SANTA ANA, CA—She works for a private religious school, she pulled her children out of the Santa Ana Unified School District and she opposes bilingual education.
And come Dec. 10, she’ll be sitting on the Santa Ana school board.
“Do I sound like a radical, or what? ” said Rosemarie Avila, the top vote-getter in Tuesday’s election. “Seriously, I’ve found a lot of people who feel like I do _ they think this multicultural approach to education isn’t working. “
Avila’s campaign, funded by leaders of anti-abortion and anti-sex education groups and supported by conservative legislators such as Assemblyman Mickey Conroy, R-Orange, stressed that she would not support costly programs that eat tax dollars without showing results.
She led the field with 24.8 percent of the vote, unofficial results indicate. Incumbents Audrey Yamagata Noji and Sal Mendoza got 22.8 and 20.8 percent, respectively, to capture the other two seats up for grabs.
Avila’s victory was part of a minitrend that also saw an outspoken Republican conservative knock off an incumbent in the Orange Unified School District.
In one race, librarian Maureen Aschoff, also supported by Conroy, finished first in a field of four. In the other, Robert Viviano, supported by state Sen. John Lewis, R-Orange, knocked off two term incumbent Russell Barrios by nearly a 2-to-1 margin.
“She (Avila) beat up the tax thing,” Mendoza said. “Even though we’re not a taxing agency, the voters bought that. She sold the sizzle. “
Avila, 43, drew fire in the campaign for taking her children out of Santa Ana public schools. Her five children attended Santa Ana schools for nine years, but she became disillusioned because the district was not using enough phonics instruction.
She teaches two of her children at home and sends one to high school in Fountain Valley, where she says the discipline is better.
Many voters ignored that issue and sided with her anti-tax, back-to-the-basics approach.
“I had a general philosophical agreement with her,” said Jack Ollestad, father of two Santa Ana students and a teacher at Saddleback High School. “I have serious questions about the effectiveness of some of the special programs in the district. “
Born to German parents living in Guatemala, Avila learned to speak English in American public schools. She contends that today’s students should do the same thing without bilingual classes.
If a parent so chooses, the district teaches children techniques of reading in their native language before putting them in English-only classrooms.
“I’m in tune with some of her religious beliefs, but I don’t think we can bury our heads in the sand,” Trustee Richard Hernandez said. “What she says about getting back to the basics sounds nice, but what does that mean in today’s society in Santa Ana? ” Avila says she wants to stop all “extras,” such as breakfast programs, after-school programs and the district’s proposed school health clinic.
“Santa Ana has had the idea of educating the whole child,” she said. “But schools are not there to meet all of society’s needs. We need to get back to what’s tried and true. “
Register staff writer Larry Peterson contributed to this report.