Tag Archives: board

Nguyen: ‘average’ district can improve

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 30, 2013 —

News-Ledger’s interviews with candidates in the March 5 special school board election continue this week with local businessman Linh Nguyen —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

With a background in computer engineering and in business, Southport’s Linh Nguyen believes one of the best ways to start attacking any problem is to measure it. And he believes the measurements are clear for Washington Unified School District:

 

Identify a problem, measure it, attack it (News-Ledger photo)

Identify a problem, measure it, attack it
(News-Ledger photo)

“Statistically, we are average,” Nguyen told the News-Ledger.

Student test scores often have a strong link to a community’s economic level. Look at them both if you want to judge how a school district is doing, he said.

“If we can say that economically, we’re a ‘5,’ but what we’re achieving is a ‘7’ or ‘8’ out of 10, then that’s excellent. But if we’re economically a ‘5’ and we’re achieving at a ‘5,’ that’s just okay.”

West Sacramento’s school district is scoring at about 760 on the API tests, he said, which is about “average” for a place with an “average” socioeconomic level.
Nguyen (pronounced with the “ng” sound followed by “wen,” in one syllable) hopes to earn a seat on the local school board next month and help change that.

“That reflection is on the board – that’s where the buck stops,” he said. “City-wise, you can see there are a lot of successful projects that have been implemented – whether it’s (new developments like) the River Cats, Nugget, Home Depot or Ikea. They didn’t let the ‘average’ or ‘below average’ hold them back. The school district needs to do the same.”

[adrotate group=”7″]  “As a person who runs my own company, I understand what you need to do when you govern a multi-million dollar entity. We need to define a clear vision. We need to lay out a clear plan of what we’re going to do. We need to always follow up on the plan.”

Nguyen, 40, currently works at home, managing his investment portfolio. His wife is a part-time pharmacist, and the couple has three young kids – the oldest two of which are at Bridgeway Island Elementary School.

“I graduated from UC Davis in computer science engineering,” he explained. “I went back to Silicon Valley and my first job was at Genentech. I worked mostly in high-tech. After we saved some money, we started our own consulting company. But running a company is very intensive, and we were having our first kid. We decided to move to West Sacramento, which is a very good place to raise kids.”

Having two children in the public elementary school and another headed that way has generated some concerns, said Nguyen.

“I think I’m in the same shoes as a lot of parents,” he said. “My kids are in first and third grade. I can see the future coming for them. High school is coming.”

One friend typifies his concern:

“When I told him I was running for the board, the first thing he said is, ‘Great, I’ll support you.’ The second thing he said was, ‘At this point, I wouldn’t let my kid go to River City High School.’ The sad fact is that (the friend himself) went to River City High School, and his wife went to River City High School – not the new campus, but the old one. Something like that speaks volumes about how people perceive the high school.”

Nguyen is concerned by the numbers – and RCHS is higher than the state in some statistics, like expulsion rates, he said.

Between that and issues like bullying and campus security, “I don’t feel my kid is safe to go to this high school” right now, said Nguyen.

How do you fix that?

Nguyen believes that the first step is to identify the problems facing WUSD, whether they be test scores or campus safety.

“I would like the (school) board to acknowledge the problems,” he said. “That’s the first step in solving a problem. Secondly, I would like to know how we are going to measure the issues – for example, what percentage of the kids are leaving the district (to go to school elsewhere)? If we can first do a measurement on that, we can improve it. We don’t (now) have a way to measure that. Just anecdotal evidence.”

Nguyen says he has been to several school board meetings and seen others on cable TV.

“I see a lot of positive coming from the board we now have,” he said. “We could do much better. We have 7.000-plus students in the district. We have an obligation to help these 7,000-plus kids to achieve, to reach their full potential.”

He added that, fiscally, the board is “doing okay with what we have.” And with Proposition 30 passing and bringing more stability to school funding, and with the economy finally improving, he expected the school’s financial climate to start getting better.

How does he feel about charter schools?

Nguyen said he would examine them on a “case by case” basis.

“I’m not encumbered by a political agenda. . . If someone comes to me and asks about a charter school for our district, I would say, ‘show me the empirical evidence.’ When we make a change like that, there’s going to be a financial cost. The research has to support (a need for the charter school).”

Nguyen thinks that voters should look at the time commitment of being a school board member when they weigh their decision of whom to elect.

“One of the basic elements (of the job) is that you have to be willing to put in the time,” he said. “If you look at our city council, they have 22 subcommittees, reaching out to the schools, the River Cats, the port, to Sacramento County. Board-wise, we’re not reaching out to other districts around us. We’re not reaching out to resources we have. We’re not reaching out to UC Davis or Sacramento State.”

“If the board was functioning at an excellent level, we would have a direct path where Sacramento State and Davis and vocational programs would come here and work with the kids, and explain why some subject is important. We want to engage a kid, whether they are going to be a mechanic or an engineer or something.”

With a background in management and in science, Nguyen believes he can help the board do this.
What does he see as a board member’s job duties?

“One of the requirements is that we need a board that’s passionate,” he answered. “Statistically and empirical data-wise, we’re average. That’s a result of our economics. To be successful, we have to be innovative.”

Has Nguyen been endorsed by the mayor or by school board members?

“Purposely, I’ve tried not to coincide with the political side,” he answered. “I call it the political machine. I don’t want to reach out there, because I want to be independent. The first thing is that the school board is for the kids. The second thing is, it’s for the kids. And the third thing is, it’s for the kids.”

Nguyen’s prior involvement in the community include helping to coach youth soccer, baseball and basketball in the elementary school and city leagues. He also helps with the local Cub Scout troop.

The candidate said he is funding his school board campaign with “mostly my own money,” and is also walking precincts.

[Editor’s note: after this interview was published, the candidate notified the News-Ledger that he had picked up endorsements from former WUSD school board members Ardeene Westvik, Dave Farmer and Ed Hocking.]

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Feb. 19 is last day to register

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER —

West Sacramento voters will choose a new school board member at a special election on March 5.

Last day to register to vote in time for the Washington Unified School District race is Feb. 19. You must be 18, a County of Yolo resident at least 15 days before the resident, a U.S. citizen, and you must complete a registration affidavit. For information, contact the Yolo County Elections Department, 625 Court St., Room B05, Woodland, CA 95695, or call (530) 666-8133 or 1-800-649-9943.

The News-Ledger traditionally invites each candidate to sit down for an interview to be published in the newspaper. Those interviews began publishing in the Jan. 23 News-Ledger and will continue until approximately Feb. 20. For information on subscribing to the News-Ledger, call (916) 371-8030.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Others’ views on school board issue

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 16, 2013 —

  On the News-Ledger’s “Facebook” internet page this week, we invited comments to last week’s newspaper editorial.

  The editorial (we’ve provided a link below) contrasted the way Washington Unified School District and Sacramento City Unified School District each handled the appointment of a new school board member to fill a vacancy, and suggested WUSD commit itself to more transparency.

  We received the following feedback on Facebook:

  Jenni Zimmerman Yarwood: The constant badgering and belittling of the WUSD board by both the News-Ledger and the mayor is very disheartening and troublesome.

How about being mature, responsible adults and not lowering yourself to elementary schoolyard bullying? How about coming together in a positive way with a workable solution without the constant mudslinging and backstabbing?

Sadly, this kind of behavior is very typical of the media and our government these days and it’s got to stop. We will never come together as a community, a state or a country if this kind of behavior continues. It is this kind of behavior that is literally tearing our country and our communities apart.

_______________

  Ardeene Brueske Westvik: Thank you for pointing out that the Sacramento School District managed to appoint a new temporary member without the cost of an additional election. I agree that transparency is always important in any public institution.

[adrotate group=”4″]   However, I would suggest it is also important when the public is asked to elect a school board. It is shocking to hear about some of the money that is very likely going to be spent to elect members some political figures wish to be placed on the Board. One really wonders what their motives are. Do they actually have some magic answer to make major improvements in the district or is their motive something less apparent?

Having been a district teacher, administrator and school board member, I know there is not a financial reason, nor can school boards make many of the decisions that are now made by Federal and State categorical fund requirements. So if some group is willing to spent as much as $10,000 for a school board position, we need to know where that money comes from.

As our most-read local newspaper, I sincerely request that you make the public very aware of the source of all funding for all candidates running for a seat on the school board. Lets have transparency in all aspects of our public offices.

_______________

  Irene Perrigo Eklund: Even more important, why don’t you let the public know where the mayor and our supervisor got the money they spent on their independent expenditure committee and who is putting their name on them.

I read the article in the Bee about the Sacramento appointment and it was pretty much the same process as WUSD used. The mayor has already made the statement that if his candidate would have been appointed, this costly election would not be taking place.

So let’s just be honest about why this special election is taking place. It’s all about politics, power and greed. They surely do not care that the $130,000 price tag [for the special election] will come right from our kids’ classrooms. It is very obvious those involved do not care. Very sad indeed.

_______________

  You can find the original News-Ledger editorial here.

  You may comment on this or other local issues by sending a ‘letter to the editor’ to us by email (call 916-371-8030 for email address).

  Or, by mail to:
  News-Ledger, P.O. Box 463, West Sacramento, CA 95691.
  Either way, please include your real name (for publication) and your address and phone number (not for publication).

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

EDITORIAL: same problem, different answer

EDITORIAL from the News-Ledger — JAN 9, 2013 —

In March, West Sacramento residents will vote in a special election to fill a vacant seat on the local school board.

The vacancy was already filled once – last fall, when remaining school board members accepted applications and chose West Sacramento’s Liz Bagdazian to fill the seat. But a number of citizens criticized the way this happened. The citizens, backed by Mayor Cabaldon, gathered the needed signatures to nullify this appointment and send the matter to the voters.

One of the main criticisms leveled at the school district was that it kept secret the list of candidates for the open seat, making their names public only at the final selection meeting. The News-Ledger requested the names ahead of the meeting, but the request was denied.

Let’s compare this to how Sacramento City Unified School District handled a similar school board vacancy in the fall:

According to the Sac City district website, applications for their school board vacancy were accepted until November 14. The next day, the board met to review the applications in open session, with “all applications. . . available at the Board meeting for public inspection.”

Next, each applicant was then invited to make a presentation at the board’s December 6 meeting, and time was set aside on Dec. 20 for final presentations, questions from board members, and a final vote by the school board.

In other words, Sac City invited the public to get to know the candidates and offer questions and comments about them. That could have happened here.

[adrotate group=”7″]   Now, WUSD’s top officials are professionals with good intentions and they do a good job on many things. There was no villainy in WUSD’s selection process.

The News-Ledger’s main concerns after the West Sacramento appointment were that WUSD officials seemed to view “transparency” as a secondary goal, aiming (not always successfully) just to meet their bare legal obligations. And they did not seem to understand the state’s public record laws, which say that school district records are almost always “public” records and the district is obligated to help the public get the records it wants.

When, as a governmental entity, you try too hard to keep the public at arm’s length, sometimes it will backfire on you.

It would be better if the good people running WUSD were to consciously adopt a new policy of maximum transparency. They should educate their staff about public requests for information, release school board meeting agendas earlier than the minimum legal deadline whenever possible, and so forth. If the district’s law firm doesn’t understand “public records,” WUSD should get a new law firm.

There should be a “transparency” culture, where the public comes first.  The reward will be more trust and goodwill.

And fewer special elections.

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  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