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ABC School Board Adopts New District Voting Plan 

Members of the ABC School Board during a heated meeting over future district elections. Pete Parker Photo

Members of the ABC School Board during a heated meeting over future district elections. Pete Parker Photo

By Brian Hews

The ABC School Board voted to adopt a new district-voting plan that will dramatically change the way that voters will be electing seven trustees in elections beginning in 2015.

On Tuesday, the board voted by a narrow margin of 4-3 to adopt what is known as Plan C-2 that will now favor having a representative elected from Hawaiian Gardens, another elected from Artesia and a third trustee from Lakewood.

The newly adopted plan will also guarantee that voters in Cerritos will still be electing four of the seven trustees.

Voting to adopt Plan C-2 were Board Vice President Linda Johnson, and Board Members Soo Yoo, Armin Reyes and Board President Sophia Tse.

Opposing the C-2 Plan were board members Olympia Chen, Celia Spitzer and Maynard Law.  Those three pushed for the adoption of the plan known as A-1.

The A-1 Plan was criticized by dozens of community leaders at numerous public hearings that were held during the past several months.

Several elected officials from area cities attended the meeting on Tuesday night and many of them lashed out at the A-1 Plan as being a plan that would have kept Cerritos voters “in control of all future ABC School Board elections.”

BABC_USD_Logoack on November 19, 2013, the ABCUSD Board of Education voted to approve changing from an at-large Board election to a Trustee Area District election system.

Earlier in 2013, the ABC Unified School District Board of Education settled a civil rights lawsuit that ended at large voting for trustee elections beginning in 2015.

The vote on Tuesday night ensures that voters in Artesia, Lakewood, and Norwalk will be able to have equitable representation on the influential school board that has traditionally be dominated by members who reside in the City of Cerritos.

Speaking In Favor of C-2

The following is a rundown of the comments made by community leaders during the meeting on Tuesday night who spoke in favor of the C-2 Plan.

Tom Chavez, Resident of Norwalk, and Co-Plaintiff in the voting rights lawsuit against the ABCUSD: “Fifteen years from now, the voters and community won’t give one iota if you get reelected. It is time to do the right thing and to obey the Voting Rights Act once and for all.”

Artesia Mayor Tony Lima: “Give Artesia one hamburger and one size 34 pants.”

Artesia Vice Mayor Miguel Canales: “I support the C-2 Plan; there is no mystery why we are supporting this plan tonight. We want Artesia to be given one seat on the ABC School Board, and we don’t want to take a chance on the A-1 Plan that if adopted would not guarantee anything for the voters of Artesia in this future.”

Osvaldo Palhinha, Artesia community leader: “I appreciate the Board Members for what they have done for the last 20 or 30 years of service.  There are 16,000 residents of Artesia; we deserve one seat on the school board once and for all.”

James Yee, Cerritos resident: “I live in Cerritos but I want Artesia to have a seat on the board.  I support C-2.  There are very capable people who live in Artesia.”

Artesia Councilman Ali Taj: “The Artesia City Council supports Plan C-2.  This not only helps the residents of Artesia, it also helps the voters and people of Lakewood and Cerritos as well.”

Tony Mendoza, Retired Assemblyman: “The C-2 Plan keeps Artesia mostly whole and the A-1 Plan cuts up Artesia into two Districts, just like the steak sauce.”

Lakewood Councilman Steve Croft: “Our position in Lakewood has not changed; we support Plan C-2.”

Lakewood Councilman Jeff Wood: “This is a unique opportunity for the future of the ABC School Board and for the voters of Lakewood.  I support C-2 and so do my colleagues on the Lakewood City Council.”

Louise Dodson, Former ABC School Board Member, and Resident of Lakewood: “When you serve on the ABC School Board you serve the entire district, not just the community you reside in. Do the right thing tonight. No one is a loser; our kids will win after tonight.”

Paulo Menezes, Resident/Businessman Cerritos: “I love this community.  I know the board has done great things, but after listening to parents, and from residents, you need to do the right thing and support Plan C-2.

Only one person spoke in favor of Plan A-1 and that was Bob Hughlett, who is a current member of the Cerritos College Board of Trustees and a former member of the ABC School Board and a former Cerritos City Council member.

Hughlett referred to the C-2 Plan as “the Balkanization” of the ABC School District. “I am probably the only one in the audience to support the A-1 Plan, but I need to stand up and share my thoughts as a former member of this school board.”

After all, of the speakers took their turn at the podium it was then up to the seven members of the ABC School Board to cast their vote for one of the two plans.

Board Vice President Linda Johnson said before she cast her vote for the C-2 Plan that “we may lose some board members because of this plan. This has been a long process and I have listened to each and everyone in the community who has attended our hearings to speak out on the matter.  I feel that Plan C-2 is the way to go.”

School Board Member Soo Yoo said, “Raising our children in our top priority, and this is something that we do not do lightly.  I support Plan C-2.”

School Board Member Armin Reyes was direct in his comments as he reminded the board, “Tonight we have the opportunity to ‘Walk the Walk’ instead of ‘Talking the Talk.”

“I am voting for Plan C-2 because I feel that this will be a full partnership with the entire community and will make the board more accountable to our community and to the voters,” Reyes said.

Veteran School Board Member Celia Spitzer said that she was strongly supporting the A-1 Plan and cited nine different bullet points on how she came to her decision. “No one map is perfect or great. No one could come up with a good map or a perfect map.” She said that she wanted to vote for the A-1 Plan so residents of Artesia could have a chance to have two residents on the ABC School Board in the future instead of one.”

Another long time school board member Olympia Chen announced before revealing her decision that she would be stepping down from the board at the next election.  “I will no longer be running for ABC School Board in the future,” Chen told the audience.

Chen was blunt with her comments.  “If we support C-2 we will lose either school board member Spitzer or Law in the future and if we support C-2, Mrs. Tse and I will have to run against each other as well.  I do not think this is fair.  The current system works very well.  We should change gradually not dramatically in one election,” Chen said.

The C-2 Plan visibly upset board Clerk Maynard Law.  Law said, “Tonight is the night I must raise my voice, what had happened to our once unified school district.”

Board President Tse had the final word in the discussion.  “In the past our school boards worked together.  What is best for the students?  I did not want to give my opinions during this entire process until tonight.

Tse voted for Plan C-2 and her vote was the deciding vote.

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