Category Archives: News

Turney: communication is key

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER NEWSPAPER — Feb 20 & 27, 2013 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

NICHOLAS TURNEY: candidate in the special West Sacramento school board election on March 5 (News-Ledger photo)

NICHOLAS TURNEY: candidate in the special West Sacramento school board election on March 5 (News-Ledger photo)

“Better communication” is an important theme for Nicholas Turney, one of five candidates running in a special election March 5 to fill a vacant seat on West Sacramento’s school board.   So it gave Turney “renewed hope” when the current board recently announced that it would make better public communication a strategic priority for the district in 2013.

“They are looking at increasing their communication with the community,” Turney told the News-Ledger. “They want to work on community outreach and their social media usage, so that they can better communicate with West Sacramento – both with the people who have students in the district, and with the residents in general.”

“When I met with the superintendent a few weeks ago, I explained to him that this is something you cannot fall behind on,” added Turney. “We have moved into an era where everybody communicates through their computers or smartphones.”

For that reason, he argued, Washington Unified School District needs to let people register their kids for school online,  advertise campus events over the internet, and make technology more available in the classroom.

Turney also thinks that technology can help WUSD get its message out to West Sacramentans who don’t speak English.

“The way that translation software has come about, you can, with the click of a button, translate a web page from English to Russian, Spanish, Cantonese or whatever,” he said. “That’s another issue I brought up to the superintendent  and the district – we have a lot of people in West Sacramento for whom English is not their language. Having information accessible to them where they can push a button and read it in their own language is so much more helpful. It gets more parents involved.”

[adrotate group=”10″]  Turney said he has attended the past few local school board meetings, and believes the current board is “starting to come together.”

“They really made an effort to spend some time, work together, and come up with this document that has their (strategic) priorities on it,” he said.

Turney, 33, lives with his wife and two kids in the Rivers subdivision in West Sacramento’s north. He has a daughter in kindergarten, and a younger toddler “who is now taking up 95 percent of my time.” Turney is the current homemaker in his household.

The candidate grew up mostly in the East Bay, and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communications from Chico State University. He’s a former adjunct instructor of speech communications at Woodland Community College.

Turney’s interest in running for school board stemmed mostly from his experience when starting to enroll his daughter for kindergarten at Riverbank Elementary School in West Sacramento. After receiving “not the best first impression” of that school, he instead enrolled her in Davis.

“I had trouble getting information from (Washington Unified School District),” Turney recalled. “When I attended registration, and I was still a little uncertain about things. Then I attended the parents meeting the week before school started, and there was no discussion of curriculum.”

“There was a discussion of the social programs that are available to help the students in need,” he continued. “Granted, I am glad those programs are there, because there are a lot of students who need the help. At our neighborhood school (Riverbank), over 60 percent of the students need free or discounted meals. Over 50 percent are English language learners. They have a uniform closet for students who can’t afford to buy their own uniforms. All these things are great to have. . . but when I went to learn about the school, I wanted to learn about what the kids are going to learn at the school. I didn’t get that.”

His candidacy doesn’t have the backing of any local city officials or school board members, but Turney does have the endorsement of the Yolo County Republican chapter. That’s important, he said, because Republican values such as fiscal responsibility would be good for West Sacramento’s school board.

How good are the schools in Washington Unified School District?

“They’re improving,” answered Turney. “It’s a sign that things are potentially getting better. The test scores seem to fluctuate, going up and down, when you look at the data year by year. Overall, they’ve shown improvement over the past.”

The independent study high school just made the ‘800 Club’ (the group of campuses earning ‘800’ scores on the standardized student tests),” he added. “Big kudos to them, because these students are not in traditional schools, for a variety of reasons.”

But, added Turney, “I’ve never really been a fan of standardized testing. There’s no motivation for (students) to do well on the test – it doesn’t affect their grade, or whether they’re going to college. . . I think if they really wanted to judge how students are doing and how teachers are doing in the classroom, they need to look at it over time, and take a more qualitative approach, and talk to people.”

Charter schools can be a divisive issue: some people view them as legitimate alternatives to public schools, and others see them as competing with public campuses and taking resources from them.

“I’m more ‘case by case,’” said Turney. “Since charter schools tend to have more of an overall different theme – some focus heavily on the arts, some try to focus more on languages or whatever – it is going to be case-by-case. They still need to hold to the same standards.”

How does he characterize the fiscal situation of WUSD?

“It’s kind of hard to say, because there hasn’t been a lot of transparency in terms of the available numbers,” Turney answered. “From the comments that have been made by the district and the teachers’ association, it seems like they have been reserved when it comes to spending and cuts. But it’s hard to say what the actual numbers are.”

What does the “job description” of a school board member look like?

“Most importantly, they need to be able to be a communications liaison between the community and the district,” answered Turney. “They need to make sure that members of the community have their voices heard.”

“Additionally, I think a board member needs to function well as a team player,” he added. “If the board can’t work well together, the schools won’t benefit.”

  This concludes the News-Ledger’s interview series for the 2013 special election. You can find the News-Ledger’s interviews with the other four school board candidates (Francisco Castillo, Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez, Linh Nguyen and Katherine Gales) at this website.

  Basic election info:
  West Sacramento has a special all-mail election to fill one vacant seat on the school board of the Washington Unified School District. The election date is Tuesday, March 5. As an alternative to mailing your ballot, you may drop it off on the main floor of city hall, 1110 West Capitol Avenue, during business hours up to election day. For more information, call the elections department, 1-800-649-9943.

  Do you like what you see here?

  You can support local journalism, support this website, and see all the News-Ledger’s articles every week! Subscribe to the News-Ledge newspaper. It’s only $20 per year within West Sacramento – once a week, delivered to your mailbox.

  You can even try it for free for two months if you live in West Sacramento. Just send your name and mailing address to FreeTrial@news-ledger.com (offer open to new subscribers in West Sacramento ZIP codes 95691 & 95605).

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

 

Join the West Sac Singers

The West Sacramento Singers in a holiday concert inside the Southport Nugget market in December (News-Ledger photo)

The West Sacramento Singers in a holiday concert inside the Southport Nugget market in December (News-Ledger photo)

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER —

Take your vocals out of the shower.

Anyone 18 & up is invited to join the West Sacramento Community Singers, in their third year of entertaining at local events. Especially needed are altos, baritones & tenors, but all are welcome. Rehearsals begin March 3. Go to http://www.meetup.com/West-Sacramento-Community-Singers/ or call 916-376-0756.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

WSPD officer arrested & booked

NEWS-LEDGER ONLINE — FEB 25, 2013 —

The West Sacramento Police Department has announced the arrest of one of its officers on sexual assault and kidnapping charges.

SERGIO ALVAREZ, accused West Sacramento Police Officer (booking photo, Yolo County Jail)

SERGIO ALVAREZ, accused West Sacramento Police Officer (booking photo, Yolo County Jail)

The alleged crimes are believed to have occurred while Sergio Alvarez was performing duties on patrol. Trouble was discovered on September 24, 2012.

“Information regarding possible criminal conduct by Alvarez came to the attention of the West Sacramento Police Department as the result of a routine field contact by a uniformed patrol officer,” said Lieutenant Tod Sockman of the West Sacramento Police department in a press release. “Alvarez was immediately placed on administrative leave and a criminal investigation was initiated.”

Sacramento police were asked to help investigate.

“The investigation identified six female victims ranging in age from 20 to 47 years old,” Sockman continued. “All of the victims frequented the West Capitol area. Alvarez used his position as a police officer to stop and assault the victims.”

[adrotate group=”7″] Results of the investigation were forwarded to the Yolo County District Attorney’s office, and the Grand Jury issued an indictment. Alvarez “has been served with termination paperwork” and is now in custody in Yolo County Jail, reported Sockman.

Bail was set at $26.3 million, Sockman added at a later press conference.

A tip line for further information from the public has been created. If you believe you may have information, call (916) 617-4775.

(More information on this story will be in the News-Ledger’s Feb. 27 print edition.)

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Cruise aboard the Sea Scout cutter

Former U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Morris, now the flagship vessel of the West Sacramento-area Sea Scouts (courtesy of the Sea Scouts)

Former U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Morris, now the flagship vessel of the West Sacramento-area Sea Scouts (courtesy of the Sea Scouts)

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER —

A pair of brunch cruises aboard the former Coast Guard Cutter Morris will serve as a fundraiser for the Delta Youth Maritime Association.

The brunch cruises will be held Feb. 24 & 25, and a dinner cruise is offered on the 23rd. Donation: $75 for brunch or $125 for dinner, tax-deductible. Email sssneptune@gmail.com or call 775-3732.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Car thief takes the bait

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — FEB 20, 2013 —

News-Ledger Staff

The bait this time was a Cadillac Escalade. A thief took the bait in West Sacramento last Tuesday, Feb. 12.

According to police reports and information from West Sacramento Police Department Lieutenant Tod Sockman, local police and the CHP left the specially-equipped Escalade alone at the corner of Westacre Road and Merkley Avenue for some time.

Then they waited to see what happened.

The “bait car’s” sensors tripped on the night of Feb. 12.

At 8:52 p.m., a signal from the car reported it was on the move. Police responded.

“Officers got directly behind the moving vehicle,” said a police report. Then, using a remote control, they “locked the doors and deactivated the engine. A felony vehicle stop was performed by marked police units.”

[adrotate group=”9″]  With officers at the ready, the Escalade’s unauthorized driver was then called out near West Capitol Avenue and Jefferson Boulevard. But the suspected thief made a break for it, “bailing on foot” until pursuing officers took him into custody just south of the vehicle stop.

Into jail for allegedly trying to steal the “bait” car went Jason Daniel Moore, a 29-year old resident of Hobson Avenue.

The News-Ledger asked Lt. Sockman if the “bait cars” were left unlocked or with the keys inside.  He said methods vary from case to case, but the keys weren’t left in this Escalade.

“In general, they have to work for it,” he added.

  Do you like what you see here?

  You can support local journalism, support this website, and see all the News-Ledger’s articles every week! Subscribe to the News-Ledge newspaper. It’s only $20 per year within West Sacramento – once a week, delivered to your mailbox.

  You can even try it for free for two months if you live in West Sacramento. Just send your name and mailing address to FreeTrial@news-ledger.com (offer open to new subscribers in West Sacramento ZIP codes 95691 & 95605).

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Castillo wants to be ‘parent advocate’

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

FRANCISCO CASTILLO: one of five West Sacramentans running for school board in the special election of March 5 (News-Ledger photo)

FRANCISCO CASTILLO: one of five West Sacramentans running for school board in the special election of March 5 (News-Ledger photo)

“I’m a parent advocate,” sums up 32-year old Francisco Castillo of Southport, who is one of five people running for a vacant seat on West Sacramento’s school board.

Castillo said that what originally drew him into the school board race was his family’s need to camp at night outside their local campus, Bridgeway Island Elementary School, in order to secure a spot in that school’s kindergarten program for one of their two young children.

“We got there at 2 a.m.,” he recalls. “I said, ‘Wow, something needs to be done about this.’ Not that I had a solution. . . but that sparked an interest in my getting more involved with my son’s education.”

Because both Castillo and his wife were working parents, they needed to ensure their older child got a place in the morning session at that campus, and there weren’t enough slots to meet the need. Thus the all-nighter.

Castillo came to San Francisco from Nicaragua when he was five, and was raised by a single mother from about the age of eight. She was not comfortable getting involved in her son’s American schooling.

“She avoided attending parent conferences, not because she didn’t want to go, but she didn’t have the information and access,” he told the News-Ledger. “She spoke Spanish.”

Now, he considers parental involvement to be one of the “pillars” of his education platform.

“What are the resources we can give parents to tell them ‘your child’s education is important, your involvement is urgent?” he asked rhetorically.

[adrotate group=”7″] “There are even businesses in West Sacramento and outside West Sacramento that can provide some of the resources that help support parental engagement.”

Those “engagement” tools could include the use of technology, he said.

“There are different ways to get parents involved and we need to think outside the box.”

Castillo also wants to expand Washington Unified School District’s preschool programs.

“There’s a lot of research that says that. . . in the long run, it will help them academically,” Castillo commented.

His third “pillar” is college preparation and career education.

“The numbers are pretty evident,” he reported. “Only eight students of our high school seniors last year are considered college-ready . . (The others) need to take remedial classes because they’re not college-ready.”

Castillo said he was referring to California State University tests provided to college-bound kids at River City High.

He sees a lot of potential value from creating new and better partnerships between the school district and the City of West Sacramento, along with making deals with business partners in the region and beyond.

“How do we partner with Silicon Valley and bring some of those resources to West Sacramento?” asked Castillo. “I don’t think we’re thinking on that level. We think of West Sacramento as just the city of West Sac. We need to go outside the city. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, there are programs already out there.”

Castillo’s “day job” is actually in the field of education advocacy. He works as deputy national press secretary for StudentsFirst, a nonprofit that “helps pass policies that put the interests of students first. . . in working with state legislators.”

The organization tries to “elevate the teaching profession,” “empower parents through information and choice,” and create “fiscal transparency and responsibility,” he said.

Does providing parents with “choice” mean advocating charter schools?

Speaking for himself, Castillo replied that “I support providing parents with excellent educational options, whether that’s public charter school or traditional public school. A lot of parents in West Sacramento (currently) send their kids over to Clarksburg, to the charter school there.”

He believes that charter schools are an option – but they need to be held accountable, and even shut down if they don’t perform.

How about providing school vouchers, so parents can easier send their children to private schools?

“I’m still kind of thinking about that one,” Castillo answered. “There’s a lot of research that shows that low-income families benefit from vouchers.”

The candidate said he perceived Washington Unified’s school board – before the November election – to have been somewhat “polarized,” but he believes that with new members on board, it has made a lot of progress in the past few months.

He likes the can-do spirit of the City of West Sacramento, and hopes the school district can repair some relationships with the city and enjoy the fruits of a better partnership. As a former staff member of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, he saw some of that happen in the City by the Bay.

“When I was working for him, he appointed the first-ever liaison to the school board. . . It made sense, because the city was providing resources to the school district, and the district was able to work with the city to get a lot of things done. We all know there’s been some tension (in West Sacramento) between the city and the school board.”

Castillo and his family have been in West Sacramento for about five years, he reports. In addition to working for Mayor Newsom, his resume includes service on San Francisco’s youth commission, and working at a teen center and for several nonprofits. He attended San Francisco public schools, earning a political science degree from San Francisco State.

What does he see as the job duties of a school board member in WUSD?

“A school board member is someone who can help craft a strategic vision for the district,” said Castillo. “A school board member can’t do anything alone,” but requires the ability to be part of a team, he added.

“The school board gives the superintendent a clear vision and clear direction about where we need to go. . . it’s not about micromanaging.”

He was asked whether the district’s schools could be called “excellent,” “good,” “fair” or “poor.”

“I think the district is ‘good,’” he responded. “We can strive for excellence. We can get to that same path the city is taking as far as being an excellent city.”

How is the district doing in student test scores, and how much does that matter?

“Bridgeway Island is excellent – their API is around 780, it’s doing great,” he answered. “It’s not the only thing that measures (performance). “I think (the district) is doing fairly well, and improving every year. The north part of the West Sacramento is where the schools are struggling a little more.”

Castillo said there’s a perception – with some validity – that there is a difference between how the “north” and “south” are handled in WUSD.

“It seems like we don’t pay much attention to the north area of West Sacramento,” he said. “Because (Southport) is a newer area, it tends to get more of the resources.”

It’s important to put the resources where they’re needed, wherever that may be, he added.

“I think there’s a sense of the ‘South of West Sacramento’ and the ‘North of West Sacramento.’ How about ‘all of West Sacramento’?”

Castillo believes the district is in pretty good financial shape.

“I have to give ‘props’ to the superintendent, his staff and even the board,” he commented about their money-handling. And the passage of state Proposition 30 will bring a “surge of money” to the district following several years of cost-cutting.

Where should the money go?

“One idea would be having it go to the classroom. . . but it’s the kind of vision we have to decide as a school board, with the input of the superintendent,” he answered. There might be “holes to fill,” he said, like restoring school bus routes cut during the economic hard times.

Castillo reports that he has been endorsed by West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, by Mayor pro tem Oscar Villegas, school board president Mary Leland and vice president Katie Villegas, by county supervisors Mike McGowan and Matt Rexroad, and by Laborers Local 185, among others.

He invites interested people to contact him – and provide suggestions – by phoning (916) 668-9659, emailing castilloforwestsac@gmail.com, or visiting www.castilloforkids.com.

“I don’t have all the answers,” Castillo commented. “Some of the best solutions come from the community.”

  Editor’s note: This interview is the fourth in a series. Each of the five people running for a seat on the Washington Unified School District has been invited to talk to the News-Ledger about the issues. The final interview will appear in print on Feb. 20.

  The ballot will be an all-mail ballot, with votes due by March 5. Ballots may be dropped off at a location on the first floor of city hall, 1110 West Capitol Avenue.  

  Do you like what you see here?

  You can support local journalism, support this website, and see all the News-Ledger’s articles every week! Subscribe to the News-Ledge newspaper. It’s only $20 per year within West Sacramento – once a week, delivered to your mailbox.

  You can even try it for free for two months if you live in West Sacramento. Just send your name and mailing address to FreeTrial@news-ledger.com (offer open to new subscribers in West Sacramento ZIP codes 95691 & 95605).

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Register for kindergarten Saturday

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER —

West Sacramento’s local elementary schools will accept registration for kindergarten and transitional kindergarten students on Sat., Feb. 23, from 9 a.m. to noon. Bring your child’s birth certificate, social security card, immunization records, proof of physical (dated after Aug., 2012, for kindergarten students) and a copy of your PG&E bill for address verification, to your local campus. For kindergarten, child’s fifth birthday must be on or before Oct. 1, 2013.

Questions? Contact Bridgeway Island Elementary at 375-7778; Elkhorn at 375-7670; Riverbank at 375-7700; Stonegate at 375-0960; Southport at 375-7890; Westfield at 375-7720; or Westmore Oaks at 375-7730.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013