Category Archives: News
Mediation Battle Continues
By Michele Townsend
The negotiation battle between West Sacramento’s Teachers and Washington Unified School District (WUSD) continues after yet another bargaining meeting has come and gone, and still no settlement has been made. Public schools are funded by the government through federal, state, and local taxes, and most are part of a larger school system. Elected school board members and education officials implement and oversee strict rules and procedures that public schools must follow. These rules and procedures not only include what needs to be done, but also how things will be done, and by whom. Salary negotiations are no exception. The negotiation/mediation process occurs in steps of give and take (you hope!), until a settlement is made. Each step in the process has strict guidelines on what is and isn’t allowed to take place and the deadline in which that step must be completed by. The current negotiations began in May 2015. They begin when both parties (WUSD and Washington Teacher’s Association , or WTA) bargaining teams sit at the table together to understand each parties’ interests. When satisfaction between the two parties cannot be reached, a third party, or Mediator, is assigned to the negotiations. The impartial mediator listens to both sides and tries to come up with a satisfactory compromise. If no resolution is obtained by the mediator the mediator then brings in a Fact Finder. A Fact Finder is now in charge of the official panel. Once a Fact Finder is assigned, the parties do not sit together to negotiate. The Fact Finder meets with a mediator representing each team. to gather all information from both sides. The fact finding meeting was held on Thursday, August 25th. The mediator reportedly spent a considerable amount of time with both parties. All were optimistic, but again no settlement was reached. When a settlement is still not reached through mediation, the next step is “Fact finding”. A fact finder is appointed and agreed upon by both parties as a neutral person to listen and mediate between parties. Both parties have a mediator that works with the appointed fact finder. This is the step that the bargaining process is currently at.
On August 30th, 2016 the fact finding meeting was held. After 11 grueling hours the fact finding was unsuccessful. Don Stauffer, President of WTA, posted on WTA’s Facebook page “Technically, we are still in bargaining, and can continue to meet with the District. Currently, however, there are no further bargaining sessions scheduled”. Since the negotiations are still legally under fact finder control, all parties are “very harshly instructed” not to speak about ANY details regarding the negotiations. The one thing that all parties agree on, is that they are frustrated and exhausted. It seems they all felt “it was very close, but just couldn’t quite get there”. Both the WTA and the WUSD are providing as much information as possible to the public, and both have a lot of information on their websites.
As we saw at the multiple school board meetings where there were so many people in attendance that the room could barely fit everyone, as well as the protest held last Monday at River City High School by students and parents, this is not just any old dispute. We’re talking about our teachers. These are the people that not only provide our children’s academic instruction, but help our kids grow emotionally and socially as well. Many of them commute for miles, knowing that they could make more money somewhere else, but staying here because they love our kids, our town, and our district. They love our diversity, and enjoy seeing our children thrive. Many of them have been here through all of the growth and changes that have occurred in the last decade. They have gone through the training of new curriculum, and then again when additional new curriculum was adopted. Some of them were even our teachers, and now they are teaching our children. It is for these reasons, and so many more, that this topic has our community up in arms. We ALL support our teachers. This does, in fact, include the district and the board members.
In addition to the 150 students and adults that attended the protest that was held in front of RCHS, there are a number of parents that feel they can’t just sit around and wait. They want to make sure that the school board and the administration know how strongly they feel about the support for their teachers. As reported last week in the West Sacramento News Ledger, a group of parents held a meeting outside of school to plan a district wide “sit out” for Sept. 6th. the idea now, is to get the administrations attention about how strongly the community feels about taking care of the teachers that take care of us! What WUSD would like to explain is that the administration is not involved any decisions at this point, as the official panel has full control now. In addition, WUSD hears and knows the concern of teachers every day, and their “attention” will have no baring on the outcome. The school district and yes, the teachers, cannot stress enough that though they appreciate the passion and conviction, they feel that a sit out is the wrong way to show support. Parent Daisy Po’oi has created a Facebook page at Parentssupport#WTA. She is posting information about the negotiations, discussions, and has posted a draft letter of support that can be sent to the Board of Education. She said “The page will evolve and include more as the situation progresses and the community comes together”. There has been some negative feedback as well. Many parents are concerned that this topic is taking up class time and that it is not appropriate conversation for school. It is, in fact, talked about at schools, but that is because school is the common ground. But rest assured, it is not likely to be the staff that brought it up, nor are they allowing it to be disruptive. In fact, Education Code prohibits it. Both the teachers, and the children that I spoke to assured me that this is not, in fact, a classroom topic. The older kids who understand what is going on want to show their support and opinion. So far, they have all done it respectfully and appropriately. As for the younger kids, they may not understand the topic, but they may have heard people mention that we need to stick up for their teachers. Chances are, they are just trying to do that, and it doesn’t matter why.
It’s not just the parents that want to know what’s going on, however. School board member Coby Pizzotti has stated that he not only welcomes, but encourages, all community members, students and parents that want to show support, or speak to him regarding this topic, to please contact him. He would like to hear what everyone has to say between now and September 26.. Mr Pizzotti has stated that he can be reached by email; email@example.com, cell phone, West Sacramento community discussion board, community forum, private message on Facebook, or by letter. He also stressed that he will do his VERY BEST to answer every correspondence that he receives as quickly as possible. He really does want the community’s input so that he can present it to the board prior to the release of the fact finding report on September 26 by the neutral member of the fact finding panel.
For more information and clarification regarding the negotiations visit WTA’s facebook at https://www.facebook.com/wtateachers/?fref=ts or WUSD’s website at http://www.wusd.k12.ca.us/Departments/Communication http://www.wusd.k12.ca.us/Departments/Communication—Community-Outreach/Negotiations-Updates/index.html. You may also call WUSD Human Recourses Dept. at (916)375-7600, ext. 1046.
Free sailboat rides day on Lake Washington
By Steve Liddick
Sailing requires wind, doesn’t it? But 40-knot gusts were a little too much for those who turned out for the Lake Washington Sailing Club’s annual “Free Sailboat Rides Day. Still, a respectable crowd gathered to look at boats owned by the club and those stored at the site by members—and in the hope of diminished winds to allow them to get out on the water. A few brave souls did get to take a spin around the lake in one of the larger, heavier boats.
The LWSC has been in operation since 1933 and holds the event to attract the general public and encourage new memberships. “It’s an opportunity for the public to enjoy sailing,” club Commodore Tom Heavey said. “Members don’t even have to own a boat.”
Indeed, the club just bought eight Sunfish sailboats which they rent to members for just five dollars a day. Several Laser sailboats have also been purchased and are expected to also eventually be put into rental service.
Before the novice sailors get to take their first solo run, they have to go through a training period. “It’s an extensive course,” Heavey said. “They have to learn sailing, rigging, and how to safely utilize the equipment.” Part of the training includes purposely flipping the boat over in the water and righting it again. Scary to think about, but not difficult to do.
The club also encourages young people to get into sailing and sponsors high school students from Davis, Rio Americano and Jesuit. “The students train together and then they compete against each other,” Heavey said.
Not all club activities involved sailing and the general public is invited to most of them: A monthly Sunday barbecue and the annual Delta Ditch Run, a regatta in early August that that takes about six hours to get from Rio Vista to the club’s Lake Washington location. There is a fee to participate and the racers enjoy a barbecue at the end of the trip.
In November there is the annual “Turkey Shoot.” No, turkeys are not shot, it is a sailing race. Winners get . . . you guessed it . . . turkeys.
A booth was set up at the event to explain the club’s functions and attractions and to hand out membership applications. Organizers say they typically get about a dozen new members at the annual gathering.
The annual membership fee is $140 (pro-rated on a monthly basis), plus a $50 initiation fee and a $25 key deposit. West Sacramento residents get a discount. A single parking sticker is included.
Membership also requires 12 hours of volunteer work, which could include building and boat maintenance, running a membership booth, working a barbecue event, and many other activities.
For more information and directions, check the Lake Washington Sailing Club’s website at www.LWSailing.org.
Straight Out of Broderick
By Michele Townsend
Can you imagine living in the town that you grew up in, and as an adult, seeing your former schoolmates being a large part of the local homeless community? As a long time local, you know that many of them are in the situation that they are in due to a death in the family, or a house fire, or some other tragedy that changed lives so drastically that your friends are now in this brutal and challenging way of living. You see other members of the community look down on your friends, and judge them. You see your friends struggle with virtually every aspect of life. Simple needs, such as using the restroom, become an ordeal because other people seem to be afraid. Anita Drake grew up in Broderick, and that is exactly where she finds herself. She has former schoolmates, and long time friends, that are in just these situations. The difference between her, and many of us, is that she decided to do something about it. Anita doesn’t run a shelter, or have large amounts of funding coming in to help her, but that hasn’t stopped her. For the last six months she, along with her friends and family, gather up everything that they can during the month so that on the last Sunday of the month she can hold a “Homeless feed”, which is now called Straight Out of Broderick. Anita leads her friends and family as they set up behind Walgreen’s on West Capitol Ave., and they hold a BBQ for our local homeless.
Anita has intentionally done this on Sunday’s, so that there are no conflicts with most of the surrounding businesses in that area. Her team hands out food, clothes, shoes and toiletries. Last month they even prepared a complete Easter dinner. Anita said “I have made a lot of new friends since I have been doing this. We get together, help each other out however we can. We eat together, have good company and pray together”. She also said that on Easter a homeless gentleman came up to her and said “I’ve been waiting for you all day.” When she asked him why he told her that he wanted to give her his last five dollars to help out. She told him “Sir, I don’t want your last five dollars. I am trying to help YOU. When is the last time that you had mashed potatoes and gravy? When is the last time that you had ice cream, or pie? Keep your money sir, and enjoy your meal.” She then gave him a pair of socks. It was then that the gentleman sat down with such appreciation, that they both got teary eyed.
Anita was recently contacted by the City of West Sacramento, and told that she could no longer hold her feed at that location, but that she could move it to 500 Jefferson Blvd. She can use the parking lot of the welfare office. It sounds like things are coming together. However Anita is concerned that those people with carts, as well as those people that have difficulties walking, will have problems getting to the new location. In addition, she is unsure of how she will notify them. This month, her meal will not be on the last Sunday of the month however. The meal in April will be held on Sunday, April 24th, at 12 noon.
If you would like to make a donation to Anita, and her cause you may call her at 798-5603. You can also follow her on Straight Out of Broderick, on Facebook. She accepts donations of food, money, clothes, shoes, socks, towels, and toiletries. Five pairs of socks from the dollar store go a long way! If you have any questions, or would like to help out, give Anita a call. You have the power to put a big smile on somebody’s face.
March Drought Spotlight Honoree – Diane in Southport
By the city of West Sacramento
While running through the neighborhoods of West Sacramento, Diane loved how much color and variety she saw in other people’s front yards. These landscapes seemed like inviting places to relax. Her lawn, however, was just a place to walk by. On a winter day in the second year of the drought, she and her spouse decided to replace their grass and dead tree with a real sitting area, full of colorful plants that would provide variety all year round. Not only is their new front yard beautiful, it requires very little water. In fact, their water usage has been cut by more than half.
Diane used Next Door to inform the city about her drought tolerant yard. If you would like to nominate your yard, or someone else’s, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 617-5025. You can also use Next Door to make a nomination, as well as stay informed about neighborhood events. Visit nextdoor.com to get started.
To learn how you can make the change with your landscape, visit these sites:
Save Our Water – Landscaping 101
Be Water Smart – Top Ways to Save
EcoLandscape California – Design Plans for The New California Landscape
Beyond the Drought – Smart Irrigation Scheduler
West Sacramento Prepares for Storms, Possible Flooding
A flood watch has been issued for Yolo County and surrounding communities in anticipation of heavy rains over the next several days. The National Weather Service says excessive rainfall on already saturated soils and swollen rivers will likely result in some minor flooding through Sunday.
The City of West Sacramento and the Yolo County Office of Emergency Services are working together to monitor the situation and provide helpful information to the public.
Residents are urged to take caution around rising rivers and streams. Motorists are advised to avoid flooded streets and to be on the lookout for debris on the roads resulting from strong winds and runoff.
The West Sacramento Fire Department’s Office of Emergency Services will be providing continuous monitoring of the weather and river levels; and general situation status.
Public Works has increased staff levels to handle any storm related issues, including downed trees and detours around flooded streets.
Sandbags are being made available for residents and businesses. See sandbag location map.
The West Sacramento Police Department has conducted patrols along the river to inform the public of potential river levels rising.
The Reclamation Districts are monitoring levee conditions, and during periods of heavy rain checking the function of the internal drainage system 24 hours a day.
What can you do?
Register with Yolo Alert to receive messages about important public safety information.
Keep your cell phones charged.
Have a flashlight and batteries in case the power goes out.
Have an emergency kit at home and in your car.
For information regarding current river levels, please visit the California Data Exchange Center.
National Weather Service Forecast
National Weather Service YouTube Channel
City of West Sacramento Website
Yolo County Office of Emergency Services
West Sac Flood Protect
West Sac schools celebrated Read Across America Day
By George Kazanis
Special to the Ledger
On March 2, schools throughout the Washington Unified School District participated in the National Education Association’s (NEA) Read Across America Day—a year-round literacy project that encourages readers, both young and old, to experience the joys of reading while celebrating Dr. Seuss’s birthday. It is estimated that more than 45 million readers nationwide participated in reading events this year. The goal is to remind parents of the crucial role they play in their children’s education because it’s a fact: Children who read frequently are better readers and better students.
Right here in West Sacramento, thousands of children were getting into the reading excitement, too. District Superintendent, Linda C. Luna, joined third graders from Stonegate Elementary and first graders from Bridgeway Island Elementary for classroom read-ins featuring a Seuss classic, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”
Community members and other special guests visited classrooms throughout Washington Unified to show their support and encourage our youngest learners that reading is a fun activity that helps increase their vocabulary and improves their reading fluency and comprehension.
Floodplain experiment points to water policy solutions to support both salmon recovery and agriculture
UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, the California Department of Water Resources and non-profit organization California Trout have launched an expanded experiment to better understand how the Sacramento River system can support healthy salmon populations.
For the first time this year, the agricultural floodplain habitat experiment will compare food web productivity and fish growth in three different kinds of river habitat. For the course of the experiment, a group of juvenile Chinook salmon will be held in underwater pens on flooded rice fields, as in years past; a second group will be held in pens floating in an agricultural canal; and a third group will be held in floating pens nearby in the Sacramento River. The experiment began on February 19 and the fish will be released after approximately four weeks.
Born in the gravels of mountain streams, Central Valley salmon migrate to the ocean where they grow for 1-3 years before returning to rivers to spawn. Juvenile fish that are larger and healthier when they enter the ocean have better odds of returning as adults.
“Floodplain habitats are essentially a bug buffet for small fish,” said Jacob Katz, PhD, Central California Director for California Trout. “Our previous results have shown that the food-rich floodplains appear to act as an important pit stop for juvenile fish, where they can fuel up on their downstream journey to the sea.”
Unfortunately for hungry salmon, more than 95 percent of natural floodplain wetlands have been eliminated by the development of the Central Valley for farms and houses. In previous years, this experiment has shown that off-season agricultural fields can provide critical floodplain habitat for endangered fish.
“Fish have little opportunity to reap the benefits of floodplains because they are nearly all cut off from river channels,” said Louise Conrad, PhD, of the California Department of Water Resources. “The Yolo Bypass is one of the last remaining active floodplain areas in the Central Valley. Enhancing the opportunity for salmon to access and use its floodplain areas could make a huge difference for salmon while also helping to recharge groundwater and improve flood safety.”
For four consecutive winters, experiments conducted on rice fields at the Knaggs Ranch property on the Yolo Bypass documented the fastest growth of juvenile Chinook salmon ever recorded in the Central Valley. These results suggest that through better planning and engineering, farm fields that produce agricultural crops in summer could also produce food and habitat for fish and wildlife during winter when crops are not grown.
“At this point, we feel confident that giving native fish access to the food-rich environment of the floodplain will play a critical role in recovering imperiled salmon,” said Carson Jeffres, field and lab director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences. “Now we are interested in how food made on the floodplain can benefit the entire river and Delta.”
The experiment suggests that floodplains on farmland can also be thought of as “surrogate wetlands” that can be managed to mimic the Sacramento River system’s natural annual flooding cycle, which native fish species evolved to depend upon. Agricultural run-off water is used to flood the fields for the duration of the experiment. This recycled water fuels the floodplain food web before being flushed back into the Delta ecosystem through agricultural canals, adding to the food supply for all fish living in the system. No new water is used to conduct the experiment.
This natural process of slowing down and spreading out shallow water across the floodplain creates the conditions that lead to an abundant food web. Sunlight falling on water makes algae, algae feeds bugs, and bugs feed native fish and birds. In contrast, very little food to support aquatic life is produced when rivers are narrowly confined between levees.
“California’s water supply for both people and fish will be more secure when our water policy works with natural processes, instead of against them,” noted Dr. Katz. “This work leverages ecology as technology and points us toward efficient and cost effective real-world water solutions that support both fish and farms.”
Members of the media are invited to visit the experiment site at Knaggs Ranch on the Yolo Bypass near Sacramento between now and approximately March 15th, when the fish will be released to continue their journey to the ocean. The site is also open for tours on Wednesday afternoons throughout the course of the experiment. To make arrangements for a media tour, contact Nina Erlich-Williams at email@example.com or by phone 510-336-9566 or 415-577-1153.