Five compete for open seat

NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 9, 2013 —

Former board member David Westin and temporary member Elizabeth Bagdazian are not among the candidates —

LINH NGUYEN: business owner from Southport seeks a seat on the Washington Unified School District board of trustees (courtesy photo)

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

Five candidates have signed up for West Sacramento’s special school board election on March 5.  The all-mail ballot will ask voters to pick one person to fill the remaining term – almost two years – of former board member Sandra Vargas.

  Vargas resigned in the fall. Her remaining colleagues appointed Elizabeth Bagdazian to fill the slot, but a group of citizens successfully petitioned to overturn that appointment and force the special vote.

Neither Bagdazian nor David Westin, a former school board member narrowly voted out of office in November, are running for the vacancy.

The News-Ledger this week caught up with several of the candidates.

NICHOLAS TURNEY: former college instructor, now a parent & homemaker, is running for a school board seat in West Sacramento (courtesy photo)

The five candidates are:

Nicholas Scott Turney, a self-described parent/homemaker who lives on Watercourse Lane in northern West Sacramento.

Katherine R. Gales, reported as an “education executive assistant” and who lives on Touchstone Place in Southport.

Linh T. Nguyen, who lists himself as a business owner who lives on Huntington Road in Southport.

Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez, self-described as a parent-teacher and who hasn’t listed a street address. Her Facebook page indicates she works as a teacher in Folsom Cordova Unified School District.

Francisco Castillo, who lists himself as a parent/education advocate and who lives on Ryer Island Street in Southport.

Nicholas Turney, 33, told the News-Ledger he believes that Washington Unified School District “could use a voice more representative of the north area.”

“I’m a former college instructor and I took a leave from teaching to raise our children, so I understand the benefits of having a solid education as a basis for success in the future,” he said. “I’m not affiliated with any board members or civic leaders – I’m a totally independent candidate.”

Turney said he has a kindergarten-age daughter and a son who’s still a toddler.

KATHERINE GALES: works for state education departments, wants to give public service back (courtesy photo)

Katherine Gales, 49, said she has a grandson, two nieces and a nephew of school age.

“I’m running because I have experience and understand education and I’ve been around the block,” she said. “I think everybody should be involved (in public service) at some point in their life doing what they can do. I bring my experience, knowledge and expertise in education to the West Sacramento public schools.”

Gales said she has worked for the state education department for 14 years, and has lived in the city for three. Although she responded to a call for candidates made on Mayor Christopher Cabaldon’s Facebook page, Gales said she has not received the mayor’s endorsement or other political endorsements at this point.

Francisco Castillo, 32, said he was motivated to get involved partly by the experience of having to spend the night in front of Bridgeway Island Elementary School in order to get his child a slot in the kindergarten there.

“I work in a national educational advocacy group called StudentsFirst,” he told the News-Ledger. “I’ve been in West Sacramento about five years.”

His focus includes ensuring preschool access for all children, promoting college and career preparation, and ensuring fiscal responsibility in the district.

FRANCISCO CASTILLO: Professional education advocate, endorsed by mayor & county supervisor (courtesy photo)

“I’m happy to have the endorsements of (new board member) Katie Villegas, Mayor Cabaldon, (Yolo County Supervisor Michael) McGowan, and city councilmen Oscar Villegas and Christ Ledesma,” said Castillo.

Nguyen and Kirby-Gonzalez couldn’t immediately be reached for comment – but the News-Ledger plans to invite all candidates for an in-depth interview before the election.

The website of the local teachers’ union, the Washington Teachers Association, reports that the union has endorsed Kirby-Gonzalez, the teacher.

A sixth candidate filed to run in this race, but withdrew. That was Coby Pizotti, who ran unsuccessfully for one of the seats available in the regular election in November.

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