FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — OCT 3, 2012 –
Editor’s Note: each local election cycle, the News-Ledger invites all candidates for West Sacramento local office to meet us for a published interview. Those interviews are seen first by News-Ledger subscribers. We’re pleased to offer our Oct. 3 interview with Walt Bowman below. He’s running for one of three available seats on the Washington Unified School District school board.
By Steve Marschke, News-Ledger Editor
Walt Bowman is a 71-year old retired truck driver who lives with his wife in the West Capitol Avenue area of West Sacramento. This November, for the second time, he will be trying to earn a spot on the Washington Unified School District Board of Trustees.
What’s driving him?
“I want to get one person off the board,” he mentioned. “I’m not going to name any names. I want to put new faces on the board. I’d like to see three new faces this time around – whether it’s me or not doesn’t matter.”
Bowman is one of a handful of challengers joining incumbents David Westin and Mary Leland in pursuing three available seats on the school board. His own two kids are grown, but he became angry when the board made moves to close the charter school that two of his granddaughters were attending. That school, the West Sacramento Early College Prep Charter School, has been deemed to be underperforming.
“They wanted to close that school,” Bowman told the News-Ledger last week. That started me getting mad, and my daughter said, ‘instead of getting mad, why don’t you run?’”
“I like charter schools,” he added. “I’m for it. If I’m on the board, every time it comes up, I’m going to vote for it. They’re an alternative education – some kids don’t fit in well at the regular schools, for one reason or another.”
Bowman has another grandchild at Stonegate Elementary. He has lived in New Mexico and in the Bay Area, and he spent a year at Chabot College in Hayward before his career in long-haul and local trucking.
How does he think the current board is doing – aside from the charter school issue?
“Overall, they might be doing OK,” Bowman allowed.
How about the district’s finances in this era of state-budget cuts?
“I feel they have the money,” said Bowman. “Like everybody else, they say ‘oh, we don’t have the money.’ But if they don’t have the money, how are they paying the teachers?”
Student test scores have gone up in the past two years. Is that important?
“These people on the board now make a big deal of that,” he answered. “But they’re not in there taking that test. They’re not in the classrooms teaching. Yet they’re saying, ‘we got the test scores up.’ No, they didn’t.”
What does Bowman think of the quality of WUSD’s schools?
“They’re probably doing okay,” he answered, “but the schools on this side of the town (in the north) are kind of overlooked. I don’t think they give the schools on this side of town a fair shake.”
What big challenges does he see in the district?
“They say it’s money, but another thing is that there’s a high drop-out rate at the high school,” answered Bowman. “That’s going to be a big problem to fix. We should hire high-end mental health counselors and bring them in here. We can sit them down and get inside these kids’ heads and figure out what’s going on. They’re going to say it’s going to cost the district money. But, well. . . .”
Does Bowman have other ideas for improving the district?
“Probably some of these kids need a lot of help. Like counselors, or some kind of aides to help these kids.”
“If politicians would keep their noses out of it, and let the schools teach, the students would be better off.”
West Sacramento voters elect their school board (and their city council) “at large,” meaning there is one group of candidates voted on by people from every neighborhood. Bowman would like to see future school board voting done by districts, to help the northern part of town get more consistent representation.
“If we go by district, everyone will have a fair chance,” he explained. “You’re going to have a mix of people from Bryte, Broderick, (the central business district) and so on. You’d get a cross-section of people on there. Things would get done.”
What will Bowman do if elected?
“If I get in there, I will try to get the buses back,” he responded. The district – reacting to budget cuts – has cut a lot of its school bus service recently.
Bowman said he will not be spending a lot on his campaign, because “I don’t like to go out and ask for money.”
“I’m not backed by anybody (on the board or city council) and I don’t belong to this group or that group. But I’m going to give it a shot.”
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Copyright News-Ledger 2012