Fresno Unified’s school board election is still months away, but a west Fresno advocate is already getting ready to declare her candidacy.
Debbie Darden, a 47-year-old businesswoman and Fresno native, says she plans to oppose incumbent trustee Cal Johnson for his southwest Fresno seat. She’s making a formal campaign announcement on Monday in front of the under-construction Rutherford B. Gaston Middle School.
She’s a first-timer, but you may know her from her work as chairwoman of the Golden Westside Planning Committee.
Darden was on the front line of the push a few years back to build a new southwest community middle school, which since the late 1970s went without one. The new Gaston Middle School promises to end that decades-long chapter, and bring students back to the neighborhood who currently bus across town to other campuses.
The Edison High graduate says she's proud of the work she did to get the project off the ground.
“That became a real passion to get our children to be able to go from junior high school to high school within their community,” she said.
If she wins the election, she said she’ll prioritize early childhood literacy and boosting graduation rates.
Darden has worked as an administrator at food company Rich Product Corporation for the last year. Before that, she worked at the SC Johnson Ziplock manufacturing plant before it closed in 2011.
District 1, the Edison High region Johnson currently serves, is one of four trustee areas up for grabs this year.
School Board President Valerie Davis, who represents the Sunnyside High area and trustee Christopher De La Cerda, who serves the McLane High region, are also up for re-election. Bullard-area trustee Michelle Asadoorian’s seat is opening up too, though she hasn’t announced plans to run again.