Hacienda Heights, La Puente candidates running for HLPUSD school board

By Steve Scauzillo

date: Sept. 1, 2015

In the San Gabriel Valley’s largest school district, issues of budgets, aging school facilities and special programs such as the Chinese-language Confucius Classroom have surfaced in the past.

Today, the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District seems to have moved forward, as surplus properties and funding more science and computer programs have come into play as election day rolls around Nov. 3.

Six candidates are vying for two of the five school board seats. With incumbent Jay Chen leaving the board, the only board member on the ballot is Gino Kwok, and he is accompanied by five challengers. The candidates are:


Chin, 73, is a psychiatrist who practices in Whittier. He has lived in Hacienda Heights for 43 years, having sent his two sons through HLPUSD schools.

He would like to focus on improving mental health services in the schools and increasing safety on the campuses.

“I want to make sure students are safe and secure from any violence going on in today’s world and help those with anger issues so they do not resort to vengeance,” Chin said.

If elected, he would work on establishing ROTC programs in the high schools so students can learn discipline and acquire leadership skills.

On campaigning, Chin said he would not spend much money.


De La Torre, 46, has lived in Hacienda Heights 15 years. Currently a social studies teacher at Los Angeles Unified School District, he has also been an academic counselor and an intervention counselor.

“I believe the board would benefit from someone with my experience,” he said.

He would like to bring down class sizes at Los Altos High School by hiring more teachers. He wants to acquaint students with technology by providing laptop computers to every student.

He has two children, ages 11 and 13.


Guido, 53, lives in La Puente and has worked as a school bus driver for the Montebello Unified School District for the past 31 years.

The main issues he sees in the district are student safety and providing more services for the homeless and for disadvantaged students, he said in an email.

“There must be greater community involvement,” he said.

He served on various committees with the Montebello school district.

He is working toward a bachelor’s degree in human resources from the University of La Verne.


Hornell is in his first year as a full-time German language professor at Fullerton College. Before that he taught Mandarin at West Covina Unified School District.

Hornell said he was encouraged to run by Norman Hsu, 80, a leader in the Asian community. He called Hsu “an inspiration.”

He wants to enhance the district’s STEM program (science, technology, engineering and math) and stop the flow of HLP students to Walnut and Fullerton school districts.

“A lot of people tell me we sent our kids to another district because they have better programs there,” he said.


Kwok, of Hacienda Heights,  won a seat on the board in 2011 and is seeking his second, four-year term. He is a trial lawyer and also teaches law.

Kwok, 52, said he is running on his record, which includes implementing improvements to campus buildings and athletic fields, as well as new surveillance cameras and fire alarms.

He’s proud he and fellow board members established computer programming classes at the high school level but wants to see the curriculum expanded to middle schools.

He’s visited every school site and has attended 250 events during his tenure, he said.

“The biggest accomplishment I can ever have is uniting our community for all of our children,” he said. Kwok also donated 1,000 musical instruments to the district and helped start dual-immersion language programs that incorporate music instruction.


Medrano, 26, grew up in Hacienda Heights and graduated from Los Altos High School. He is an aide to Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens.

“I know the community and I think I can do a real good job,” he said, adding: “We do need to do more for students who need the most.”

Medrano said he would focus on more support for arts funding and reducing class size.

When asked if his age was a detriment, he said: “It is an asset. It is a positive for me.”

He hopes to spend about $30,000 on the campaign.