Four female challengers emerge in Downey school board elections

DOWNEY − Four Downey women have filed to run against three longtime Downey Unified School District board members who are all facing reelection this November. 

DUSD incumbents Donald LaPlante, D. Mark Morris, and William Gutierrez will each have challengers this year after nearly a decade of uncontested elections in their trustee areas. 
In trustee area No. 4, La Plante is receiving the most competition with two opponents, Maria Avalos and Linda Salomon Saldana. 

LaPlante was first elected to the board in 1979 and has served as its president six times since. In 2012, he was elected as director of Region 24 for the California School Boards Association.
Likewise, Avalos is not new to politics. In 2012, she ran and won a delegate chair position with the L.A. County Democratic Party. According to the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder’s office, Avalos is also a local teacher.

Cerritos College board trustee John Paul Drayer, who represents portions of Downey, endorsed Avalos late last month, calling her a “fellow educator and a friend.”  

Forty one-year-old Saldana, however, is a former journalist and television producer that is now serving in her second term as PTA president at Maude Price Elementary School.

The married mother of three kids said the position gave her a sense of what local parents and families need. She believes the district is doing a “great job under superintendent John Garcia,” but she hopes to engage parents more though district-wide school events and workshops, if elected.

In trustee area No. 6, political newcomer Vanessa Rodriguez is challenging veteran board member Morris, who was elected in 1982. 

The lifelong Downey resident is a graduate of Downey High School who formerly sat on the city’s community services commission and water board. He is currently a member of the L.A. County School Boards Association. 

Rodriguez, 45, is currently an educational administrative assistant at Cerritos College where she’s worked since 2005. A Downey resident since 1990, Rodriguez and her husband Gilbert raised three daughters in Downey schools.

She hopes a seat on the board would allow her to better serve the community of Downey by bringing a fresh voice to the education sphere.

Gutierrez will faceoff against Long Beach Unified School District teacher Claudia Medina in trustee area No. 3. 

A DUSD board member since 2000, Gutierrez is also the chief financial officer for Premier Business Centers. A resident of Downey since 1989, he is an active member of Downey Kiwanis and a board member of the Downey YMCA.

DUSD board member Tod Corrin is also facing reelection in trustee area No. 2 this year, but no residents filed nomination papers to run against him. First elected in 2003, Corrin is currently the DUSD board president.

Last month, the Downey Education Association voiced its support for the four incumbent board members as the president of the teachers’ union praised them for guiding the district through the economic downturn.

“Downey Unified has soared above and beyond because of the decisions that have come out of the board room,” said DEA president Jim Morgan. 

The four challengers will have until Tuesday, Nov. 3 to convince Downey voters otherwise.