FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — OCT 10, 2012 —
Editor’s note: This interview with school board candidate Roy Siañez comes from the Oct. 10 edition of the News-Ledger, West Sacramento’s weekly community newspaper. We hope these interviews help you make up your mind about the upcoming Nov. 6 ballot.
By Steve Marschke
Roy Siañez is a new resident of West Sacramento – his family closed escrow on a local house in February. But he wants to start serving this community. That’s why he is running for one of three seats available on the local school board on Nov. 6.
“I’m a parent,” he told the News-Ledger recently. “I understand the importance of a quality education for students and also the importance of parental involvement. I’m new to West Sacramento, but I’m not new to serving my community. . . I’m eager to bring that community activism to West Sacramento.”
Siañez, 39, is currently a policy director for Democrat Norma Torres in the State Assembly. He’s worked for other politicos on issues that span health, public safety, education, housing and other topics.
“As a legislative director, I advise her on every single issue,” he said.
Siañez does not have any kids in local schools – one daughter has graduated, and a second goes to school in another city.
He’s been active in a number of regional and state causes over the years, beginning with his own student college days.
“I was a member of the Latino Complete Count Committee, working to ensure the Latino community was counted appropriately for the 2010 census,” Siañez said. He’s also a former board member of the Oak Park Business Association. Another favorite cause is the Youth Leadership Project.
“I’ve served on that organization for nine years,” he told the News-Ledger. “Every year, we bring 120 high school students from across the state to this area in the summer. They stay in the Sacramento State University dorms for a week, at no cost to them. We pay for all their housing, registration and transportation.
Siañez believes in the value of education. He grew up in Modesto, raised by a single mother who worked in a factory.
“She spent most of her time working, so she wasn’t able to help me with school,” he reports. “I kind of strayed in school.”
He dropped out of school, then – on the advice of a friend – enrolled in a junior college without even knowing that it was customary to transfer after a couple of years to finish a college degree.
Financial aid and fee waivers made it possible for him to go to college:
“That started my journey into higher education,” Siañez said. “I transferred to Sacramento State years later. At the junior college level, that’s where I started developing as a person and educationally. That’s where I became involved in advocacy.”
The activism started in Latino clubs and with a run for student senate.
Then came an internship in the legislature and an ensuing career at the Capitol. He has landed near West Sacramento’s Bridgeway Lakes area.
How does he think the current school board is doing?
“I know there are several board members who have served long terms,” Siañez answered. “Longevity and continuity are generally good things.”
Test scores seem to be on the right path, he added.
“Whenever we have an increase in test scores, that’s a good thing. It means you’re doing something right. But if one school increased by ten points, and another only by five points, I want to know about that.”
What sort of financial shape is Washington Unified in?
“My understanding is that the Yolo County Office of Education has certified the school district’s budget, which is a positive thing,” said Siañez. “I would hope that could be the case for future years to come.”
“It’s a scary thought about what would happen if the governor’s initiative (Proposition 30) to increase revenue doesn’t pass. I definitely think we need to increase revenue given the economic climate.”
One of the reasons Siañez believes he would make a good school board member is his own Latino experience.
“41 percent of the students in the school district are Latino,” he said. “It begs the question – if you look at the school board, and look at the students, does the school board really reflect the students?”
Siañez believes that sports and extracurricular activities are crucial for some students.
“Frosh football was great for me, because it kept me out of trouble,” he recalls. “After the season ended, my idle time became a problem. . . (After dropping out), my motivation for trying to return to high school was to play football.”
He supports “any and all programs that can help our neediest students with some of the voids they bring, to attend school.”
How does Siañez feel about charter schools?
“Not all charter schools are equal, he replied. “You have to look at whether there’s a need, and if there is a need, explain it. If there’s a public school that’s been failing, consider it. It’s a case by case basis.”
What is it in his experience that would make Siañez a good board member?
“My public policy experience, my experience as a parent, and my experience as a product of the public educational system,” he answered.
“West Sacramento is my new home,” concluded Siañez. I’m involved, and I plan to be here a long time. I’m eager to get involved and make a difference – I don’t want to wait.”
Siañez, along with several other challengers and two incumbents, is seeking one of three seats on the school board this fall.
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Copyright News-Ledger 2012