There was no such drama in Pro Stock, where Greg Anderson defeated Greg Stanfield,6.651 at 207.05 to 7.001 at 163.64 for his third win in the opener in the past four years. For good measure, it was the third consecutive win by Anderson on the famed Fairplex quarter-mile. In addition to back-to-back Winternationals, Anderson also won at last fall’s Auto Club Finals. “This track is magic for me,” said Anderson, whose string of three consecutive championships was snapped last year by teammate Jason Line. “It plays into our game plan, the 60- degree weather is right up the Pro Stock alley. “When it’s like this, the horsepower shows up and we use it all.” The two-hour late start, coupled with sun dancing in and out of the clouds and the late finish, changed the dynamics of the 47th annual event. The conditions produced some early upsets, most notably Joe Hartley taking out Top Fuel No. 1 qualifier Tony Schumacher in the opening round. In Funny Car, four qualifiers in the top half of the bracket were ousted, including the father-daughter duo of John and Ashley Force. In Pro Stock, there were three opening-round upsets. “When the rain came, it just changed things significantly,” said Jack Beckman, who lost to San Dimas’ Jeff Arend in the first-round of Funny Car. “Once you saw half the lower-qualified cars winning and once there was a pattern that got established in that right lane, it wasn’t necessarily a tune-up deal, it was a lane deal. “The higher-qualified cars switched over and for the rest of the round they won.” It was not a problem for Todd, last year’s rookie of the year. He ran 4.699 to defeat defending champion Melanie Troxel, 4.479 in eliminating Doug Kalitta and 4.473 in the semifinals against David Grubnic. Those runs, however, proved to be costly for the Skull Shine dragster owned by Evan Knoll. “It cost me $400,” Todd said. “I owe (crew chief) Jimmy Walsh a $100 each time I run a 4.40. It used to be a $1 for a 4.50, but I think the bonus I get will pay for it. “All those long hours during the off-season showed up tonight,” Todd said of Walsh’s work ethic. “We feel we can contend for the title.” Scelzi went to the starting line feeling his Oakley Dodge had nothing for Hight, who had a 4.646 against Arend in a semis victory. “We couldn’t match that, but we did not want to give it away,” Scelzi said. “We were looking for a 67 or 68.” Scelzi said he saw Hight pass him at 700 feet and the win light go on the opposite lane. “My crew came on and said I won because he had crossed,” Scelzi said. “I thought at first it was a dirty trick. We might have had two lucky runs, but our performance wasn’t luck.” Scelzi defeated Jim Head, Hight teammate Eric Medlen and Arend en route to the finals. email@example.com (909) 386-3865 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! POMONA – Neither rain nor darkness failed to deter J.R. Todd or Gary Scelzi from winning performances at the NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series-opening Winternationals on Sunday. Todd, who began the day with three career-best Top Fuel runs to reach the finals, took out Brandon Bernstein for his fourth career victory. His run of 4.482 seconds at 324.98 mph was the slowest of the day, but it didn’t matter much as Bernstein lost traction 60 feet off the starting line. In the Funny Car finale, Robert Hight crossed the finish line first against Scelzi. It was a remarkable feat considering Hight crossed the center line and hit a timing cone at 1,000 feet, an automatic disqualification. Scelzi, only the third driver in the 47 years of Winternationals to win Top Fuel and Funny Car, was credited with a run of 4.716 at 332.26. The fact he got to the line was a testament to the Don Schumacher Racing team after Scelzi drove into a sand trap after a semifinal win against Mike Ashley. “Every single guy was working on the car, trying to get the sand out,” Scelzi said. “That was a lot of hard work. We got lucky against Robert. Sometimes you might get lucky early, but we got lucky in the final.” Hight was despondent. “I feel I let the team down,” he said. “They worked hard all winter to give me a great car, and all I had to do was keep it my lane and I would have won.” The 24-year-old, who became the first African-American to win an NHRA professional class in 2006, has won four times in his last 12 races. In all, Todd has competed 20 times in the dragster. “It’s pretty surprising to myself,” Todd said. “I never expected it to happen as suddenly. Last year was a Cinderella season, but it wasn’t surprising to ourselves.”
“We’re going to probably do some P.R. work on putting forth a more positive image in making sure the public understands all the good things we’re doing,” he said. “We’re doing a lot better than we’re getting credit for and that’s our fault for not putting out the positive things that we do.” The bottom line is the district needs to respond to the “damaging misinformation” put out by Villaraigosa, said board member Julie Korenstein, who stormed out of a luncheon last week during the mayor’s speech when he cited a 50 percent dropout rate based on a Harvard University study. She said the rate is 22 percent. “I don’t think the district has ever done a good job on getting the information out – we’re building schools like crazy, our elementary students are doing exemplary work – but no one has really gotten out the information, and that allows others to make up their own facts,” Korenstein said. “My concern is that the district has to respond, and respond much more quickly. It’s long overdue.” Board members said they were not opposed to change; they just wanted to hear from Villaraigosa about his plan for reform and to work together to improve schools. Board President Marlene Canter said she has yet to meet with the mayor despite two weeks of requesting a meeting. Villaraigosa’s press secretary, Janelle Erickson, said the mayor has made it clear he wants to work with parents, teachers and administrators to reform Los Angeles’ schools. “Mayor Villaraigosa is making the case for public accountability and mayoral responsibility,” she said. District officials have said the leanly staffed communications department of seven with a budget of $862,000 is unable to take on anything more than its day-to-day tasks. “Right now we are looking together as a board and a district to develop more effective ways to tell our story,” Canter said. “The facts have got to get out.” Even the existing resources are not being used properly to tout the district’s successes, Tokofsky said. “A million-dollar communications unit and the facts – good, bad, ugly or beautiful – are not being put out to respond to the city terrorista,” he said, referring to the mayor. The district is already taking small steps to bolster its arsenal against the mayor. On Tuesday, the union, school board and Romer announced tentative contract agreements, which include nonsalary issues – establishing a joint task force to explore, analyze and recommend class-size reduction, particularly at the lowest-performing schools, and creating a task force on K-12 assessments with the object of helping teachers meet student academic needs and improving teaching and learning in the classroom. But what puts the Los Angeles Unified School District at a disadvantage right now is its lack of communications resources, some analysts say. Relative to the size of the district, its communications staff pales compared with those of other districts or large institutions, said Darry Sragow, who has run all the district’s bond campaigns, including the $4 billion construction bond approved by voters Nov. 8 – bringing to nearly $20 billion the public investment in new and modernized schools. Even though there are enormous improvements in the district, that work is not being conveyed to the public. “For a $13 billion agency with 727,000 students, 87,000 employees and that many parents, to be spending $800,000 on communications is absurd. You need to be spending in the millions of dollars,” said Sragow, an attorney and longtime political strategist. “Some institutions are scared of putting resources into communication because they’re afraid they’re going to be criticized for taking tax money to promote themselves. “But the truth is that a public agency that has the responsibility for educating our children that doesn’t communicate what’s going on is doing the community a gross disservice.” Sragow, who has been consulting with the district in an unofficial capacity since the bond passed, said if he continues helping while the district is the center of attention, his role may become formalized. It wouldn’t be the first time the district has used consultants to deal with tricky public relations problems. In fact, days after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his support for an effort to break up the LAUSD, Romer quietly created a nonprofit organization that has raised nearly $150,000 to tout the district’s accomplishments and counter criticism by then-mayoral challenger Bob Hertzberg that the district was too large and inefficient. Rather than worry about public relations, the district should focus on improving the district, former Assembly speaker Hertzberg said. “The best thing in public policy is just do the work,” he said. “Their image problem is not an image problem, it’s a competency problem.” Nobody should lose sight of the real goal – educating students, Canter said. “I have the total same sense of urgency that the mayor has. The status quo is unacceptable,” she said. “This is not about politics. It’s about children.” Naush Boghossian, (818) 713-3722 firstname.lastname@example.org 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Gearing up for a prolonged fight with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa over control of public schools, Los Angeles Unified officials say they’ll launch a public relations offensive to cast the often maligned district in a more favorable light. So far, Superintendent Roy Romer and other top district officials have not reacted to Villaraigosa’s stepped-up pledges to wrest control of the nation’s second-largest district from the seven-member school board, which except for a brief period has been dominated by candidates backed by and closely linked to unions. But behind the scenes, board members have urged Romer to spin the district’s achievements more aggressively. “One of the things we hired Roy Romer for was his political and communication acumen, and he needs to come up with that,” board member David Tokofsky said. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals “It’s inadequate for him to just tell everybody we’re building schools, elementary test scores are going up and we’re breaking schools into small learning communities. Those three tenors cannot sing anymore.” Romer was out of town for the holiday weekend and could not be reached for comment. As Villaraigosa’s takeover talk toughens, the battle lines are forming quickly. The teachers union and district officials are putting aside years of bickering and hostility to present a “unified front” against the popular and charismatic Villaraigosa, who wants the authority to appoint school board members. Options the district will consider to defend from a mayoral takeover include improving in-house communications staff or hiring outside consultants, board members said. The board will be taking a “serious” look at making internal changes to improve the district’s communications to the public, board member Jon Lauritzen said.