Mayor Richard J. Riordan of Los Angeles declared victory last week in his bid to retool the local school board and bring a “revolution” to the nation’s second-largest school system.
Two of four candidates endorsed and financially supported by Mr. Riordan won their seats by comfortable margins in the April 13 board elections. A third candidate won a narrow victory, and the fourth forced a popular two-term incumbent into a June runoff.
Mr. Riordan, who has been a harsh critic of board politics and low achievement in the 700,000-student Los Angeles Unified School District, saw the elections as a means to help steer reform in a system over which he has no statutory authority.
In an interview last week, the Republican mayor said he was buoyed by the interest voters had taken in school reform and hopeful that a new school panel could bring managerial and academic reform to the sprawling system, which extends beyond the city of Los Angeles.
“It’s great to see the voters wake up,” he said. “Now the hard work begins.”
The mayor’s involvement in school politics was one of the prominent issues in the board campaign, as were the district’s muddled finances and alleged overspending on a new high school.(“Sticker Shock: $200 Million for an L.A. High School,” April 7, 1999.)
Among the mayorally backed winners last week was Caprice Young, 33, an IBM executive from the San Fernando Valley who among the opposition candidates was perhaps the harshest critic of the current seven-member board.
Ms. Young handily beat two-term incumbent Jeff Horton. Also winning easily was Mike Lansing, a San Pedro Boys & Girls Club director and former parochial school teacher, who beat incumbent George Kiriyama.
David Tokofsky, a former high school teacher and the only incumbent endorsed by Mr. Riordan, narrowly won re-election, beating back a challenge from Yolie Flores Aguilar in a heavily Hispanic section of the school district.
As of late last week, the race featuring Genethia Hayes, the fourth candidate endorsed by Mr. Riordan, was too close to call. Ms. Hayes, the executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles, sought to oust two-term incumbent Barbara Boudreaux, a former school administrator who campaigned largely against Mr. Riordan. The two face a runoff election scheduled for June 8.
Mayor Riordan, who helped gather $2 million in campaign contributions for his four candidates--about $270,000 of it from his personal coffers--said he plans “to take a back seat” on school politics once the new panel is sworn in July 1.
“I’ll give whatever advice, and whatever resources” the school board needs to get their job done, the mayor said. But the victorious candidates, he said, are “independent-minded people.”
A version of this article appeared in the April 21, 1999 edition of Education Week as Candidates Backed by Riordan Win in L.A. Board Races