In the first test of new voter districts for Pasadena Board of Education seats, seven first-time candidates have enlisted to compete for four spots on the school board.
Incumbents Kim Kenne, Elizabeth Pomeroy and Scott Phelps are seeking reelection on March 5, while Ramon Miramontes and Ed Honowitz have decided not to run.
“I'm encouraged that there are a lot of candidates interested in the board. It speaks well of the community's growing interest in the schools,” said Honowitz, who is finishing his third four-year term.
Approved by nearly 55% of Pasadena, Altadena and Sierra Madre voters in the June 5 election, the new system carves the school district into seven areas.
Officials sought the switch amid concerns that citywide contests discouraged potential Latino and African-Americans candidates and disenfranchised Latino voters in parts of the city where public school enrollment is highest.
One result was the formation of District 3, a Northwest Pasadena district where a majority of residents are Latino and where no current board members reside. Four people are seeking that seat.
Guillermo Arce, a deputy district director for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services, said he would fight to increase resources for schools in the Northwest and reform special education programs in the district.
Arce, 51, has three children, including two with special needs, in Pasadena public schools. Earlier this year, Arce settled a lawsuit against the district alleging failure to meet special education requirements for one of his children, he said.
Tyrone Hampton Jr., 29 and a graduate of John Muir High School, is a project manager with his family's Pasadena construction firm. Hampton said his business experience would help the board broker public-private partnerships to boost student achievement within tight budgets.
Ruben Hueso, a parent volunteer at Pasadena High School, did not return calls seeking comment.
Deirdra Duncan, 50, is a longtime foster parent recently evicted from her Pasadena home due to foreclosure. She said officials can do more to support children in struggling families and can boost achievement by crafting individualized learning plans for all students.
Arce qualified for the ballot on Wednesday, while nomination papers for Hampton, Hueso and Duncan are pending approval on Monday, said Pasadena Clerk Mark Jomsky.
All six candidates in the three other races have qualified.
Kenne's challenger in West Altadena's District 1 is Hermond Dean Cooper, a former school district employee who unsuccessfully sued the district in 1999 and 2003. Cooper, who alleged employment discrimination, did not return calls.
Miramontes, who also did not return calls, would have faced Kenne and Cooper had he sought reelection.
Honowitz's exit avoided a three-way contest with Pomeroy and Pasadena Youth Center Executive Director Stella Murga in District 5, east and south of downtown Pasadena.
Pomeroy, a retired college English teacher, seeks a second term.
Murga, spokeswoman for the Pasadena Latino Coalition, said she would work to improve student readiness for college and careers. Participants in youth center programs “are not seeing themselves as becoming successful or planning ahead for their lives, which is scary,” said Murga, 61.
Phelps, 49, is a former John Muir High School science teacher and has two children in Pasadena public schools. He is seeking a third term on the board.
Phelps' challenger in West Pasadena's District 7 is Luis Carlos Ayala, an immigration attorney who also has taught adult English classes in Los Angeles.
Both support reopening the former Linda Vista Elementary campus as a replacement for San Rafael Elementary, expected to close in 2015 due to seismic safety issues. San Rafael is the only public school campus in District 7.
Ayala, 49, said he had hoped to enroll his two daughters at Linda Vista but chose a private school after learning high-achieving public campuses were at capacity and not accepting students.
“Every time I drive by Linda Vista I see a campus that can be utilized,” Ayala said.
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