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Students and parents protest for raising teachers’ wages and settling on a contract

By Monica Stark
editor@news-ledger.com

There has been a tumultuous start to the beginning of this school year in West Sacramento. With gossip of teachers striking and high school students texting messages to their peers that they support their teachers and therefore they all should skip school, the atmosphere, suffice to say is one of uneasiness.

Everyone wants things to settle between the Washington Unified School district and the teachers’ union, the Washington Teachers Association, before they get worse.

No one seems to want a strike, but things are dire in West Sac. According to teachers, this is the second year with no contract.

In response to various questions, Giorgos Kazanis, spokesman for the Washington Unified School District said the district “will continue to keep our community apprised of changes and updates involving our contract negations process. If members of the community would like to seek additional information, they can visit our WUSD Negotiations Updates webpage or call our Human Resources Department at (916) 375-7600, ext. 1046.”

Teachers and the district go into fact-finding this week with a neutral party meaning all the facts regarding the teachers’ situation should be brought to the table from both sides.

Meanwhile, about 200 students held a protest at River City Monday before first period in front of the school, a preview of what’s to come Tuesday, Sept. 6, as parents and students are planning a massive sick-in. Parents will call their child’s school and say the reasons for the absence is “sick: settle teacher contracts now.”

A junior at RCHS, Pierre Clay, gave a shout out to his favorite teachers: Mr. Malec, (Marlaina) Schroeder, Ms. Majia-Hays, Ms. Wiley (rest in peace), and all the teachers at Southport. He said he was out Monday supporting the teachers in protest because he doesn’t like that they get paid less than most others throughout the state. He’s afraid of having “garbage substitutes” that would replace the teachers if there was a strike.

Similarly Oscar Flores, also a junior, said just wearing green isn’t going to do anything, but having lots of kids miss school will have an impact. He spoke about one of his teachers who lives out of the area but chooses to teach in West Sacramento for its diversity even though she could make $14,000 more a year elsewhere. He is protesting in support of her (and other teachers).

Mariah Alves, a senior and a dancer, fears dance will be taking away, because extracurriculars aren’t being funded. She plans on missing school on Sept. 6 because “nothing will happen (change) if I go to school.”

The WTA does not support the sick-in, WTA board member and Bridgeway Island teacher Douglas Knepp told the News-Ledger.

The settlement decision after the fact-finding can take up to four weeks and so having the “sick-in” next week is meant to influence the outcome and prevent a strike.

Parents are rallying for the teachers. Many parents grew up in the area and have enjoyed watching their children have the same teachers as they did. And it’s those long-term teachers parents are afraid of losing.

Mom Daisy Po’oi said “what this means is that not only have they not been compensated fairly, they have been required to work more hours under the same pay and the increase that was promised to them last year was never met. These are long time teachers who have been around over eight years and chose our district, not the ones they pass by every day on their way to work.”

Po’oi held an hour-long meeting at Round Table Pizza on Jefferson Boulevard with parents on Sunday night to help explain the teachers’ situation and to organize parents in rallying together to have their kids miss school on Sept. 6. To them, this action could have a huge impact, as attendance equals dollars to public school districts. They rather have a bunch of kids miss one day and positively influence negotiations to prevent a strike, which could mean many more days of no school. Parents mentioned there just aren’t enough substitute teachers at the district if there was a strike to cover the situation. According to teachers, over the last two years, the District’s revenue has increased 20 percent. WTA’s last salary proposal is seven percent. “Given this, our salary proposal is reasonable, and WUSD can afford it – especially since we’re still so far behind neighboring districts,” Don Stauffer told the board of trustees at the Aug. 25 meeting.

In speaking at the school board meeting during public comment, Stauffer gave the following overview: “Over the last two years, the District’s revenue has increased 20 percent. WTA’s last salary proposal is seven percent. Given this, our salary proposal is reasonable, and WUSD can afford it – especially since we’re still so far behind neighboring districts.”

Stauffer broke down a recent WUSD bargaining update. He quoted the district: “Stating from the outset, we (the district) have presented our best possible offers choosing not to engage in the all too traditional form of back and forth negotiating, prolonging the process and leaving both sides in a state of uneasiness.” But to the union, negotiation is the process of presenting proposals back and forth between parties, eventually coming to an agreement. “There is no traditional vs. other types negotiations. Back and forth is negotiations. What this statement says is that the District never intended to bargain in good faith,” Stauffer said.

The next statement Stauffer criticized – prolonging the process and leaving both sides in a state of uneasiness – he said after 10 months after bargaining started with no end in sight, “I’ll leave you to judge whether that prolonged the process or not. Also, the last part of this sentence on ‘uneasiness’, the fact that you (The School Board) feel the need to have a police presence any time there’s a public meeting, tells me that perhaps you’re feeling a state of uneasiness. I don’t know what alternative reality the person or persons who wrote this update lives in, but clearly, the District’s bargaining strategy has been an abject failure.

“In any case, even though the update was unsigned, it was posted on the District website with District letterhead. Since you are the Trustees of the District, that means you own the update, it’s yours.

“The Superintendent has been here now for a little over a year. In what started with positive communication and hope has turned into anger and mistrust. And, we’ve had a 15 percent staff turnover in this year. If that’s the District’s goal, then you succeeded admirably. Regardless of what happens from this point on, it’s going to be hard to regain that trust. Again, you are the Trustees and you own it.

“There are many good things going on in our District: We have great kids. Everyone who teaches here knows that we have great staff (though missing a number of really good veteran teachers who decided to leave). There’s dual immersion, Farm to Fork, MESA, robotics, and on and on. I would hate to see that all go to waste.”

Timeline of the negotiation process:
Negotiations: Start date – Oct. 27, 2015
Mediation: Start date – May 20, 2016
Fact finding: May 20 – Aug. 30, 2016

Woodland Tomato Festival comes downtown on Aug. 13

Once again it’s the time of year when fresh tomatoes are center stage, sparking a new energy throughout Yolo County. Monster machines bounce through dusty fields heaping 25-ton capacity trailers with another harvest. Back roads bulge with semis rumbling from fields to factories. At local farmers markets beaming local growers display their fresh hand-picked yellow, orange, and red tomatoes, and invite you to sample their newest variety. Neighbors bang on your door and implore you to help consume their backyard bounty, as lunch and dinner tables offer healthy salads and fresh spaghetti and hot sauces. And home canners fill the house with enticing aromas as they stock up the pantry.
It’s no surprise, then that this same energy will be bringing people together for the 9th Annual Woodland Tomato Festival, one of the town’s most popular public celebrations. Mark your calendars for Saturday, Aug. 13, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Woodland Farmer’s Market invites you to the historic downtown to join in all the free family-fun activities on Main Street between First and Third streets.
The Farmer’s Market vendors will be selling their freshly-picked, ready-to-eat fruits, vegetables, baked goods, honey, olive oil, fresh herbs and flowers, and hand-made soaps and lotions. Along with the Farmer’s Market vendors, more than 60 additional booths will fill up the street – local artisans and crafts, a kids play area, healthcare and community information booths, local businesses, food vendors, and much more.
Not sure what kind of tomato you want to eat? From 9 a.m. to noon, head over to the Yolo County UCCE Master Gardener Tomato Tasting booth where you get to taste 15 heirloom and hybrid varieties and cast you votes for the best tasting tomatoes. Then, purchase your favorites from the Farmer’s Market vendors. This event will get your taste buds ready for the free Salsa Tasting which will start at about 9:30 a.m. Taste salsa made by local restaurants and help decide the Peoples’ Choice salsa for 2016.
The Top Tomato Chef competition starts at 10:30 a.m. Local chefs from Savory Café, Father Paddy’s, Guinevere’s, and the Nugget Market will create a three-course dinner prepared at their facility, and serve it to the judges at the Festival. Each course must have tomatoes as the main ingredient. The judges score each chef on presentation, taste, and creativity. Some of the dishes that our local chefs have created in the past have been amazing, and you never know if you will be one of the lucky ones to taste the dishes too!
Who will be the 2016 Top Tomato Chef? Savory Café will vie to keep the title they were awarded last year so come see how creative our local chefs can be.
Also don’t miss the live family entertainment. The No Divas will be kicking off the morning from 9 to 10:30 a.m., so get your dancing shoes on. These ladies will be rocking Main Street with their classic rock/pop songs from the ’60s and ’70s. Then we have the Kuk Sool Won martial arts demonstration team showing and teaching you some of their moves – if you are a willing participant. This expert team is good, so stay around to see this awesome show. Then at noon get ready for our very own Kiss N Tell band. They’re sure to get you back on your feet singing and dancing to classic tunes we all enjoy.
Finally, to complete your ultimate tomato immersion, purchase some fried green tomatoes, tomato gelato or tomato ice cream from our food vendors.
This is a fun family event, so bring the kids. There will be free face painting and a kids’ play area hosted by Rec2Go with fun art activities, a tomato toss, bounce house, and more.
Remember, this event is on a closed off Main Street and is free. Our Main Street area businesses and restaurants are ready to welcome you as you take in the festival, with shade and plenty of free parking. For more information contact Sonia@woodlandfarmersmarket.com or go to www.woodlandtomatofestival.com.

The Barn celebrates with first major event with Off the Grid

The Barn kicked off its weekly Friday night Off the Grid food truck and music event with large crowds on Friday, Aug. 5. Located at 985 Riverfront Street, the Barn is a piece of architecture that connects the natural landscape of the riverfront to its modern buildings, bringing the region’s history to a new civic identity.

Friday’s food included fare from Casablanca Moroccan and Mediterranean Food, Dojo Burger, El Matador Mobile Max, Gaga’s Rollin’ Diner, Gyro King, Luciano’s Scoop, Mama Kim On-The-Go, New Bite, North Border Taco, Sophia’s Mini Kitchen, Southern Comfort Express and Street Eatz.

Craft cocktails, beer and wine were provided by Rye on the Road.

Complimenting the food every Friday, live music will be curated by DJ Nick Brunner of Blue Dog Jam of Capital Public Radio, who also deejays from 5 to 7 p.m. Although the styles of music will change weekly, the live music from 8 to 10 p.m. Features a curated mix of danceable rock, pop, bluegrass and folk music from the past, present and future.

With the good attendance came some complaints from customers who said there wasn’t enough seating and that lines were too long. Mayor Christopher Cabaldon wrote on social media that next week there will be even more food trucks and more bathrooms.

Off the Grid returns every Friday through October from 5 to 10 p.m. at the Barn.


Photos by Vicky Thompson

Quilts for Community Service

The Delta Piecemakers Quilt Guild has donated handmade quilts to the West Sacramento Police and Fire Departments to be given out to those in need of comfort during police or fire calls. The Guild selects three to four recipients each year to which to donate quilts made by the membership. The Delta Piecemakers Quilt Guild is based in Clarksburg and has 40 members who reside in Yolo, Sacramento, El Dorado, and Stanislaus Counties.
A quilt show by the Delta Piecemakers Quilt Guild was held at the Courtland Pear Fair, Bates School Cafeteria, 180 Primasing Ave., Courtland, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, July 31. The quilt show had over 50 member-made quilts, a display of quilts destined for donation to community service organizations and local quilt shop vendor booths. The quilt show included two visitor voted contests for a People’s Choice quilt and a pear-themed challenge. There was also a free quilt block coloring activities for children and raffle tickets will be sold for a showcased quilt and raffle baskets. Proceeds go to the purchase of products to make more community service quilts.