the Lake Elsinore Unified School District in Riverside County.

* Ruth Green, 48, a member of the board of trustees for the Santa Barbara Elementary and High School districts and a member of a state instructional materials advisory panel for reading/language arts in 2002.

* Glee Johnson, 56, a onetime high school math teacher and former chief deputy chancellor for the California Community College system, as well as a chief deputy legislative secretary under former Gov. Pete Wilson and an undersecretary in the Office of Child Development and Education, also in the Wilson administration.

* Ruth Bloom , 59, a longtime advocate for the arts and the public school system who is a partner in AR Designs, a jewelry company based in Southern California.

Reiss and Hastings were appointed for two years; Williams and Bloom for three years; Green, Johnson and Martineau for full four-year terms. They all require state Senate confirmation.

Schwarzenegger expressed satisfaction with his selections.

“I am confident these members will work tirelessly to guarantee our children have every opportunity to be successful,” he said in a statement.

Hastings said the new board would include “pragmatic centrists” who understand the need to strengthen such past reforms in standardized testing and statewide instructional standards.

He said he expected to work with the governor and Riordan on one of their priorities: to simplify school funding formulas and give campuses more say over spending.

The board chooses its own president, and Hastings said he did not expect to keep that position.

State Sen. Dede Alpert (D-San Diego), who is active in education policy, praised the appointees as a “good group” of activists who generally shared the common thread of favoring reform in California education. She said she believed that Schwarzenegger’s nomination of four Democrats indicated that he cared more about performance than partisan politics.

Barbara Kerr, president of the California Teachers Assn., also offered general support, although she was disappointed that a current classroom teacher was not appointed. “It’s a good start,” Kerr said.

Schwarzenegger chose not to reappoint five board members. They are: former elementary school principal Nancy Ichinaga, teacher Curtis Washington, former school district administrator Carol Katzman, public defender Luis Rodriguez and Los Angeles businessman Robert J. Abernethy.

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Times staff writers Peter Nicholas and Carl Ingram contributed to this report.


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