HBschool1004 (ran 10-4-01)

Candidates cautiously support a gym

by Robb Fulcher

School board member Linda Beck makes her case while fellow hopefuls (seated, from left) Lance Widman, Greg Breen and Jim Hausle look on. Standing at center is forum moderator Cathy McCurdy. Photo by robb Fulcher

The four candidates for three open seats on the city school board expressed cautious support for construction of a gym at Hermosa Valley School, and said City Hall should help secure funding if such a project is launched.

The candidates told about 25 people at a pre-election forum on Friday that a Valley School gym, which is desired by some parents, would also be used by the community at large after school hours.

"It’s not just a school issue, it’s a community issue as well," said Linda Beck, an elementary school staff support employee and former teacher.

"A gym is not in the school district budget right now, and it would take $3 million to $5 million to get that done," said Jim Hausle, program manager for a defense and government electronics corporation.

Greg Breen, senior tax director for a software company, said a "collaborative effort" is needed between the city and school district.

Lance Widman, an El Camino College political science professor and former Hermosa city councilman, said neither the school district nor the city should be expected to come up with the money for a gym at the third-grade through eighth-grade school.

"I think the idea that this is the responsibility of just one of these governmental bodies is unrealistic," he said.

The candidates, who will square off in the Nov. 6 election, also said the need for a gym should be weighed against any needs for new classrooms and other facilities in the growing school district.

"Building the gym is important to a lot of parents, and I think it is an issue that deserves to be considered," said Beck, adding that a gymnasium should only be built as part of a long-term facilities plan.

"If we just built a gym, that would be a big mistake," echoed Hausle.

"It has to be weighed against other needs," Widman agreed.

Addressing another question of limited school facilities in the growing district, the candidates agreed that the old North School site, now leased from the district by the private Sea Sprites preschool, could not be refurbished for use as a public school.

The candidates said the school district should not sell the site, but should keep it for possible future use, perhaps razing the existing buildings and erecting a new school there.

The candidates disagreed on very little at the forum, which was organized by the Hermosa Beach Coordinating Council and held at the Rotary building at Valley Park.

"What we have up here are four very strong candidates," Widman said.

Their resumes

The candidates leaned on their backgrounds as educators or managers or finance specialists, or combinations thereof.

Beck works at Los Angeles Elementary School, where she manages state-mandated testing as it concerns bilingual education. She taught kindergarten through third-grade classes in the Los Angeles Unified School District for about a decade. She holds a master’s degree in educational administration from UCLA and trains other teachers at Pacific Oaks College. She has three kids attending Hermosa schools.

"I feel strongly that there should be an elementary educator on the board," she said. "I don’t think there needs to be five educators on the board by any means, but I think you do have to have somebody in that position."

Breen serves as senior tax director for Candle Corp., an El Segundo mainframe software company. He has two kids attending Hermosa schools.

"The skills I would bring to the board are those of finance and management, and the ability to listen," he said.

Hausle manages 200 people as a program manager at Raytheon Corp. in El Segundo, and serves as a volunteer in the classrooms and at PTO events. He has three kids attending Hermosa schools. He said he is the only candidate who has been attending the school board meetings regularly for the past five years.

Widman, a professor at El Camino for 30 years, has served on the college’s budget committee for the past decade and represents faculty on the health benefits committee. He served on the city council from 1974 to 1982. He is executive director of the South Bay Center for dispute Resolution, and is a member of the Hermosa Beach Historical Society and Sister City Association, and works as a fund-raiser for 1736 Family Crisis Center. His son attends Hermosa Valley School, as did his daughter.

Widman mentioned other candidates’ backgrounds in education and budgetary matters.

"I bring both those elements" to the race, Widman said.

Gym-broglio

Many Valley parents want a gym for their kids’ winter sports, while neighbors of the school have expressed concerns about non-students on campus and traffic on their narrow, often clogged streets.

Currently the school uses its multipurpose room as a gym and a lunchroom on rainy days, and students use the nearby Hermosa Beach Community Center gym, which is so overbooked that their basketball games can begin as late as 9 p.m.

School board members have discussed the possibility of a gym at three separate sites on the nearly 700-student campus, which serves third- through eighth-graders. Board members also have explored purchasing neighboring land occupied by Adelphia Communications, an effort that has met with failure in the past.

They also might want to build a gym on land now occupied by the neighboring Marineland mobile home park, if the city eventually buys part of the park from its owners. City officials have discussed such an eventuality, in part to secure more off-street parking for residents and visitors.

Funding rejected

In November 1999 Alan Rasmussen, then superintendent of the school district, proposed building a 10,000 square-foot gym in partnership with the Beach Cities Health District, which would shoulder the cost, and would hold fitness and wellness programs in the facility during non-school hours.

Since then officials have moved away from the health district proposal, sometimes discussing the possibility of a bond measure or a conventional loan to pay for a gym. Preliminary drawings from an architect working on the Rasmussen/health district plan proposed three sites for the gym: the campus’ grassy northwest corner, a site near a maintenance building on the campus’ west side, or one on the southwest corner of the campus near the Adelphia facilities. ER