Tag Archives: district

WUSD looks at new school bond


‘Finishing’ RCHS, building career trade school campus are both being considered’

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

West Sacramento’s school district may ask local voters to approve new school bonds or parcel taxes a year from now. The money could be used to help finish the new River City High School campus, and build a career and technical education center elsewhere in West Sacramento.

“We do have some interest in taking a look at completing the high school, including a performing arts center,” Superintendent Dayton Gilleland told the News-Ledger yesterday. “Also a career technical education center. And we have roofs that need work throughout the district.”

[adrotate group=”12″]   Gilleland said it was too early to talk about the dollar amounts Washington Unified School District might request from local voters. The school board will make some decisions on its shopping list and any bond or parcel tax request after the results of a new consultant’s study come in.

On Thursday, the board is scheduled to consider a contract (valued at around $20-30,000) with a consulting group called Solem & Associates. WUSD officials propose to hire the company to interview several hundred demographically-chosen voters and try to gauge their reaction to different proposals and “test a range of bond amounts that include the annual cost to a typical homeowner,” as the company’s initial proposal states.

The survey would ask voters about which potential projects on the district’s shopping list are important to them, and which campaign arguments (on both sides of a possible bond or tax campaign) might be most persuasive.

The consulting company says it recognizes that this is not an ideal economy in which to ask voters to pay more local taxes:

Voters “expect local districts to tighten their belts just as they’ve been doing with their personal finances,” said Solem’s proposal.

Local voters approved bonds to pay for the new high school that opened three years ago. But they saw cost estimates skyrocket, taking that project over $150 million – despite dropping one classroom wing and a planned performing arts center from the project. So how can WUSD now convince local voters to part with more money for the same project?

Gilleland – who became superintendent after the school was built – said that “trust” will help.
“We can’t turn the clock back,” said Gilleland. “We could establish (to the public) how the funds were utilized. I think we’ve established some trust in the school district.”

Building a career technical vocational facility is also important to the school board, and could be funded by new money from voters, he said.

“It could be a ‘magnet’ school that draws kids from the other campuses for part of the day,” Gilleland explained. The facility could help train kids who aren’t headed for a traditional college or university, and who instead are looking for services in fields such as biomedical services, engineering, communications, web design, health services or construction.

The career training campus might go at what’s currently the Bryte Elementary campus, after that kindergarten-through-second-grade school consolidates with Riverbank Elementary’s grade 3-8 campus.
When might voters see a ballot for a new parcel tax or school bond measure?

“We’re looking at the suitability of the November election a year from now,” answered Gilleland.

[adrotate group=”7″]   Meanwhile, the district is also reevaluating its landholdings, and considering whether to hold, lease or sell WUSD real estate. The evaluation process follows a state-mandated procedure, involving formation of a special committee governed by rules of the education code.

The committee will look at WUSD’s real estate, examine enrollment projections, and make a report to the school board on what, if anything, to do.

“It’s just something we wanted to do on a periodic basis,” said Gilleland. “The layperson – and I count myself as one of those – would assume this is not a promising time to sell any surplus property.”

The so-called “7-11 Committee” meets Dec. 7 at 5:30 p.m. at Room 75 in the district office to continue its discussions of WUSD real estate.

The school board itself will convene at 6 p.m. on Thursday at city hall, 1110 West Capitol Avenue. Part of the agenda will deal with the proposed contract with Solem & Associates regarding a school bond and property tax survey.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2011

Century-old pumps retired: new pumps for Southport

The new pump works: here it discharges into the shipping canal on the other side of the Southport levee (News-Ledger photos by ERIC HARDING, www.ebharding.com)


‘Old pumps played a role in keeping Southport living room floors dry for about a century’

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

A pair of drainage pumps in Southport that have been diligently working or on call for about a century have just been retired.

[adrotate group=”7″]   The City of West Sacramento and Reclamation District 900 on Nov. 18 celebrated the opening of a new pump station designed to help move water out of Southport and over the deep water channel levee whenever flooding threatens.

The old pumps were “pretty low tech,” said Ken Ruzich, manager of Reclamation District 900, which monitors a lot of the city’s levees and waterways. “They were similar to a hunk of metal that goes around in a circle. They’re not running on bearings, just bushings. They’re almost like a water wheel inside a casing.”

It was the job of those wheels to take water from Southport’s canal system when it got overloaded, and push the water over a levee into the deep water shipping canal that serves the port. The original pumps from 1911 were electric, although one was converted to diesel power in the 1950s.

RIBBON CUTTING for a new pump station designed to help about 90 percent of Southport to stay dry: William Denton, RD 900 President, holding scissors; Mayor Pro Tem Bill Kristoff; Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, holding scissors; Councilmember Oscar Villegas; Councilmember Chris Ledesma; Peter Palamidessi, RD 900 Vice President; Dan Ramos, RD 900 Board Member; and Bryan Turner, RD 900 Board Member (News-Ledger photo by ERIC HARDING, www.ebharding.com)

In 1980, the old pumps got some reinforcements.

“We put in three electric pumps right next to it, and they’ve been doing the bulk of the work,” Ruzich said. Even with the brand-new station, they continue to do so, he said.

“In a normal year, we will run them just to keep them lubricated,” said Ruzich. “They’re just for really big storms.”

And what would happen during some “really big storms” if the pumps weren’t around?

“In a bad year, since Southport’s pretty flat, you’d put several thousand acres under water,” he answered. “It might be only a foot or two, but that’s pretty inconvenient when it’s your living room.”

The pump station, as seen from the Main Drain canal in southwestern Southport. Behind it is the levee. (ERIC HARDING/News-Ledger)

[adrotate group=”9″]     The new pumps are diesel, served by a 5,000-gallon fuel tank on the site. The facility runs automatically most of the time. The Main Drain Pump Station is now capable of moving up to 150,000 gallons of water per minute out of southern West Sacramento.

“The fuel in the tank will last two to three years, with normal operations,” said Ruzich. The diesel pumps have the advantage of being able to work through a power failure.

And a nearby generator used at a city water storage facility can kick in to power the older electric pumps if they’re needed and the power is out, he said.

Do the new pumps work?

They haven’t yet been put to the test by rain or by a crack in a levee, but when they flipped the switch on Nov. 18 for local city council members and other dignitaries, the water indeed flowed out of Southport and into the canal.

Ruzich said the pump project cost about $12 million. It was a combined city/reclamation district project.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2011

Yolo D.A. & Sheriff ask state to handle pepper spray investigation

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NEWS-LEDGER ONLINE – 2:54 p.m., Nov. 29, 2011 –

UC Davis police used pepper spray on a group of nonviolent protesters on Nov. 18, creating a controversy discussed around the world. This afternoon, the Yolo County District Attorney’s office released a copy of a letter bearing today’s date in which D.A. Jeff Reisig and Yolo Sheriff Ed Prieto ask California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris to handle the investigation of the use of pepper spray.

Here’s the text of their message to Harris:

“After conducting a brief review of the issues surrounding the November 18, 2011, events on the campus of the University of California at Davis it is our conclusion that this is an incident that mandates the involvement of the Attorney General at the earliest of stages. While the traditional indicia requiring the Attorney General’s involvement, conflict or lack of resources, may not be present in this matter these events are not traditional in nature and call for an examination of events that have statewide ramifications. In the absence of such action it is our believe that the public’s confidence in the conclusions may be significantly undermined.

“While the issues involved occurred in Yolo County, they were also on a University of California campus, and the results of an examination into these event will impact all ten (10) University of California campuses. It has also become apparent that neither the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department, nor the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office possess the resources necessary to conduct the ‘quick’ review that both you and the public are expecting. Furthermore, because the Yolo County legal and law enforcement communities are relatively small, there are multiple perceived and/or possible legal conflicts that are likely to arise and undermine the effectiveness of any findings.

“In light of the significant and statewide issues involved in these events we join in asking you to bring the full resources of the State of California to bear on these events so that the public will have full confidence in the outcome.”

Copyright News-Ledger 2011

Shaping future of West Sac’s Washington neighborhood

Mayor Christopher Cabaldon shares the podium with Cynthia Abbott, a HUD Field Office Director, for public remarks about the Washington neighborhood on Monday at 3rd and C streets in West Sacramento (News-Ledger photo)

West Sac’s Washington District is now a
disparate mix of longtime residents, old houses, shiny townhouses, skyscrapers, and the homeless

NEWS-LEDGER — NOV 23, 2011 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

Officials from West Sacramento and the federal Housing & Urban Development Department (HUD) gathered at a street corner in the city’s Washington neighborhood on Monday to announce a $400,000 planning grant for Washington.

The federal money will help the city complete the “Washington District Plan for Sustainable Community Development,” described by city spokesperson Art Schroeder as “a major planning project that will result in improvements to the Washington area that encourage new transit-oriented development and improve conditions for existing residents.”

West Sacramento is contributing $350,000 to the planning project.

[adrotate group=”7″]  Cynthia Abbott, a HUD field office director, told the assembled crowd that competition for the $97 million in “Sustainable Communities Grants” was fierce, with only one in every eight applicants receiving funds. In California, only West Sacramento and the Sacramento County Housing Authority were grant winners.

Mayor Christopher Cabaldon’s public remarks included his note that a lot of planning projects, such as the one shaping the city’s “Bridge District” near Raley Field, are led by developers, and set their sights on land that’s uninhabited. Not so with Washington.

“This is a place where the people own it already,” said Cabaldon.

The Washington District is part of West Sacramento’s northeastern riverfront, near the I Street and Tower bridges. After its habitation by Native Americans, the area had a vibrant history beginning in the Gold Rush years.

“It’s one of the oldest neighborhoods in the Sacramento region, and in fact the oldest neighborhood in West Sacramento,” Cabaldon added. “It is an old neighborhood with a richness of diversity of community. . . but it has often been neglected for infrastructure.”

The new plan will “develop an authentic vision of what the neighborhood should be.”

HUD’s Abbott added that the planning project aims to “connect housing with jobs and provide transportation options for families.”

The plan may include streetcar access (the first phase of a Sacramento-West Sacramento route is in the planning stages) and replacement of the I Street Bridge with one that is friendly to bicycles and pedestrians headed to Sacramento.Now, the old bridge barely has room for two cars to cross past each other.

The Washington District comprises 194 acres and is “predominantly low income,” said a press statement from the city’s Art Schroeder.

The planning effort will look at “infrastructure deficiencies, transit service needs, regulatory barriers, infill development site opportunities, and neighborhood preservation concerns,” added Schroeder. The goal will be making Washington into “a vibrant, mixed-use, mixed-income community in support of the city’s overall vision for an active urban riverfront.”

Mayor Cabaldon vowed that the study won’t gather much dust when complete.
“At the end of the day, this project won’t just be a pretty plan with some nice things on it,” he told the small crowd of press and other interested people. “That’s not the West Sacramento way.”

The Washington neighborhood is one of the city’s most interesting mixes of old and new, promise and disappointment.

It’s built on a street grid dating to the 19th century. There are Victorian homes in various states of preservation, a couple of relatively new skyscrapers (the CalSTRS building and the ziggurat building), and plans for more tall shiny buildings.

[adrotate group=”9″]   There are projects in place that were built during the Great Depression: an old firehouse near 3rd and C is stamped with the letters “WPA” – signifying the Works Progress Administration, which was charged by FDR with building things and employing workers during the tough times of the 1930s. The Tower Bridge was also a “New Deal” project – a federal stimulus project of its time.

Washington also has shiny new urban townhouses fronted with retail space – but much of the space remains vacant in the midst of the worst economy since the Great Depression.

And there is a gritty element to Washington. A visitor who parked a block south of Monday’s press conference site walked past a small patch of grass littered with abandoned clothes and various unmentionables, probably left behind by a homeless person.

How will the neighborhood look in 20 or 30 years? Cabaldon and other local leaders hope the $400,000 planning grant will help decide that question.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2011

Grant will promote kids walking, biking to school

[adrotate group=”10″] FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — NOV 9, 2011 —

The City of West Sacramento announced Oct. 20 that it had received a $496,000 federal grant to implement a new “Safe and Healthy Routes to School Project.” The grant was administered by Caltrans.

The project will seek to “establish a culture of walking and biking to school in West Sacramento” and to make infrastructure improvements that may be needed to help students do that. The program will run from 2012-2014.

The project will include “comprehensive education and encouragement programs customized to meet the needs of each of eight West Sacramento” elementary schools, said a press release from Greta Vohlers, Transportation Program Specialist for the city. The schools include grades kindergarten through eight.

“We expect to build bottom-up support for safe routes to school and leave a dedicated group of advocates who can grow and maintain similar programs after the close of this project,” said Vohlers.

At least one “parent champion” will be recruited from each campus, and trained to help encourage walking and biking to school.

Copyright News-Ledger 2011

First-ever ‘State of the District’

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The News-Ledger just received notice that Washington Unified School District has set a date for the first-ever ‘State of the District’ dinner.

The event is planned for Nov. 1 at River City High School.  It begins at 5:30 p.m., with dinner at 6. A speech by board president David Westin is expected.

Further details — including cost — have not yet been released.



School district posts another test score jump

WUSD schools met the goal of Board President David Westin to achieve a 20-point increase in API scores overall this year. In fact, scores at the district went up 28 points.

The gain makes for a 48-point increase in API scores districtwide over two years.

Westmore Oaks this year joined Bridgeway Island and Southport elementary schools in achieving the 800-point status with this year’s round of testing.

Said Westin in a WUSD press release:

[adrotate group=”7″] “The Washington Unified School District’s sustained API achievement reflects our ‘whole child’ approach — focusing on the student’s academic, emotional and social needs — along with quality teaching that is driven by students’ learning needs and determination to make learning applicable to continued success, long after they graduate from our schools. This is another clear indication that our district has already gone to the next level.”

Added Dayton Gilleland, WUSD superintendent, in the same press release:

“Gains are no longer isolated to a few schools or socioeconomic groups. We are now seeing more consistent growth throughout the district. . . Beyond test scores, on any given day, if you walk into a classroom, you will see engaged students who are excited and ready to learn.”

The district reported that almost every school saw at least a 10-point increase in API scores this year.

The exception was Yolo High, the district’s alternative high school, whose scores dropped from 406 points to 389.

Copyright News-Ledger 2011