The Montebello Unified School District Board of Education meeting room was filled to capacity Dec. 13 for the swearing in of the four victorious candidates from the November election, and a longtime board member’s emotional farewell to the position she held for 12 years.
Hector Chacon, Ben Cardenas and Lani Cupchoy emerged as the winners in the race for a four-year term on the MUSD Board. They are joined by Edgar Cisneros who will complete the two years remaining on the seat left vacant two years ago by the death of Marcella Calderon. Paul Montoya was appointed by the board to the seat, but lost to Cisneros in November.
Chacon’s recent victory gives him over two decades on the board.
“I love this community, I love the kids,” he said. “This is the best district in the state, I want to make it the best district in the nation.”
Cardenas, who was appointed to replace former board member Ed Chau after he was elected to State Assembly last year, won his first election.
“It feels a little different this time,” he said. “Now I know what elected officials go through, that moment of truth waiting for the results … I promise to try my best.”
The race for the third seat on the board in the regular election was close, but in the end political newcomer Cupchoy beat out longtime board member Gerri Guzman.
“Our district is entering a new era, with board members who each bring to the table a unique lens that will hopefully facilitate a vision that allows for a more holistic approach to education,” Cupchoy said.
“We did it!” Cisneros told the filled to capacity room.
“I’m a product of [MUSD] and I just want to raise it to what it can be…I plan on accomplishing great things for these students.”
The outgoing Montoya was also honored by local city officials and had some heartfelt words to say before leaving his seat.
“I was never accountable to one union organization or donor and as always I was accountable to the parents,” he said reflecting on his two year. “As a parent I will always strive to make decisions in the best interest of children…As I leave office tonight I don’t see it as a loss, I see it new friendships, new experiences, new partnerships, new horizons.”
During the meeting, a clearly emotional Guzman said goodbye to the seat she held for 12 years. Local officials and parent groups honored her for her service, with several praising her for being a strong voice for students on the board.
“If I had to sum up what I’m feeling tonight reflecting on my 12 years of serving, it would definitely be grateful,” she said emotionally. “I want to thank my constituents, those who have held me accountable, those who have been mad as heck and those who have been supportive along the way.”
The meeting was the last of the year for the board, which decided to reorganize and selected the board’s fifth member, David Vela, to serve as board president, Cardenas as vice president and Cisneros as the board’s clerk. Vela quickly emphasized the importance of focusing on the implementation of new common core standards.
“It is my priority that we are promoting transparency in this district at every level,” he said. “We must continue making decisions based on what will best serve the students of Montebello and we must do so in an inclusive manner.
The first board meeting of 2014 is scheduled for Jan. 16.