Tag Archives: board

Contracting license sting leads to charges against 12 in West Sac

NEWS-LEDGER — NOV 26, 2014 —

State officials conducted a sting operation Nov. 5-6 to catch people violating contractor laws. A total of 112 people may face criminal charges resulting from the sting, reports the California State License Board (CSLB).

The sting took place in seven cities — including West Sacramento, where ten people were cited and another two will face felony charges for using another person’s contractor’s license.

“Several of the suspects we targeted turned out to be repeat offenders and criminals with a history of violent crimes and drug violations,” said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands in a press release. “If you knew their backgrounds, you’d never allow them into your home.”

Investigators called unlicensed operators and obtained home improvement bids on projects that included painting, landscaping, tree removal, drywall work, fencing and other work. Some of the suspects were targeted because they had advertised on the Craigslist internet site.

The sting was an attempt to catch some of them practicing contracting without a license. The penalty for conviction is up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

Many of the suspects will also be charged with illegal advertising, for not including a license number in their ads. Contractors without a license can still bid on jobs valued at less than $500, but their ad must state that they are not a licensed contractor.

Seven of the suspects used contractor’s license numbers belonging to “legitimate” contractors, reports the CSLB.

The board urges customers to check up on the licensing of potential contractors by visiting www.cslb.ca.gov or calling 800-321-2757. The website also contains tips for consumers.

Copyright News-Ledger 2014

Kirby-Gonzalez believes experience as teacher helps her on school board

NEWS-LEDGER — OCT 22, 2014 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez has been on the school board in West Sacramento for less than 18 months, following a victory in a special election held to fill a vacancy. She’d like four more years.

SARAH  KIRBY-GONZALEZ News-Ledger photo

SARAH
KIRBY-GONZALEZ
News-Ledger photo

“We have done some very good things,” Kirby-Gonzalez reports. “Just in that short amount of time, I think one of the biggest things the board has done is (create) the visual and performing arts plan, and that’s now rolled out to our fourth- and fifth-grade classes as well as all the way up to high school. I’d like to see it expanded even beyond that.”

Visual and Performing Arts, or “VAPA,” is one of the district’s top priorities at present. Also on that list are facilities improvements, technology and “recruiting, retaining and sustaining personnel.”

Kirby-Gonzalez said that she is in agreement with that roster of strategic goals, and she enjoys serving on an effective Washington Unified School District school board.

She’s a teacher in the Folsom-Cordova district (where she was a “teacher of the year” in 2011) and her husband works as a police officer outside West Sacramento. They have two kids – not yet of school age – who will go to public school in this city, said Kirby-Gonzalez.

The couple has lived in the Bridgeway Lakes area for about half a dozen years. Kirby-Gonzalez says she grew up in Carmichael and Auburn, going to a Catholic elementary school.

“I went to Placer High School, Sierra College and then Sac State for my master’s credential, she said. I’ve been teaching for 11 years.”

Kirby-Gonzalez, 34, believes that her experience as a teacher helps her as a board member. She notes that in the years before she became a trustee, WUSD had been focused tightly on one thing, and that was achieving high marks in student test scores. As a teacher, she thinks that was short-sighted and the current policy is a better one.

“Standardized test scores had been very, very prominent with the last board – that’s what they focused on,” she commented. “For folks that really understand education and read the research, they know that’s been a disservice for kids, especially our low-income kids. Standardized tests have not helped us in the way we’ve needed.”

Preparing kids for standardized tests often meant stressing rote memorization and neglecting the teaching of writing (since it was only tested at two grade levels), said Kirby-Gonzalez. But now these tests are just one part of a more “holistic” approach. Parental involvement at schools, graduation rates, and dropout are some of the other measures now used on local schools.

In West Sacramento, it’s been the southern-most schools – like Bridgeway – that have led the district in test score results. Does that mean they’re better schools?

“No,” she answered, explaining that test scores are mostly a reflection of “the socioeconomic area” and not of the quality of schools.

Nevertheless, northern schools need more help:

“They definitely have more facility needs because their schools are older,” said Kirby-Gonzalez. “The teachers do a nice job making the rooms look pretty, but you pull off a poster and the wall is falling apart and bad things are happening”

Despite that, she said, some of the north-city schools are doing great things – such as Elkhorn’s partnership with UC Davis that brings teaching help into local classrooms.

What, exactly, does a school board member do besides end meetings on Thursday nights?

“I think one of the biggest things is listening to the community and being visible to the community,” answered Kirby-Gonzalez. “Also, studying policy so that kids are getting the best environment in the classrooms. And also evaluating the superintendent.”

She noted that before she became a board member, WUSD had just been through a recession and had to make serious budget cuts.

“Some of it has come back, but of course we’d like more,” she said. “Now, there’s busing again at the high school. One of the issues was that kids who stayed late at school for sports didn’t have a bus, and now there’s a bus.”

Fixing up school facilities remains a major need.

“We already have our capital improvement plan which identifies over $200 million in needs,” she commented. “That’s a big piece of the puzzle. . . We need expansion – some of our places are overflowing, like Bridgeway (Elementary School). And even the high school is going to need another wing. In terms of new programs, I’d like to see more professional development for teachers.”

Kirby-Gonzalez and her board colleagues have created Measure V, a $49.8 million bond, on the November 4 ballot to try to take a bite out of some of those facilities projects.

The district is doing a good job implementing the new “Common Core” standards, said Kirby-Gonzalez. And she likes the new standards.

“There are people who worry about it being a federal takeover and there are people who worry that it’s too open-ended for kids, but I think on the whole it’s much better than the ’97 standards,” said the candidate.  She added that writing is much more important in the new standards.

Kirby-Gonzalez will try to defend her seat on the November 4 ballot. Also running for two available seats are challengers Norma Alcala and Joshua Alves. You can find more information about her at www.Sarah4Schools.com or on Facebook.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2014

Norma Alcala hopes to become ‘most accessible’ school board member

NEWS-LEDGER — OCT 15, 2014 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

  Editor’s note: during every local election, the News-Ledger newspaper endeavors to present to you an interview with each of the people running for office in West Sacramento. In this edition of our print newspaper, we carried an interview with city council candidate Jeff Lyon, as well as this talk with a school board candidate. Enjoy.

NORMA ALCALA News-Ledger photo

NORMA ALCALA
News-Ledger photo

Norma Alcala hopes to get elected to a West Sacramento school board that she feels is already doing a great job.

“I’m proud of everyone on the school board,” she told the News-Ledger last week. “We have an excellent school board.”

If she’s voted in, Alcala said she would concentrate on sharing ideas with both the schools and the community.

“I want to be the most accessible school board member,” she commented. “I give everyone my cell phone number, 916-821-9639. People have to feel – parents, especially – that somebody is reaching out.”

That meshes with her view on the fundamentals of a school board member’s job duties.

“I think accessibility is the most important thing – the willingness to listen to what people have to say, to learn from what people have to say, to invite people into the conversation and find out what their concerns are and what great ideas they might have,” she said. “As a board member, I plan on visiting every one of the schools at least once a month and making myself available to hear what the parents have to say, the teachers have to say and the kids have to say.”

Alcala, 53, is married. She and her husband own (but don’t themselves run) a business that distributes “interlock” systems which can be installed on cars to prevent the ignition from working if the driver fails a breathalyzer test for alcohol.  The couple lives in The Rivers, a north-city subdivision.

Alcala doesn’t currently have any children or grandchildren in Washington Unified School District schools. But her kids went to school locally and have earned college degrees. Alcala holds an Associates of Arts degree in Sacramento before having to leave college and help support her family.

Alcala is the president of the local Democratic club and is active in the Chicano-Latino caucus of the state Democrats. Earlier this year, Alcala unsuccessfully challenged local Yolo County Supervisor Oscar Villegas for his seat.

Her community involvement also involves volunteer duties with Holy Cross Church..

“I’ve always been involved in the schools since my children were young, and I’ve always been on the board of the PTA for my children’s schools,” she explained. “I continued that with my grandchildren.”

Last year, when a grandchild was attending Westmore Oaks Elementary School, Alcala helped out there, wielding a broom and mop to refurbish a school room.

“I went in there and swept windows, I cleaned window boxes that hadn’t been used. It became a beautiful functional room that everybody could use. I helped my daughter with a (school) carnival, with movie nights they had, with a library affair, and with every (school) function.”

Alcala supports Measure V – the school bond on November’s ballot. She believes local student test scores are headed up, and local teachers are dealing well with the new “Common Core” curriculum mandates. She also believes Washington Unified is responsibly managing its money.

“My understanding is it’s probably the best fiscally maintained district in Yolo County,” said Alcala. “It’s been very carefully managed. . . the majority of the monies are going to the children.”

The local teachers union has endorsed Alcala along with incumbent board member Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez (who is a teacher working in a different district).

“I’ve been endorsed by the teachers as well as Sarah, because they know of our strong commitment to education,” said Alcala. “She’s a teacher, but I’ve always been involved in the schools at a lot of levels.” (Her teachers’ endorsement comes from the local teachers’ union.)

Alcala doesn’t wish to change the district’s priorities, but she does allow that she would like to see more programs in the arts and “perhaps more labs” to prepare local kids for jobs of the future. And she would like to find more grant money and more private partners – perhaps, as an acquaintance in another school district reports, to provide local children with refurbished computers they can take home.

Alcala also said West Sacramento – despite the honors it has received for promoting “universal preschool” – doesn’t really have universal preschool. Not every family is choosing it.

“We have wonderful (preschool) programs here, but we don’t have universal preschool,” she explained. “Universal preschool would mean that every child of that age would have it. We have to do that outreach. The (educational) foundation is so important.”

Alcala finds herself on the November 4 ballot facing off with Kirby-Gonzalez and Joshua Alves.

Voters will be asked to pick two of them for the board of trustees on Washington Unified School District.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2014

Final candidates for mayor, city council and West Sac school board:

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — AUG 13, 2014 —

News-Ledger Staff

The filing period for local candidates is over. Your local ballot in November will look something like this:

Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, who has held his post since 2004, will run for another two-year term. But he will draw a challenger: Narinder Hundal, has also filed papers to run for mayor in West Sacramento. The News-Ledger wasn’t immediately able to reach him for comment. Hundal is listed on the ballot as a “business owner.”

City Council incumbents Chris Ledesma and Mark Johannessen are officially running again (Johannessen just completed an unsuccessful bid for State Assembly).

Competing with them for a pair of four-year seats are Jeff Lyon and Nancy Heth-Tran.

Both were among the dozens of applicants for a vacant city council seat earlier this year. Heth-Tran lists her occupation as “energy specialist”; her application for the council vacancy earlier this year listed her employer as the California Energy Commission, and provided a residential address near Raley Field.

Lyon identified himself as a “retired government chief” who lives on 4th Street. He is a former state employee.

There are two vacant seats on the local school board, each for a four-year term.

Board member Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez, an “incumbent/teacher/parent” who lives in Southport, has filed to run again.

So did challengers Norma Alcala (who identified herself as an activist and business owner during a previous interview with the News-Ledger) and Joshua R. Alves, a “parent/education volunteer.” Both candidates live in homes on Woodhaven Lane in the north-city.

Adam Menke, a fellow board member of the Washington Unified School District, did not file to run again. That means the deadline for challengers to file was extended to August 13. (EDITOR’S NOTE: no new challengers took advantage of that extended deadline.)

Also on the West Sacramento ballot will be Measure V, a $49.8 million school bond measure meant to renovate, repair and upgrade local school facilities. School officials said this measure would cost property owners about $39 per year for every $100,000 of property value. Owners of a home assessed at $300,000, for example, would pay $117 in new taxes annually.

The measure needs 55 percent voter approval to pass.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2014

City officials, school board members prepare to take on challengers

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — Aug. 6, 2014 —

The regular filing period for those interested in running for mayor, city council or school board in West Sacramento’s November ballot ends on Friday, Aug. 8.

(The deadline will be extended for challengers by five days in any race in which an incumbent fails to file to run again.)

So far, here’s how the field is shaping up.

There are two available seats on the board of trustees of the Washington Unified School District.

Incumbent Sarah-Kirby Gonzalez (an incumbent/teacher/parent from Southport) has filed to run for another four-year term. Fellow incumbent Adam Menke has told the News-Ledger he plans to do the same.

Challengers thus far include Jeff Reyes (school counselor/educator from Prosser Street), Bernadette R. Austin (parent/community developer from Hearst Street) and Norma Alcala (occupation unlisted, but known to the News-Ledger as a business owner and Democratic activist, residing on Woodhaven Lane).

They are vying for two available seats, each with a four-year term.

Meanwhile, no one has yet filed to run for mayor or city council.

Incumbent mayor Christopher Cabaldon has “pulled papers”  (taken out his candidacy paperwork) from city hall in advance of seeking another two-year term.  Newcomer Narinderpal Singh Hundal has done the same.

For the city council race, both incumbents — Mark Johannessen and Chris Ledesma — have taken out their candidacy papers.

So have potential challengers Jeff Lyon, Nancy Tran and Robb White.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2014

West Sac voters will face $49.8 million school bond in November

Local school district doesn’t plan to build any news schools, but does hope to pay for some repairs and upgrades at West Sacramento campuses

— NEWS-LEDGER — JULY 2, 2014 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

West Sacramento voters will be asked to approve a $49.8 million school bond on the November 4 general election ballot.

If the bond measure earns the required 55 percent voter approval, it will help fund the local school district’s laundry list of needed capital improvements –possible items such as fire systems, wheelchair access ramps, heating and ventilation units, windows, paving and security systems.

A motion to place the bond on the November ballot passed 4-0 at last Thursday’s meeting of the Washington Unified School District board of trustees. The action needed all four “yes” votes to take effect – and board member Alicia Cruz overcame her initial reluctance to support a 2014 bond and eventually provided the needed fourth vote.

Board member Adam Menke was absent from the meeting. Cruz joined fellow trustees Katie Villegas, Mary Leland and Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez in supporting the bond.

MARY LELAND: ‘community will support this bond’ (News-Ledger file photo)

MARY LELAND:
‘community will support this bond’
(News-Ledger file photo)

Board member Mary Leland was the first of the group to speak up after hearing a staff presentation on the proposed school bond. She noted that the bond would pay for campus safety measures and “ADA,” or “Americans with Disabilities Act,” compliance.

“I’ve been very anxious to see this on the agenda,” commented Leland at the meeting. “The community is willing to support this bond, and safety is very highly rated on their list. . . In addition, we’re not going to be able to provide career and college readiness if our facilities aren’t up to date.”

“I admit I as on the fence, going back and forth wondering if this was the right time,” added board colleague Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez.

SARAH KIRBY- GONZALEZ:  ‘let the voters’ decide’ (News-Ledger file photo)

SARAH KIRBY-
GONZALEZ:
‘let the voters’ decide’
(News-Ledger file photo)

She called for a “carefully thought-out” bond expenditure plan and warned that “it’s important to realize the bond will not fix everything.” The bond money would pay for about a quarter of the district’s capital improvements costs, said Kirby-Gonzalez.

Trustee Katie Villegas, who as a private citizen headed up a previous WUSD school bond measure, recalled that running a bond campaign is “a ton of work.” That bond paid for the new River City High School campus.

“I literally ran that high school bond day to day from my garage,” she said. “We’re at a time now where we need to make some investments, particularly in the north area, in our aging schools.”

Alicia Cruz, chairing the meeting, initially dissented.

“I don’t feel this is the right time for a bond,” she said, earning a bout of polite persuasion from her colleagues on the board.

ALICIA CRUZ: school board member was reluctant to support this bond (News-Ledger file photo)

ALICIA CRUZ: school board member was reluctant to support this bond
(News-Ledger file photo)

Her colleagues seemed to agree that waiting for the higher turnout of a 2016 presidential election might give the bond a better chance to pass.

“But can our district wait that  much time?” asked Villegas.  At one point, Villegas added:

“This isn’t for building a new high school or anything. This is basic stuff. Have you been to Bryte (Elementary School) lately? It’s horrible.”

Kirby-Gonzalez spoke for the majority when she suggested the board simply vote to put the bond on the November ballot, and then see what West Sacramento voters have to say about it.

“I would argue that we just put it out there,” she said. “We put it out there and let them make a choice.”

Cruz detailed one of her objections, which was to the lengthy list of possible projects that bond money could be spent on.

“What scares me is the list of items the bond will cover,” said Cruz. “I think it’s voluminous. I don’t think it’s specific.”

KATIE VILLEGAS:  campaign will be  ‘a ton of work’ (News-Ledger file photo)

KATIE VILLEGAS:
campaign will be
‘a ton of work’
(News-Ledger file photo)

But despite having “that feeling in your gut that says this is not the thing,” concluded Cruz, she eventually agreed to provide the needed fourth vote.

Why?

“Because I am part of a team and I know the district needs this,” she told her colleagues.

The per-household cost of the bond has been estimated downward. The bond resolution capped the cost at $60 per year for every $100,000 in property value, but the board was advised last week that the actual cost would be about $39 annually for every $100,000 in property value. A $300,000 home, therefore, would be taxed around $117 per year over the life of the bond repayment.

The school district conducted a public survey in February to gauge public support for a 2014 bond.

“Although the results were positive, it was clear that a bond campaign would be needed to ensure the public was aware of the need for facility funding that exceeded both (WUSD’s) and the State’s capacity,” noted a district staff report.

The community has a mixed record of supporting school bond measures.

In other business, the school board was briefed on the school district’s budget. The big picture view of the budget is that WUSD is recovering from several years of deficit spending as the State of California’s finances improve. The local district is, to some degree, repairing and rebuilding programs.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2014

West Sac school board ponders a bond

NEWS-LEDGER ONLINE — JUNE 26, 2014 —

West Sacramento’s school district tonight will discuss putting a $49.8 million bond on the November 4 ballot, where it would need 55 percent of the vote to succeed.

The money would be used to help fund a lengthy list of repairs and upgrades to facilities in the Washington Unified School District, including fire systems, wheelchair access ramps, heating and ventilation units, windows, paving and security systems. The projects are in the district’s “Capitol Improvement Program.”

Property owners would repay the bonds, with assessments not to exceed $60 per $100,000 of assessed value annually, says the proposed bond resolution. Thus, a homeowner whose house is valued at $300,000 on the tax roll would pay up to $180 per year for bond repayment.

The district sponsored a survey in February which they believe shows a bond measure in November could be successful, provided a campaign educates the public about “the need for facility funding that exceeded both the District and the State’s capacity,” according to a district staff report.

The proposed bond will be part of the school board meeting that begins tonight (Thursday, June 26) at 6 p.m. at city hall, 1110 West Capitol Avenue.

More in next week’s News-Ledger newspaper.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2014