School board challengers emerge

DOWNEY - Two challengers filed nomination papers this month hoping to unseat longtime Downey Unified School District board member Barbara Samperi in the district's first ever by-area elections this November. According to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder's office, Downey Library Commissioner Betty Monroy and retired bilingual educator Bertha Valenzuela will seek election to the board of education in trustee Area 7, which includes the southeast tip of Downey and portions of Bellflower.

Samperi, who ran unopposed four years ago, will now compete in a three-way race for her seat after nearly 20 years on the school board.

"I like change -- change is necessary, especially if there's an easier way of doing something," said Monroy, who filed on Tuesday after realizing the three incumbents on the school board were running unchallenged. "Barbara has been on the board for 20 years, I want to bring new ideas to the table. I'm more current on what's going on in the schools."

A past president of the Downey Sister Cities Association and current president of the Warren High School baseball boosters, Monroy is the mother of three children, all of whom attended schools in the DUSD.

A self-described "team mom," Monroy, 53, has also been active in the Northwest Downey Little League and AYSO. For the last five years, Monroy has served on the city's library advisory board.

"I'm very involved in the community," she said. "I know a million and two parents in this city. I can't go to the store without running into someone."

With 35 years of experience in tourism, Monroy, who is also fluent in Spanish and French, currently works as a sales manager for a limo company, overseeing reservations, promotions, and marketing.

Monroy hopes to bring fresh vision to the school board, which she believes has grown out of step with current student needs.

"I'm an out-of-the-box thinker. If there's a new way -- let's try that," Monroy said. "We need to keep the level of education at its highest level and better prepare our students vocationally with new technology."

Valenzuela, a retired bilingual educator with the LA County Office of Education, has similar goals. A resident of Bellflower, Valenzuela was an early supporter of by-area school board elections and hopes to champion improved special education services if elected.

With both children and grandchildren who attended DUSD schools, Valenzuela hopes to phase in common core standards, lower class sizes, and provide computer tablets for students in order to better prepare them for state exams and future careers.

Valenzuela, who attended Cerritos College and Cal State LA, filed nomination papers last Friday. She could not be reached for comment.

DUSD board members Nancy Swenson and Martha Sodetani, who were elected in 2005, have not been challenged in trustee areas 5 and 1. The deadline to enter the race for the DUSD board of education is Friday, Aug. 9 at 5 p.m.

The Nov. 5 school board election is the first since board trustees chose last August to forego at-large elections in favor of a seven-district, by-area voting system.

The board of education approved the change after concerns arose regarding the California Voter's Rights Act of 2002, which encourages the dismantlement of at-large elections in communities where they can potentially disenfranchise minority voters.

********** Published: Aug. 8, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 17