School board race gets crowded

DOWNEY - Three more challengers stepped forward last week, filing nomination papers to run for the Downey Unified School District board of education, which has three seats up for grabs this November in the district's first by-area elections. Incumbents Barbara Samperi, Nancy Swenson, and Martha Sodetani, who ran unopposed four years ago, will now face opponents determined to cut wasteful spending and bring fresh ideas to the school board.

According to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder's office, Samperi will compete in a four-way race against Downey Library Commissioner Betty Monroy, retired LA County educator Bertha Valenzuela, and local teller Leslie Valencia, who filed hours before the deadline last Friday.

Valencia, a resident of Bellflower, could not be reached for comment.

Samperi, who has been on the board since 1993, represents Area 7, which extends from Imperial Highway beyond the I-105 Freeway over to the intersection of Woodruff and Rosecrans avenues.

In Area 5, which swings from just north of Firestone Boulevard down to Gardendale Street, Swenson will run against 23-year Downey resident and electrician John Anagnostou, who has two daughters enrolled in Downey schools.

"Downey has a fine district -- it isn't in shambles, but I want to bring my voice to the board," said Anagnostou, who graduated from Downey High School and has an associate degree from Long Beach City College.

Anagnostou says his passion to run came after the school board changed the name of his alma mater East Middle School to Wendy Lopour Doty Middle School.

"It struck me as kind of odd," he said on Wednesday. "Our district should be teacher-based instead of administration-based, but it seems the administration portion is outshining the teacher portion."

Victor Malagon, who is challenging Sodetani in Area 1, couldn't agree more.

The 50-year-old industrial maintenance electrician, who's lived in Downey for 21 years, believes the name change was an example of wasteful spending on the part of the school board.

"Spending that kind of money in this economy -- I believe many residents were against that," he said. "There are a lot of ways to honor Dr. Doty, but that wasn't the right time. They could have put that money to much better use."

Malagon also plans to take up the issue of reducing class sizes if elected to the school board.

"My job is about problem-solving," said Malagon, who maintains aerospace machinery at M.C. Gill Corporation in South El Monte. "I want to bring that to the Downey Unified School District. Downey has a good reputation for first-class education, but there's a little bit of room for improvement."

Area 1 covers the most northern tip of Downey from Telegraph Road, down between the Rio Hondo River and Paramount Boulevard to approximately Fifth Street.

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

********** Published: Aug. 15, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 18

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