Tag Archives: district

Meet Coby Pizotti, school board candidate

  EDITOR’S NOTE: Every election cycle in West Sacramento, the News-Ledger invites each candidate for a sit-down interview. The below interview was published in the News-Ledger edition of Sept. 26, 2012. In it, we talk to Coby Pizotti, a candidate for one of three available seats on the school board for Washington Unified School District. If you’re not already a News-Ledger subscriber, look for the special offer following the interview.

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

Coby Pizotti is a relative newcomer to West Sacramento. He and his wife put roots down in the city’s Bridgeway Island area in 2009.

“My daughter was born in March,” Pizotti told the News-Ledger. “That’s actually the reason I decided to run for school board. I wanted to ensure that by the time she goes to public school – and she will go to public school – she will have a school system able to deliver a top-notch education.”

COBY PIZOTTI: challenger for a seat on the WUSD board of trustees in West Sacramento (News-Ledger photo)

Pizotti, 41, is a lobbyist for the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians. A native of Castro Valley and Hayward, he attended Chico State before getting a degree in government from Sacramento State. He has worked for Democrats in the legislature (including Speakers Fabian Nunez and Herb Wesson) and for organized labor, including the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association.

“I believe that the school board should have an advocate who has relationships with members of the legislature,” he said. “That could benefit the board, to have direct access to some of the state’s politicians.”

Has Pizotti been involved in West Sacramento and the Washington Unified School Disrtict before becoming a candidate?

“I have friends at the West Sacramento Recreation Center,” he answered. “I’ve been brainstorming with the basketball coach at River City High to come up with some ideas on how to fundraise for the boys basketball team. I haven’t really had the opportunity to get as involved as I’d like. But I believe my experience will help the school district.”

Has he been observing board meetings?

  “I’ve seen two of them in person and watched one or two on (cable) TV,” said Pizotti. “I think the (current) board is relatively functional in terms of the direction it’s going. They’ve laid down some strict guidelines on what they want to see, and that has resulted in the dramatic increases in the API scores (student test scores) in the past two years. That’s huge.”

What sort of financial shape is Washington Unified School District in?

“The district is in good shape because they’ve taken steps to ensure they have a surplus that’s essentially a rainy day fund,” he answered.

But if the governor’s Proposition 30 doesn’t pass in November, WUSD will – like other districts – have more financial problems. Pizotti urges a “yes” on 30 in November, and a “no” on Molly Munger’s Prop. 32.

Proposition 30 is Jerry Brown’s attempt to close the state budget shortfall, and includes some tax increases.

“For Prop. 30, I’ve helped raise $300,000,” said Pizotti. He was cautiously optimistic that it would pass.

Pizotti explained what he thought his job would be if elected:

“I believe a board member is responsible for setting policy and getting the schools going in the direction they would like to see. It’s the administrators and superintendent who implement those policies. The school board members are responsible, I believe, for listening to their constituents, hearing what students need to be successful, and reaching out to parents to get them more involved.”

“I believe test scores are on the rise,” Pizotti added. “I think the superintendent has done a good job implementing the programs that have increased the scores.”

But “you don’t get tested on vocational education, you don’t get tested on the arts.” So testing isn’t everything, he said.

Pizotti believes that sports helped “helped put me where I am today,” teaching him discipline and team play. And sports, like other extracurricular activities, are vital in the schools.

“Not everyone’s destined for college. We need to prepare students as best we can to find the jobs they want to find,” he said. “And if you have a child involved extracurricular anything, whether it’s debate, band, sports, or clubs, you’re going to have a child that has something to do and is learning a concept like teamwork and the importance of competition and discipline.”

Pizotti isn’t a fan of charter schools.

“In general, I don’t like charter schools,” he explained. “I will not work to eliminate the ones we have, and I will support the kids there. But I will not vote to approve new charter schools. Charter schools take away from the majority of kids at public schools.”


“You can’t run a school like you do a Walmart. While most (charter schools) are nonprofit, there’s a kind of model most charter schools go by, where they don’t have to uphold contracts with labor (unions) to uphold certain standards. And many times, students don’t get the (socioeconomic) diversity they need.”

If the district gets more funding, Pizotti would certainly like to support extracurricular activities and sports. What else?

“Next thing is to hire more guidance counselors,” he said. “Guidance counselors are an integral part of the educational system. Teachers can’t always know what’s going on in the student’s homes. Could it be that mom and dad work three jobs to put food on the table? Or mom and dad are absent? Guidance counselors are the right people to identify these problems.”

They’re also in a prime spot to interrupt bullying, said Pizotti.

If elected, he hopes to create an advisory panel at each school.

“They’d be comprised of staff, parents and teachers,” he said. “They’d report to me and discuss what they need to produce a better educational experience, and produce a happier learning environment for the child.”

And he would like to “work with the police department to create more patrols of our campuses.”

“If Prop. 30 does not pass, I would like to work with W.S.P.D. to create volunteer policing on our campuses – teach people how to report what they see as suspicious. Use retirees and stay-at-home parents.”

Pizotti believes this year’s school board campaign will be vigorously fought. With a fundraising target of $20,00 for his own campaign, he believes he’s a contender to win. He hasn’t got an endorsement from any current board members, but just announced the endorsement of Assemblyman Roger Dickinson.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2012

Petition overturns school board appointment: special election coming


By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

  EDITOR’S UPDATE: The article below discusses a petition to nullify the appointment of Elizabeth Bagdazian to the local school board and force a special election to fill the vacant seat. Late this week, the Yolo County Elections Department verified that the petition contained sufficient signatures. On Oct. 12,, the Washington Unified School District released a statement thanking Bagdazian for her service and announcing that there would be a special election to fill the seat. Details of the election have not been announced, but Bagdazian is no longer a school board member.

A coalition of locals has submitted a petition that may cut short the school board term of Elizabeth Bagdazian and force a special election within the next few months to fill her seat. The petition was spearheaded by a group unhappy with how the Washington Unified School District handled the process surrounding their appointment of Bagdazian to fill a vacancy.

Matthew Hargrove, who spearheaded the petition, drive, said the petition is not about Bagdazian:

“It has nothing to do with the individual, it has to do with the procedure,” he told the News-Ledger. “I don’t really know who Liz Bagdazian is, and that’s probably the point. . . There are two years left on this term, and (the school board) could have chosen a more open procedure. They could have put this on the ballot.”

The chain of events so far:
Former board member Sandra Vargas on August 1 filed her resignation to the board effective at the end of August. Although she gave no reason – and hasn’t returned calls from the News-Ledger – it’s believed she moved out of the school district sometime in the past few months. A board member can no longer serve once he or she moves out of the district.

There is already a school board election scheduled on the November 6 ballot, with three seats up for grabs. But the effective date of Vargas’s resignation – August 31 – would have made it tough for the board to place the remainder of her school board term on the same ballot unless they started the process earlier.

The board accepted applications to fill the two-years-plus remaining on Vargas’s term and then, on Sept 5, appointed Bagdazian to fill the post. The decision occurred at a public meeting, although the names of the candidates weren’t released to the public in advance, and the district declined to provide the names to the News-Ledger before the meeting.

In the past few weeks, those angry with this “process” started a petition drive to overturn the appointment and put the board seat in front of the voters. On Friday, they turned in the petitions. If at least 345 of the over-600 signatures are confirmed as valid, Bagdazian’s term will be clipped and a special election will be called.

  A spokeswoman for the Yolo County Elections Department said that the school board could choose between a mail-only ballot that would cost WUSD about $100,000 and a normal process with polling places, which would cost $175-200,000. The election would have to be held within 130 days of the signature verification, which should be done in the next few weeks.

Is this worth the cost to the school district?

“Implicit in that question is the implication that I am costing the school district money,” he answered. “I resent the notion. That is wholly on the board. . . By not calling them on this, I would be enabling them to do this again in the future,” answered Hargrove. “Choices were made and folks were inactive in order to avoid putting this up for a vote. . . The vacancy was long in the making, and people really knew it was coming.”

Hargrove believes the district could have let the public fill the empty seat on the board in the November election, if they had wanted to.

Hargrove said he has two kids in the local public schools, so he has a stake in this issue. But he said he was part of a similar process several years ago when the West Sacramento City Council accepted applications to fill a vacated council seat – and the city handled the appointment much differently.

“That was an extra transparent procedure,” he said. “It was noticed (to the public), the names of the candidates were out there. I think there were nine of us. The appointment process was open to the public. It was televised. People that didn’t like me could come and ask questions of the candidates. I came in second to Wes Beers, and he was absolutely the best choice West Sacramento could make for the vacancy. Had we not gone through such an open procedure, there may not have been the same outcome.”

In contrast, said Hargrove, the district’s appointment process seemed “a bit contrived.”

School board president Teresa Blackmer did not return a request for comment. She is stepping down from her board at the end of her term this year, and has not returned other calls from the News-Ledger during this appointment process.

As for Bagdazian?

“I’m disappointed,” the new board member said. “I took the position for a reason. I knew I could step in. I was qualified. We all know there is a possibility of three seats being overturned in November, which could cause quite a bit of instability in the beginning. I knew I could be a stabilizing influence.”

“I’m very disappointed that, at a minimum, a hundred grand is going to come out of the (school district’s) general fund. Just prior to me getting on the board, they cut K-8 busing. That was devastating.”

Bagdazian said she hit the ground running after being appointed a month ago.

“In my short time as a board member, I’ve been to three-quarters of the schools, I’ve read all the contracts and read the budget,” she said.

She said that she witnessed paid signature-gatherers “harassing” voters in front of Nugget, and that “a person who applied (for the vacancy) and didn’t get the post was out with a petition,” going door to door and misrepresenting the facts.

Hargrove said most of the signatures were gathered in a “grassroots” fashion, but he engaged professionals as he approached the filing deadline, not knowing how many signatures had been inked on the various copies of the petition floating around the community. The paid gatherers were funded by an organization called “Move West Sacramento Forward.” (The News-Ledger wasn’t able to get further information on the group at press time.)

The petition drive gained steam from Mayor Christopher Cabaldon and his popular Facebook page, where he opined about the “improper action by the school board to evade a public election and appoint a school board member under a shroud of secrecy that is an embarrassment to what West Sacramento stands for” and called for people to sign the petition.

Hargrove said he is not in the “camp” of anyone else who wants that board seat, and he himself “has no plans” to run in a special election for it.

“I am not pro-any-other-candidate,” he said. “I am focusing on the process here.”

Bagdazian said she will keep doing her job until the petition is verified and she is removed from her post – and then she will decide whether to run for the seat in the possible election. But she wishes there would be no election, with its $100,000-plus price tag.

“This is a negative thing for our children because they’re the ones who are going to be impacted,” said Bagdazian.

  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 2012

Petition succeeds, election to be called


The Yolo County Elections Department  has verified that there are enough valid signatures on that petition challenging the appointment of Elizabeth Bagdazian to a vacant school board seat. Her school board term has been terminated, and the WUSD school board will be required to call for a special election to fill the seat.

The Washington Unified School District has issued a statement thanking Bagdazian for her service.

The petition was the subject of an article in the current edition (Oct. 10) of the News-Ledger newspaper.

Copyright News-Ledger 2012

EDITORIAL: WUSD should know better


We were disappointed to find that the superintendent of Washington Unified School District, and apparently the district’s lawyers, when offered a chance to walk away from an untenable position, chose instead to dig in and play defense.

The issue – as you may have seen in our separate news article – was a simple request by the News-Ledger for some documents. We wanted to publish the names of the people who were applying to be appointed as the newest school board member.

  The district said “no,” initially saying that the list of names wasn’t “public information” because the board hadn’t seen it yet. Later, they said added the reason that there wasn’t, technically, a printed list.

Let’s take the second reason first: yes, WUSD is correct that they don’t have to provide documents to the public if the documents don’t exist. The problem – carefully explained to Dr. Gilleland – is that WUSD send us an email that seemed to acknowledge that there was a list. The email from the district was misleading. Had WUSD told us that the names of the applicants hadn’t been put onto one document, we could have and would have instantly rephrased our request, and asked the district to fax us copies of the applications themselves.

And, you know what? The California Public Records act actually requires government agencies to help members of the public identify the records they need – not to hinder them.

Now, our request for this information was informal and on a short time frame. What happened, happened. What interests us more is the district’s policy: does it truly believe that it can withhold a document from the public for the simple reason that “the board hasn’t seen it?”

In a word, yes. And that’s wrong.

Most documents in the hands of your local government agencies are public, period. There are only narrow exceptions. Anyone running a school district or providing its legal advice simply ought to know this.

Imagine WUSD is right, and imagine they have on file some kind of document they don’t want to go public. Let’s say it’s a contractor’s report saying the roof is about to fall in on one of the campuses, or that somebody embezzled a bunch of money. Under the district’s theory, all they have to do to legally justify keeping such information secret is not give a copy to the school board. They could still brief the board, but as long as they don’t provide the board with a copy, “it’s not public information.”


Public information is public information. The board is just five guys and gals who do the public’s work. It’s that simple.

  If you comment on this editorial, we may publish your comment in the News-Ledger.

  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 2012