EDITOR’S NOTE: Every election cycle in West Sacramento, the News-Ledger invites each candidate for a sit-down interview. The below interview was published in the News-Ledger edition of Sept. 26, 2012. In it, we talk to Coby Pizotti, a candidate for one of three available seats on the school board for Washington Unified School District. If you’re not already a News-Ledger subscriber, look for the special offer following the interview.
By Steve Marschke
Coby Pizotti is a relative newcomer to West Sacramento. He and his wife put roots down in the city’s Bridgeway Island area in 2009.
“My daughter was born in March,” Pizotti told the News-Ledger. “That’s actually the reason I decided to run for school board. I wanted to ensure that by the time she goes to public school – and she will go to public school – she will have a school system able to deliver a top-notch education.”
Pizotti, 41, is a lobbyist for the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians. A native of Castro Valley and Hayward, he attended Chico State before getting a degree in government from Sacramento State. He has worked for Democrats in the legislature (including Speakers Fabian Nunez and Herb Wesson) and for organized labor, including the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association.
“I believe that the school board should have an advocate who has relationships with members of the legislature,” he said. “That could benefit the board, to have direct access to some of the state’s politicians.”
Has Pizotti been involved in West Sacramento and the Washington Unified School Disrtict before becoming a candidate?
“I have friends at the West Sacramento Recreation Center,” he answered. “I’ve been brainstorming with the basketball coach at River City High to come up with some ideas on how to fundraise for the boys basketball team. I haven’t really had the opportunity to get as involved as I’d like. But I believe my experience will help the school district.”
Has he been observing board meetings?
“I’ve seen two of them in person and watched one or two on (cable) TV,” said Pizotti. “I think the (current) board is relatively functional in terms of the direction it’s going. They’ve laid down some strict guidelines on what they want to see, and that has resulted in the dramatic increases in the API scores (student test scores) in the past two years. That’s huge.”
What sort of financial shape is Washington Unified School District in?
“The district is in good shape because they’ve taken steps to ensure they have a surplus that’s essentially a rainy day fund,” he answered.
But if the governor’s Proposition 30 doesn’t pass in November, WUSD will – like other districts – have more financial problems. Pizotti urges a “yes” on 30 in November, and a “no” on Molly Munger’s Prop. 32.
Proposition 30 is Jerry Brown’s attempt to close the state budget shortfall, and includes some tax increases.
“For Prop. 30, I’ve helped raise $300,000,” said Pizotti. He was cautiously optimistic that it would pass.
Pizotti explained what he thought his job would be if elected:
“I believe a board member is responsible for setting policy and getting the schools going in the direction they would like to see. It’s the administrators and superintendent who implement those policies. The school board members are responsible, I believe, for listening to their constituents, hearing what students need to be successful, and reaching out to parents to get them more involved.”
“I believe test scores are on the rise,” Pizotti added. “I think the superintendent has done a good job implementing the programs that have increased the scores.”
But “you don’t get tested on vocational education, you don’t get tested on the arts.” So testing isn’t everything, he said.
Pizotti believes that sports helped “helped put me where I am today,” teaching him discipline and team play. And sports, like other extracurricular activities, are vital in the schools.
“Not everyone’s destined for college. We need to prepare students as best we can to find the jobs they want to find,” he said. “And if you have a child involved extracurricular anything, whether it’s debate, band, sports, or clubs, you’re going to have a child that has something to do and is learning a concept like teamwork and the importance of competition and discipline.”
Pizotti isn’t a fan of charter schools.
“In general, I don’t like charter schools,” he explained. “I will not work to eliminate the ones we have, and I will support the kids there. But I will not vote to approve new charter schools. Charter schools take away from the majority of kids at public schools.”
“You can’t run a school like you do a Walmart. While most (charter schools) are nonprofit, there’s a kind of model most charter schools go by, where they don’t have to uphold contracts with labor (unions) to uphold certain standards. And many times, students don’t get the (socioeconomic) diversity they need.”
If the district gets more funding, Pizotti would certainly like to support extracurricular activities and sports. What else?
“Next thing is to hire more guidance counselors,” he said. “Guidance counselors are an integral part of the educational system. Teachers can’t always know what’s going on in the student’s homes. Could it be that mom and dad work three jobs to put food on the table? Or mom and dad are absent? Guidance counselors are the right people to identify these problems.”
They’re also in a prime spot to interrupt bullying, said Pizotti.
If elected, he hopes to create an advisory panel at each school.
“They’d be comprised of staff, parents and teachers,” he said. “They’d report to me and discuss what they need to produce a better educational experience, and produce a happier learning environment for the child.”
And he would like to “work with the police department to create more patrols of our campuses.”
“If Prop. 30 does not pass, I would like to work with W.S.P.D. to create volunteer policing on our campuses – teach people how to report what they see as suspicious. Use retirees and stay-at-home parents.”
Pizotti believes this year’s school board campaign will be vigorously fought. With a fundraising target of $20,00 for his own campaign, he believes he’s a contender to win. He hasn’t got an endorsement from any current board members, but just announced the endorsement of Assemblyman Roger Dickinson.
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Copyright News-Ledger 2012