DOWNEY – The Downey Unified Board of Education election is starting to take shape, as the top candidate for Administration Area 1 has made its intentions known.
Tyrone Conde, 38, is vice president of marketing at Downey Federal Credit Union. He is married to his wife, Veronica, and has two children, ages 7 and 9, who attend Maude Price Elementary School.
Conde will bid for the seat currently held by longtime board member and current vice president Martha Sodetani, who announced last week that she would not seek re-election in November.
“The more I thought about it, the more I thought, ‘Hey, this is an opportunity to really have a say in my kids’ education, how it’s defined, the approach, the vision behind it and the mission behind that,” Condé said.
Trust Area 1 represents Northwest Downey.
Besides enrolling his children, much of Conde’s previous experience with the district comes from a previous collaboration with Downey Federal.
Condé says he gives the school board and superintendent Dr. John Garcia a lot of credit for being “good at what they do,” though he adds there’s “room for improvement” in regarding students and mental health.
“I think it’s used as a cliché a lot these days to be honest with you, ‘sanity, sanity, sanity.’ But what does that mean on the pitch – boots on the ground – for kids to have ‘safe spaces’, another phrase that’s been used incorrectly I think,” Conde said. there are a lot of kids who need that space to be able to unplug in. I grew up when it didn’t exist, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t need it, and we didn’t know not at the time that we needed it, that we could have benefited from it.
Condé added that children need a safe space “more than ever”.
“Sometimes children have to be able to walk into a room and not think about anything. Sometimes they may need to talk about the issues,” Conde said. “How can we expect them to really process what a teacher is trying to teach if their mind is on their home life, if their mind is on their next meal, if their mind is somewhere other than, unfortunately due to their living circumstances, it is taken them out.
“I’m a big believer in that. I’m not saying the school district isn’t doing it now, but I do believe there’s an opportunity to expand this further.
Conde also thinks the district could do a better job promoting its STEAM programming.
“Is the district doing a great job delivering programs? Yes. Can he do more? Yes,” Condé said. “My third grader last year, he comes home super excited because he just found out there’s a robotics team at Price. I asked him, ‘Why didn’t you join?’ It’s at the end of the school year. He says ‘I didn’t know that, why didn’t you tell me?’ I said ‘I didn’t know.’ He was eligible, we just didn’t know.
“Did we miss it? Maybe, maybe because they do a really good job of communicating with parents, but we missed it…no complaints, just missed it.
Conde added that “step one is making sure you have the programs, step two is making sure the kids get the programs.”
Condé also emphasized critical thinking skills.
“Currently, the district uses the phrase ‘college and career ready.’ It’s a nice sentence, but it’s a sentence,” Condé said. “How do we actually take this and put it into action?”
“The District has done a fantastic job of putting together the programs, the adult school, giving people the opportunity to be ready for the next phase of their lives. Me personally, I think the next phase of this is everyday life…
“Obviously, the curriculum is what it is, but coming from the credit union‘s perspective, or also coming from the financial side, being able to make those decisions; if you go to school, and be able to break down a tuition bill, be able to break down a gas bill, be able to break down some living expenses…all of that, I think we can do more of. I think we can do more to get some of those kids – as part of the parenting process – I think a little focus on that side of things can be really helpful for our kids.
Condé already has endorsements from all seven members of the school board.
“Tyrone has volunteered alongside me with many organizations and is a friend who I know would be a wonderful addition to the board,” Sodetani said in a press release.
The election will take place on November 8.