FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER NEWSPAPER — FEB 6, 2013 –
By Steve Marschke
What can Katherine Gales bring to the local school board?
“At the top of the list is research,” she answered. “That’s what I do first if I don’t know something. I’m going to learn about it, especially if I’m going to be held responsible for making a decision about it. I’ll take my experience and I might take other persons’ opinions, but I’m going to go to the Internet and I’m going to Google it, and I’m going to find out exactly what it is.”
Gales, 50, told the News-Ledger that doing the background work is a key part of a school board member’s job.
“It’s important for the school board member to understand what’s going on in that area, so they can make a decision,” she explained. “You have to be up on current events. . . and you can be affected by anything coming into the district. If I don’t know about a certain community, it’s my obligation to get a good understanding or recuse myself from decision-making in that area.”
Gales has been working for the state Department of Education since 1997. She is now an executive assistant at the downtown Sacramento office. She serves as a “branch level office manager,” she said.
Gales said that one reason she took the job was to figure out why different schools taught different ways – a realization that came from comparing her own education at an “old school” in the Monterey area to her daughter’s campuses in Natomas and New York.
Gales grew up in an Army family and moved around, but she went to high school in Monterey, at a campus with large classrooms that were well equipped for science, home economics and so forth.
“When (my daughter) got into junior high, it was different from what I experienced in junior high,” said Gales. “That made me get even more involved. . . In home economics, we had kitchens in our classrooms. . . I compared that to my daughter’s school (in Sacramento), and they had portables.”
Working into her adulthood, Gales earned a pair of degrees from the University of Phoenix.
“I have a bachelor’s in business management and a masters in management,” she reported.
She did not marry her daughter’s father, but both parents were involved in the now-grown daughter’s life. For the past three years, Gales has lived in West Sacramento with her daughter and her seven-year old grandson, who attends school in Washington Unified School District. Gales also has several nieces and nephews in town, also going to West Sacramento public schools.
She’s running against four other candidates for one available spot on the ballot for school board, in a special election March 5.
How does she think the current school board is doing?
“I’ve attended the local school board meetings since December,” Gales answered. “They seem to work fine. Over two or three meetings, I think they’re working through what they need to do. As far as what I saw, they’re doing pretty much what they need to do and what I would do. I don’t know what goes on in closed session.”
How good is the local district?
“They’re about as good as they can be at this time, but anything can be improved and be better. That’s what I can contribute.”
How well are the schools doing in standardized test scores?
“I know Bridgeway Island (Elementary School) did pretty good on the API and Southport was second,” she answered. “The others came behind them. Test scores are important, but I’m focused on what’s coming down the pipeline (from the state board of education).”
New curriculum standards and new tests are on their way, she said.
Fiscally, Gales thinks the district is in good shape.
And she said she would consider new charter schools on a “case by case” basis. What would it take for a new charter school to get her approval as a board member?
“You have to be productive, and you have to follow the requirements of the law, first and foremost,” said Gales.
She was asked what kinds of challenges she sees in WUSD’s future.
“I think the main thing sticking out in my mind is that it’s very important for them to be diverse in their workforce,” answered Gales. “All staff should closely mirror the national average. . . In West Sacramento, we may not have a really high level of ethnicity in one area or the other, but (students) should be exposed to at least the top three or four (ethnic groups) that most people are exposed to on a regular basis.”
“I don’t know that we have any African-American teachers.”
Gales also said she wants to see better conflict-resolution in local schools.
“When my daughter went to school in New York for a year, they had a program set up,” she explained. “It was called peer mock court or peer court, where the kids actually could go to court if they had a dispute or something. They could discuss the issue in front of a body of peers or administrators, to get to the core of a problem before a decision was made for discipline.”
“I don’t know if that’s even done here, but it doesn’t seem like they have any kind of structure set up to deal with discipline. A lot of times, it seems like it’s just decided by the principal and teacher – I’m not sure, I really can’t speak on it.”
Gales was attracted to run in this race because the timing was right to become active in the community, she said. She saw news about the special election on Mayor Cabaldon’s Facebook page. She hasn’t, though, obtained endorsements from him or any of the school board or city council members.
But, as she added by email after the interview:
“What I have received is support from friends and family including, but not limited to, friends in the Sikh community and my church at the Calvary Christian Center.”
Editor’s note: Five people are running for one vacant seat on the Washington Unified School District Board of Trustees. A winner will be chosen in a special, all-mail ballot in West Sacramento on March 5.
Katherine Gales, profiled above, is one of the five.
The News-Ledger newspaper is presenting an interview with each of these five candidates. The series will conclude in our print edition on Feb. 27.
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Copyright News-Ledger 2013