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New trustees join Ceres Unified School Board
CUSD swearing in December 2022
Taking the oath of office to become members of the Ceres Unified School District Board of Trustees from Superintendent Denise Wickham (right) are: Cynthia Ruiz, David McConnell, Valli Wigt and Lourdes Perez. Only Wigt faced election on Nov. 8 as the other three were unchallenged and appointed in lieu of being on the ballot. - photo by Photo courtesy of Ceres Unified School District

David McConnell and Cynthia Ruiz attend their first public meeting as Ceres Unified School District Board of Trustees last week.

McConnell and Ruiz – along with re-elected incumbents Valli Wigt and Lourdes Perez – were both sworn in as Ceres School Board members in front of family, friends and community members Thursday evening.

“I feel honored to be a part of the board,” said Ruiz. “It’s a huge commitment. It’s all for a good cause. I’m paying back all the good I received from them.”

“I’m looking forward to working on the board,” said McConnell. “We got a great team. I’m very proud to be a part of it.”

McConnell, 62, will fill the Board Trustee Area 6 seat vacated by Betty Davis, who opted to not seek re-election due to health reasons. She was a board member for 17 years.

“There was an opening so I decided to run for the board,” he said. “I just came back from the California School Board Association Conference. I learned a lot. Ceres has a reputation statewide of doing excellent. I’m not a great public speaker. I do listen and do research.”

Ruiz, 51, replaces Board Trustee Area 2 member Mike Welsh, who retired after filling a seat on the board for 18 years.

“When I saw this opportunity, I thought I could add to the great teamwork Ceres Unified already has,” she said. 

McConnell and his wife Brenda have lived in Ceres for 35 years.

Brenda has served as a parent volunteer in CUSD classrooms.

Their daughters Amanda and Leanna both graduated from Ceres High School. Leanna and Amanda are employed as a teacher and respiratory therapist, respectively.

Trustee McConnell has owned a trucking business for over three decades. D&B Wholesale Transportation transfers bio hazard and medical waste. It also moves heavy equipment.

“We love Ceres,” said McConnell, a founding father of the CUSD Foundation. “Our kids were raised here.”

A resident of Ceres for 35 years, Ruiz graduated from CHS in 1990.

She’s been a realtor in the Central Valley since 1996 and a member of South Modesto Business United for 13 years. She’s helped organize cultural events.

Ruiz and her husband Eduardo Canales have one son, Eduardo M. Canales, who is a sophomore at Ceres High School.

“I see a huge difference from 1990 to now,” observed Ruiz of CUSD’s growth over the years. “It amazes me how much resources the district offers to students, parents and staff.”

Returning to the board are Valli Wigt in Trustee Area 5 who defeated Mariah Jaquez by a margin of 56.11 percent to 43.89 percent; and Lourdes Perez in Trustee Area 5, a member since 2009. She was unopposed in the Nov. 8 election and was appointed.