Teen shot after vehicle collision in Downey

DOWNEY — A teen driver may be left in grave condition after a car accident turned shooting that took place Monday evening.

Witnesses reported that a 19-year-old driver and his younger female passenger – believed to be his sister – were involved in a vehicle collision on Old River School Road before pulling over onto Quill Drive to exchange insurance information.

Witnesses say that the other driver involved exited his vehicle and fired several times, striking the teen in the head.

After being shot, the victim’s car traveled further down the street before crashing into a pole.

The condition of the driver is not clear; Heather Rallonza posted on a Facebook crime watch page that the victim underwent surgery and is currently in intensive care.

This information has not been confirmed by the Downey Police Department, which did not return a phone call seeking additional details.

Non-profits partner to help Downey's shut-in seniors

Hero’s for Seniors, officially known as Homeless & Senior Hero’s, Inc., is a social entrepreneurial based 501C3 not for profit public benefit corporation operating exclusively in the city of Downey on behalf of our more than 2,000 living-alone senior residents over the age of 64, by utilizing a workforce of veterans – carefully screened and bonded – former homeless persons and young adults not ready for a college or trade school but considering social services.

By mutual agreement, Courage Forward, a non-profit organization which has a strong position with veterans in Downey, will be responsible for guiding veterans to our program and will also help with fundraising activities.

Each month a Downey business and an individual will earn the reputation of being a standout hero in our community.

For the month of April our business hero is MD Stainless Services located at 8241 Phlox St. between Paramount Boulevard and Downey Avenue. Phone number is (562) 904-7022.

The receptionist at MD Stainless is Ashley, a delightful and professional representative of the company who quickly recognized our non-profit mission in Downey and took our story to management and the workforce who in turn donated their services.

Anyone, commercial or residential, needing any type of stainless services should not hesitate in contacting this quality company which is an outstanding business representative of the Downey community.

Our individual hero of the month is Jeremy Ferguson. Jeremy attended Warren High School through his junior year and was 3.0 student, captain of the football team, member of the track team and a member of the drama class.

Jeremy Ferguson

Jeremy Ferguson

In Jeremy’s senior year, a family member introduced him to illegal drugs, methamphetamines specifically, which he didn’t respond well to. He became abusive and began criminal activity including stealing computers from the school, which got him arrested and expelled. He spent about four years in county jail where he made up his mind he would never again have anything to do with that lifestyle or family member.

Today, Jeremy is 26, no longer on parole or involved in shady activities. He has a quality job (recently received a promotion), his own apartment and car. But more importantly, Jeremy has volunteered to donate his spare time in talking to young adults about illegal drugs and how quickly they can cause a person to become active in criminal behavior.

Jeremy has also earned his high school diploma and spent a semester in junior college.

Thank you, Jeremy, for volunteering with Hero’s for Seniors! We look forward to your participation.

Next month we will tell Patriot readers about our recently emancipated teenagers and their ongoing struggle to make good decisions on their own behalf and how participating with Hero’s for Seniors can help them find their own way in life.

Like most non-profits, we depend on the generosity and kind hearts of donors. We believe the residents and businesses of Downey recognize the importance of a strong upstanding community. Soon we plan on having some fundraising activities at local restaurants.

Besides Jeremy, we would also like to recognize the following individuals for their volunteer time to the organization:

Soledad Gutierrez, Manager Realty Group

Hans K Fritz, aid to Mayor Rick Rodriguez

In the meantime, we ask that interested donors either visit the following website: https://www.gofundme.com/6wjfkyw or by sending a check to the Downey Federal Credit Union at 8237 3rd Street, Downey, CA 90241 payable to Homeless & Senior Hero’s, Inc.

Any contribution is deeply appreciated! All donors will be recognized unless they request anonymity.

Soon we’ll publish contact information. In the meantime, you can offer comments and suggestions by calling (714) 342-8769.

Thank you most sincerely,

Dennis Billings, President & CEO
EIN 83-3879700

The arts are thriving at Downey Unified

Eye on our Schools

This is my third month of Eye on our Schools, I hope you have enjoyed the first two articles and hope you will continue with me on my journey through our schools. To save space in this article, I’m abbreviating the middle schools to MS and high schools to HS or sometimes I just drop the initials completely.

Words cannot express the great pride I take when asked what school district I represent. I reply the “Great and Wonderful Downey Unified School District” because that is exactly how I feel about this district and so much more. Education in Downey Unified is about much more than the three “R’s” (reading, writing and arithmetic). More specifically it’s also about creating students who value the Arts.

The past few weeks, I was lucky to see some of the activities associated with the Arts at the middle schools. Our drama teachers are the best around! They are excited about their plays and project energy onto their students, who in turn use that energy in their performances. We also have a great community full of supporters and parents who dedicate their free time in support of our students.

I laughed (and sometimes sang) along with the audience at the productions of “Shakespeare Goes To Gravel Gulch….” at Doty MS, “Haphazardly Ever After” at Griffiths MS and “Grease” at Stauffer MS. I love the “outtakes” and commercials that you get to watch during intermission at Doty; they made me laugh and kept me entertained while the crew got ready for the next act.

Watching the kids do the “hand Jive” during “Grease” took me back a few years, and I must give kudos to dedicated community member, Mr. Jeff Toussing, who carved and painted the Greased Lightnin’ car out of styrofoam for Stauffer.

At Griffiths, there was a student in the audience from another district and at the end of the performance I overheard her ask the person sitting next to her if this was a magnet school. The girl she asked replied that it was not. She then responded saying that this production was better than the plays at her own performing arts magnet school… What a great compliment!

These may be middle school productions, but our students, sets and costumes are a big step above standard middle school expectations.

Now moving on to the productions at the high schools, which seem like they could be seen live on Broadway! I recently saw the Downey HS production of “In The Heights” at the Downey Civic Theatre, with music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and wonderful sets designed and built by Downey HS teacher Vincent Appel.

Downey High School students performing “In the Heights.”

Downey High School students performing “In the Heights.”

There was dancing, singing, cheering, crying and everything in-between. I was amazed by the students’ ability to remember the often long and fast paced dialogue. You would have thought you were sitting at the Pantages Theatre.

And let’s not forget the great productions at Warren HS. While they are always in a smaller and more intimate setting where they do not need to use a microphone, the students are spot on when it comes to being funny, engaging, dramatic and captivating.

I saw their most recent play last Saturday, “Yankee Tavern” and I have to say that it was another brilliant production. Warren’s drama teacher majored in set design and again he didn’t disappoint. The stage was turned into a working tavern where attendees could purchase a beverage for the evening…non-alcoholic of course. The only beer on tap was root beer.

My favorite annual play is “Night of the Living Dead” where a certain science teacher does a guest appearance as a Zombie. A few years ago, the construction teacher built a rotating platform into the stage floor that turns between scenes when necessary and has been used in multiple plays. That’s something you don’t see at every high school!

Warren High has another production coming up soon, the comedy “Mrs. California” beginning May 22nd through May 25th at 7:30pm. I highly recommend that you get to the Warren High theater early because seats sell out quickly.

The music programs at the middle and high schools are equally as wonderful as the drama productions. They all have opportunities for some, if not all, of the following activities such as choir groups, jazz bands, marching bands, jazz singers and the list goes on.

Downey HS just came in first place at the Monterey NextGenerations Jazz Festival against jazz bands all across the country. And Warren HS has won the Southern California School Band & Orchestra Association (SCSBOA) Division Championship two years in a row and this school year earned their highest points in school history with a 94.15.

Keep your eyes on the individual schools’ websites for opportunities to hear some of the best performances in Southern California.

I talked a lot about the drama productions, but our district also provides so many great opportunities in Music and Visual Arts for our students at all levels. I will revisit this area more during a later article.

As I close, let me put in a couple plugs… If you’d like to have some hands-on fun with animation, I recommend you go to Mr. Bill Austin’s class, Room K1, at Warren HS at 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Wednesday nights where he opens his classroom doors to anyone that wants to learn about animation.

At the elementary level, please visit the Downey Foundation for Educational Opportunities’ website (DFEO.org) to see what our partner foundation offers our students to help supplement art education.

As you can see, I am very proud of the opportunities we provide our students every day at our schools to help them become citizens of strong character. None of this would be possible if it weren’t for the support of every one of our employees. Our teachers are always looking for ways to impact our students and our non-teaching Classified staff for providing food for them every day and keep our schools looking clean, safe and inviting.

Upcoming events:

  • Downey HS Band Spring Concert at the Downey Civic Theater - Thursday, May 2, 7:00 p.m.

  • Warren HS has another play coming up that I mentioned earlier. Visit: www.emersontheatre.net for details

  • Warren HS Spring Concert at the Downey Civic Theater - Tuesday, April 30, 7:00 p.m.

  • Doty MS Spring Concert at the Downey Civic Theater – Monday, May 13, 6:30 p.m.

  • Griffiths MS Spring Concert – Tuesday, May 21, 6:00 p.m.

  • Sussman MS Concert on the Lawn – Thursday, May 16, 5:00 p.m.

I hope to see you there!

Nancy A. Swenson
President, Downey Unified Board of Education

Lucy Atlas, Kathleen Carter, John Glaister named Teachers of the Year

DOWNEY — Three teachers from across Downey Unified were recognized by the Downey United Masonic Lodge 220 at the Board of Education’s monthly meeting held on Tuesday, April 9.

This annual award, which first began in 1964, is presented to a teacher from each level in the Downey Unified School District. This year’s Masonic Teacher of the Year recipients are Lacy Atlas, Kathleen Carter and John Glaister.

Old River Elementary School’s Lucy Atlas accepts her Masonic Teacher of the Year plaque from the Downey United Masonic Lodge 220. From left to right: Stephen White, Downey United Masonic Lodge 220 Junior Warden; Ralph Lopez, Downey United Masonic Lodge 220; Lucy Atlas; Caryn Jasich, Old River Principal; and David Olmedo, Downey United Masonic Lodge 220 Senior Warden.

Old River Elementary School’s Lucy Atlas accepts her Masonic Teacher of the Year plaque from the Downey United Masonic Lodge 220. From left to right: Stephen White, Downey United Masonic Lodge 220 Junior Warden; Ralph Lopez, Downey United Masonic Lodge 220; Lucy Atlas; Caryn Jasich, Old River Principal; and David Olmedo, Downey United Masonic Lodge 220 Senior Warden.

Beginning at the elementary level, Lucy Atlas, a fifth-grade teacher at Old River Elementary School, was selected for her unwavering dedication to the success of every student.

Beginning her teaching career in Downey Unified at Gauldin Elementary School in 1986, Atlas transferred to Old River Elementary School in 1997 when the school was first opened. She currently assists in the GATE program, the Gator Glee and has coached students in the Carnival of Champions for the past 25 years.

“Ms. Atlas is humble yet determined to do the right things and to do right by our district, our school and our students,” expressed Old River Elementary School principal, Caryn Jasich. “She knows that the support she provides is essential in helping students build the confidence they need to navigate this ever-changing world we live in.”


Doty Middle School’s Kathleen Carter was recognized as this year’s middle school Masonic Teacher of the Year. From left: Stephen White, Downey United Masonic Lodge 220 Junior Warden; Ralph Lopez, Downey United Masonic Lodge 220; Kathleen Carter; Brent Shubin, Doty Middle School Principal; and David Olmedo, Downey United Masonic Lodge 220 Senior Warden.

Doty Middle School’s Kathleen Carter was recognized as this year’s middle school Masonic Teacher of the Year. From left: Stephen White, Downey United Masonic Lodge 220 Junior Warden; Ralph Lopez, Downey United Masonic Lodge 220; Kathleen Carter; Brent Shubin, Doty Middle School Principal; and David Olmedo, Downey United Masonic Lodge 220 Senior Warden.

Kathleen Carter, a Social Studies teacher at Doty Middle School, was chosen as the second Masonic Teacher of the Year representing the middle school level.

Previously an ASB Advisor for three years, Carter started at Doty Middle School in 1994 when it was still named East Middle School. Due to family priorities, she accepted a part-time position at the Downey Adult School assisting in the GED diploma program, then in 2013 she rejoined the Doty staff.

Carter is the co-chairperson for the Social Studies Department and played a key role in assisting the school in receiving the state and national Schools To Watch designation.

“She incorporates new teaching strategies and integrates new technology that she finds effective in always improving student learning,” stated Brent Shubin, principal of Doty Middle School. “Mrs. Carter is a shining example of what being an outstanding educator is all about.”


John Glaister, Columbus High School teacher, accepts the award of 2019 Masonic Teacher of the year. From left: Stephen White, Downey United Masonic Lodge 220 Junior Warden; Ralph Lopez, Downey United Masonic Lodge 220; John Glaister; Anthony Zegarra, Columbus High School Principal; and David Olmedo, Downey United Masonic Lodge 220 Senior Warden.

John Glaister, Columbus High School teacher, accepts the award of 2019 Masonic Teacher of the year. From left: Stephen White, Downey United Masonic Lodge 220 Junior Warden; Ralph Lopez, Downey United Masonic Lodge 220; John Glaister; Anthony Zegarra, Columbus High School Principal; and David Olmedo, Downey United Masonic Lodge 220 Senior Warden.

Selected from the high school level, Art teacher John Glaister from Columbus High School, was the final Downey Unified teacher to be honored.

Glaister has been a teacher at Columbus High for 15 years, teaching art and acting as an ASB Advisor. He provides support across the district, helping elementary schools by making classroom sets of student whiteboards and creating signage for various rooms. Glaister is also active in the Downey community assisting in building book boxes around the city while the public library is closed for renovations.

“Above all Mr. Glaister is an example for all on campus,” said Columbus High’s principal, Anthony Zegarra. “He helps in any way he can to make Columbus the best place for all who enter our doors every day.”

“All three of the Downey Unified teachers that were awarded the Masonic Teacher of the Year exhibit qualities that direct students down a path that leads them to be citizens of strong character and globally competitive, while providing them with the appropriate tools to be both college and career ready,” the school district said in a statement.