Representing the community & advocating have always been priorities for Salomon- Saldana
Linda Salomon Saldaña began her journey in Downey Unified in 2013 as a parent serving on the Maude Price Elementary School PTA, but this wasn’t her first experience representing and working for others. Beginning as a young adult, Saldaña always knew that she wanted to serve and inform. With a strong passion for writing, following high school she attended UCLA and after her second year at UCLA, Saldaña transferred to USC’s School of Journalism where she followed her passion for writing and advocacy.
“I just have a social justice gene. The bottom line is, I always feel the need to serve and help. It gives back to me as much as it hopefully helps others. It’s totally selfish,” Saldaña jokingly shared. “Yes, it means helping others but it truly makes me feel good, too.”
After graduating from USC’s School of Journalism and completing an internship at KTLA, Saldaña began working for KCBS as a desk assistant and quickly worked her way up to Associate Producer. From there, her career continued to flourish moving on to KNBC where she took the position as a Sweeps Producer.
“This wasn’t like working on day-to-day news,” Saldaña explained. “This was more like special projects and investigations. I was able to interview people and work on in-depth stories.”
After three years at KNBC, she decided to step into a new realm, taking the Director of Communications position for the Facilities Division within the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). At that time, LAUSD was working on a major facilities building project after the passing of Proposition BB, a $2.4 billion local bond, in 1997. It was then that Saldaña decided to join LAUSD to help tell their story to the public. This career transition was a simple decision for Saldaña due to the fact that her immigrant parents instilled the importance of education as a young child and she could help inform the public of LAUSD’s efforts to improve learning environments for students.
A year later Saldaña had another opportunity to tell stories and help inform the public, but this time in Spanish. In the early 2000s, Spanish language media continued to grow and Telemundo reached out to Saldaña offering her a position working on special projects and investigations for the local news station.
“At that time, Sony owned Telemundo. They had money and resources, and we started doing in-depth investigations to begin to spread awareness and help people,” Saldana shared. “We surpassed Univision at some point and we even started getting better ratings then the English-language stations.”
With that growth came long hours, and the time finally came when Saldaña realized that media was changing and so were the needs of her family. Telemundo eventually presented Saldaña with an option and she decided to take this as an opportunity to say farewell to her work in media to place more focus on her family.
Saldaña soon realized that she needed to get more involved in her children’s school to further support their education and serve the school community. “I became a room parent when my son was in third grade and my daughter was in first. That’s the year I truly got involved,” shared Saldaña. “It was actually for the 2014-15 school year that Price didn’t have a PTA President and I told my husband ‘I think I need to do it’ and that’s where my involvement with Downey Unified truly took off.”
Through her role as PTA President, she spent countless hours at school with parents, began attending various district meetings, met the Board of Education and began to dive deeper into the foundation of the district. It was during this time that she realized something she had not before; that Downey had a larger Spanish-speaking population then she previously was aware of.
“I realized that I spoke just as much Spanish as PTA President as I had working at Telemundo,” explained Saldaña. “Because I would just drop off and leave, I did not realize how big of a Spanish speaking community we had. I mean, I knew it statistically, but I hadn’t truly lived it or experienced it.”
With her passion to advocate for others, this nuance she had not experienced before drove her to take an even larger step within the district in an effort to represent the community. In 2015, Saldaña ran for the Board of Education. Although she was unsuccessful in her initial effort to become a School Board member, she is thankful for that experience and the opportunities it opened for her.
After the election, Saldaña believed that a non-profit was needed to further support Downey Unified’s vision of graduating all students college and career ready by providing after school enrichment opportunities for students in the areas of Arts, College Prep and Health & Fitness as well as provide financial support during various times should the district face budget shortfalls. It was then that she began work to establish the Downey Foundation for Educational Opportunities and became the first Executive Director.
“I think if I had not run [for the Board of Education] in 2015, I don’t think everything else would have fallen into place and I am very proud of what the Foundation has been able to bring to the table for our students in addition to what the district was already providing.”
Running for the Board again in 2020 and obviously finding success this second time, Saldaña now steps away from the Foundation that she worked so hard to build over the past five years. She looks ahead and knows exactly what she will be bringing to the table as one of the newest members of the Board of Education. With many goals in place, she first would like to focus on the current situation that faces the district. Saldaña’s initial objective is to get students back in schools safely and responsibly as well as recover what has been lost during this challenging time. She references occurrences within her own children’s lives and shares her concern of the difficulties students have been facing. The lack of social interactions, students missing out on the transitional change between grade levels and the challenges of developing new relationships through distance learning.
“I see it through my children. I have a perspective of every level. I have an elementary perspective with my third grader [Price Elementary], a middle school perspective with my eighth grader [Griffiths Middle] and I have a high school perspective with my 10th grader [Warren High], and they are each missing out in their own ways. I see how hard this is on all students and I hope they know, like I tell my children, that we are working hard to get them back.”
With her desire to advocate for others still front and center, Saldaña concludes with some final thoughts as she asks the Downey Unified community to have a voice. She explains that it is only when there is awareness, something can be done.
“Find your voice and reach out, to me or any member of the district. Happy, sad, good or bad… let us know because that’s the only way we are going to be able to help.”