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Downey Unified School District

This is one in a series examining election issues in some of the districts.

September 02, 1993

Fourteen Southeast-area school systems and three community college districts will have board elections Nov. 2. Enrollment: 16,000 students.

Areas served: Downey and portions of South Gate, Bellflower and Bell Gardens.

On the ballot: Two school board seats. Although board members serve by district, they are elected at large. Incumbent Betty N. Ferraro, who represents Area No. 5, which includes central Downey, faces no challengers and will be reappointed.

Issue: How to finance a $4-million renovation project at Downey High School.

CANDIDATES: AREA NO. 1 (NORTHWESTERN DOWNEY)

Toby Mileski

Age: 24

Residence: Downey

Occupation: Real estate broker

Remarks: "Without a decent budget or funding, we can't educate our children. I hope to get the budget problems straightened out to get rid of unnecessary overhead, help the district run smoothly. Downey High School desperately needs to be rehabilitated." He said he also is concerned about violence in schools. "We need an environment students can learn in and not be afraid of. I think it's time for a change for everything because the status quo is not working anymore." He said he supports forming a citizens advisory committee that will ensure parent involvement in lobbying the city to share proceeds from redevelopment projects with the schools. He also wants the city to allocate more federal grant money to benefit Downey schools. "I don't really support the voucher system. I think we need to restore faith in public education so we don't have to have the voucher system. It boils down to an issue of accountability for the way children are taught."

*Robert E. Riley

Board member since 1981

Age: 53

Residence: Downey

Occupation: Dentist

Remarks: Refurbishing Downey High School "is absolutely the No. 1 priority for the first available capital. Another big issue for this district is probably future growth." Downey has grown dramatically, from 12,000 students 12 years ago to 16,000 today. "Eventually we'll mirror areas like Huntington Park, South Gate, Bell. I don't think we're overcrowded, but we have capacities on these schools, and we're reaching them. We are getting to where we could use another elementary school. Our school sites are on large parcels of property. So we have space, and with funds that should come, we should be able to build what we need on existing sites." He takes partial credit for what he termed the good reputation of Downey schools. "We have a strong discipline policy; we enforce it; students are well aware of that fact." Because of state funding cuts, "we had to reduce some programs, but we've done a good job in Downey of keeping cuts away from the classrooms and students."

CANDIDATES: AREA NO. 7 (SOUTH DOWNEY, NORTH BELLFLOWER)

Grace E. Horney

Board member since 1965

Age: 65

Residence: Downey

Occupation: Homemaker, community activist

Remarks: "We are financially stable and are trying to stay that way. We have had four California Distinguished School awards in the last few years, and we're very proud of that. I've served on the budget committee for several years, and my real message in this election will be financial stability and the steadiness of our programs. Downey has a high-quality education system, and I would like to continue to see it remain that way." She said she has been on the board for nearly 30 years because "I think I've been very accessible to the public and to students. I meet with parents, I talk with parents. I meet with kids and talk with kids. I attend a lot of functions in the schools, and being available has been a strong point in the time I've been on the school board."

*Barbara (Bobbie) R. Samperi

Age: 43

Residence: Downey

Occupation: Homemaker, Downey Parks and Recreation commissioner

Remarks: "I'm against the voucher system. I think it will hurt public schools in the long run. I don't think parents have as much input as they could. I've been a (school) PTA president several times, and getting more parent involvement is hard to do. Downey's changing very fast, and part of the barrier might be the language differences." She wants to encourage non-English speaking parents to enroll in classes in child-rearing and English as a second language and to volunteer in the schools. She worked as an instructional assistant for the school district and has been on school district parent volunteer committees. "All the schools need some refurbishing, especially Downey High. I'm naive enough to say I will get this done. I will look for ways to do it. The schools are pretty dingy, and kids don't like to use those bathrooms. If they don't feel comfortable using a bathroom, they're not comfortable in school."

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