Martha Sodetani named president of Downey board of education

DOWNEY – Martha Sodetani was elected president of the Downey Unified Board of Education at the school board’s annual reorganization Tuesday, which is held in December of each year. 

Martha Sodetani was named president of the Downey school board on Tuesday. Photo by John Zander

Martha Sodetani was named president of the Downey school board on Tuesday. Photo by John Zander

Other officers include Bobbie Samperi as vice president and Nancy Swenson as clerk. 
Outgoing president D. Mark Morris, a member of the school board since 1982, will continue to serve on the board as a representative of Trustee Area 6. 

There to present Morris with certificates thanking him for his one-year term as president were Senator Tony Mendoza, Kim Tachiki-Chin representing Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, Ivan Sulic representing L.A.County Supervisor Janice Hahn, and council members Roger Brossmer (in his last day in office) and Sean Ashton representing the City of Downey.

As Board of Education president, Morris had three main goals: raise the high school graduation rate, increase Advanced Placement (AP) enrollment and scores, and increase Downey Unified’s Career Technical Education (CTE) program offerings. All three were completed during his term. 

Downey Unified’s graduation rate reached its highest rate of 96 percent for the 2014-15 school year; Downey Unified’s high school AP Course enrollment and passage rate exceeded both the California and U.S./Canada averages; and finally, MADE (Downey Unified’s CTE programs) received a $1 million apprenticeship grant from the state to further develop the apprenticeship opportunities for students within Downey Unified to better prepare them for life post-graduation.  

Morris is also a member of the California School Board Association and the Los Angeles County School Boards Association. He was inducted into the Downey High School Hall of Fame and has a campus building named in his honor. 

His community service includes past membership on the City of Downey Community Services Commission, the Water Board, the Redevelopment Project Area Committee, the Cerritos College Advisory Board and was the founding President of the Alumni Association. He is a lifelong resident of Downey and graduate of Downey High School.

“I appreciate the honor of being president this last year,” expressed Morris. “Downey Unified is a vital part of the city of Downey and I take great pride in our students, teachers, classified staff and administration. We as a board want the best for our students regardless if they moved into Downey yesterday or they were born here. We want the best for them because they are the backbone of our community and I am truly thankful for having the honor to have served them this year.”

Sodetani, who has served on the board since 2005, has been actively involved in PTA for almost 40 years. She has received the PTA’s highest honor, the Golden Oak Award, with other awards for volunteer work in the community. 

She was nominated by the state legislature as Woman of the Year; was named Woman of the Year by Soroptimist International of Downey; and received the Mayor’s Distinguished Citizen Award. 

She is a member of the PTA HELPS Food Distribution Board, Downey Coordinating Council, Character Counts Coalition, Downey Sister Cities, Gangs Out of Downey (GOOD) and Thirty-Third District Executive PTA Foster Children Chairman. She delivers mandated training courses at community colleges for prospective foster and adoptive parents in Los Angeles County, and serves on the Curriculum Advisory Committee at both Cerritos and Long Beach Community Colleges.

Bobbie Samperi, a Downey resident and Warren High School graduate, has served on the Board of Education since 1993. A member of the Downey Community Service Commission for 15 years, Samperi has also been an active member of Downey Council PTA, Alameda Elementary, Ward Elementary, Sussman Middle and Downey High School’s PTA.  

She is currently a member of Downey Federal Credit Union’s Supervisory Committee.

Serving on the school board for the last 11 years, Nancy Swenson has been a resident of Downey for 40 years and is also a graduate of Warren High School. While on the board, Swenson has been very hands-on as a member of various teams. 

She has been a member of both the Budget and Audit committees as well a member of the Character Counts Coalition. She is an active member of the Assistance League of Downey Gypsy Johnson Auxiliary, GOOD, Downey Symphony Guild and Sister Cities Association. 

Swenson was also on the first Green Team for the City of Downey and has recently taken a lead role in the Mary R. Stauffer Foundation.