Claremont teacher’s union supports McDonald in special election

by Mick Rhodes |

The Claremont Faculty Association’s political action committee has endorsed Alex McDonald in the July 25 special election for the open Trustee Area 4 seat on the Claremont Unified School District’s Board of Education.

“He’s super smart. He’s super knowledgeable,” said CFA President Brian D’Ambrosia-Donner. “He knows what he knows, and he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, but then he goes and finds out about it. He’s a straight shooter. We like that a lot.”

The CFA’s PAC is called the Claremont Teachers Action Committee. It was founded about a decade ago and has been supported by $1 monthly dues from each of its 350 members. Having a PAC allows the union to fundraise and give to political campaigns its members vote to support, D’Ambrosia-Donner said, both for CUSD Board candidates and elsewhere.

The Claremont Faculty Association’s political action committee, led by CFA President Brian D’Ambrosia-Donner, pictured, has endorsed Alex McDonald in the July 25 special election for the open Trustee Area 4 seat on the Claremont Unified School District’s Board of Education.

The road to the special election began last December when a chorus of protest erupted surrounding alleged impropriety by former CUSD Board President Steven Llanusa at a holiday party at his Claraboya home. Llanusa resigned December 10, 2022. In February he was charged with two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and a single count of providing alcohol to a minor under 21.

On January 18, members of the CTAC PAC watched the CUSD Board interview nine potential candidates to fill Llanusa’s Trustee Area 4 seat through the November 2024 general election. Former board member Hilary LaConte was the board’s unanimous choice. But McDonald was among the other candidates interviewed, and he left an impression.

“He was the person that stood out to us as like, wow, who is this guy? How come he’s not on our radar?” D’Ambrosia-Donner said.

Meanwhile, opponents of the move in Trustee Area 4, led by resident Joshua Rogers, began circulating a petition to compel CUSD to mount and pay for a special election to fill the seat. That petition was successful, and LaConte was immediately off the board. When LaConte said she would not run in the July 25 election, D’Ambrosia-Donner reached out to McDonald to ask if he was interested in entering the race.

“We just talked through what his idea about a board member was. He has experience on other boards. And there were some questions I wanted to ask him specific to being on a school board.”’

Thus far the only candidates who have filed paperwork to run in the election are McDonald and Aaron Peterson, both of whom were among the nine candidates interviewed by the board for the spot on January 18.

D’Ambrosia-Donner said the controversy surrounding the petition to compel the election — which will cost CUSD an estimated $273,000 — played a significant role in the Claremont Teachers Action Committee’s decision to endorse McDonald. He characterized the election as “a supreme waste of money.”

“I suspect if [Rogers] had been selected [instead of LaConte] he wouldn’t have pulled the petition. So, there’s no other explanation other that ideology or sour grapes for someone to force the expenditure of $273,000 unnecessarily on a school district. For a district like ours, where money is tight and everything is managed carefully, that expenditure is significant, particularly in the context of how unnecessary it was.”

The CTAC’s by-laws require it to send endorsement surveys to all prospective candidates, D’Ambrosia-Donner said. As such, Aaron Peterson, who is running, and Joshua Rogers, who is thus far not a candidate, received the questionnaire. Neither responded to the survey.

The CTAC required its endorsee to have either supported LaConte, or to have publicly stated his or her opposition to the forced expenditure of the special election, D’Ambrosia-Donner said, a prerequisite neither Peterson nor Rogers, obviously, could meet, but McDonald did.

“Any candidate who runs who didn’t publicly make a statement against the petition campaign, if for no other reason than it was fiscally irresponsible, then that person is complicit,” D’Ambrosia-Donner said. “At least complicit, if not in part responsible for the fact that we have to spend this money instead of using it to spend it on students and programs at our schools and our staff.”

D’Ambrosia-Donner said McDonald, a family and sports medicine physician, is a “fierce supporter of public education.”

“He is a collaborator,” D’Ambrosia-Donner said. “He’s worked with the California Medical Association Board. He understands how a managing board needs to collaborate to come up with decisions. You don’t walk in with your ideology or idea and pound that into the ground; you have to work together to come up with the best solution possible.”

Another key factor in supporting McDonald was his belief in the importance of mental health support services for students and all CUSD personnel, D’Ambrosia-Donner said, and his openness to considering all stakeholders’ voices on the various issues that come before the board.

“He’s also an educator. He’s a teaching physician for Kaiser in Fontana. So, he has that perspective of being an educator and what it means. So, the ability to empathize with stakeholder groups, and specifically for our purposes to be able to empathize with an educator, those are really great qualities to have.”

The union last endorsed candidates in 2020, Bob Fass and Chris Naticchia for CUSD Board of Education. Fass was successful, Naticchia was not. It did not endorse a candidate in the 2022 election.

Ginny Stewart, president of CUSD’s other union, the California School Employees Association, told the Courier in an email, “Currently CSEA, Claremont, Chapter 200 is not endorsing anyone. Alex McDonald has recently reached out and provided information on his candidacy and we will be reviewing this at our next chapter meeting and we will see if we will be moving forward with endorsement.”

The Courier will be publishing full campaign preview stories on both McDonald and Peterson in the coming weeks.



    The article does not mention if Alex McDonald is a resident in trustee area 4. Or if he has any children who attend our school district. Just wondering.


      To be eligible to run, candidates must live in the Trustee Area, so yes, McDonald lives in the district. I’m not sure about your other question, but stay tuned as we will be profiling both candidates in the coming weeks. MR.

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