Tag Archives: election

Roy Sianez, running for school board:


  Editor’s note: This interview with school board candidate Roy Siañez comes from the Oct. 10 edition of the News-Ledger, West Sacramento’s weekly community newspaper. We hope these interviews help you make up your mind about the upcoming Nov. 6 ballot.

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

Roy Siañez is a new resident of West Sacramento – his family closed escrow on a local house in February. But he wants to start serving this community. That’s why he is running for one of three seats available on the local school board on Nov. 6.

“I’m a parent,” he told the News-Ledger recently. “I understand the importance of a quality education for students and also the importance of parental involvement. I’m new to West Sacramento, but I’m not new to serving my community. . . I’m eager to bring that community activism to West Sacramento.”

ROY SIANEZ: wants to contribute to West Sacramento

Siañez, 39, is currently a policy director for Democrat Norma Torres in the State Assembly. He’s worked for other politicos on issues that span health, public safety, education, housing and other topics.

“As a legislative director, I advise her on every single issue,” he said.

Siañez does not have any kids in local schools – one daughter has graduated, and a second goes to school in another city.

He’s been active in a number of regional and state causes over the years, beginning with his own student college days.

“I was a member of the Latino Complete Count Committee, working to ensure the Latino community was counted appropriately for the 2010 census,” Siañez said. He’s also a former board member of the Oak Park Business Association. Another favorite cause is the Youth Leadership Project.

“I’ve served on that organization for nine years,” he told the News-Ledger. “Every year, we bring 120 high school students from across the state to this area in the summer. They stay in the Sacramento State University dorms for a week, at no cost to them. We pay for all their housing, registration and transportation.

Siañez believes in the value of education. He grew up in Modesto, raised by a single mother who worked in a factory.

“She spent most of her time working, so she wasn’t able to help me with school,” he reports.   “I kind of strayed in school.”

He dropped out of school, then – on the advice of a friend – enrolled in a junior college without even knowing that it was customary to transfer after a couple of years to finish a college degree.

Financial aid and fee waivers made it possible for him to go to college:

“That started my journey into higher education,” Siañez said. “I transferred to Sacramento State years later. At the junior college level, that’s where I started developing as a person and educationally. That’s where I became involved in advocacy.”

  The activism started in Latino clubs and with a run for student senate.

Then came an internship in the legislature and an ensuing career at the Capitol. He has landed near West Sacramento’s Bridgeway Lakes area.

How does he think the current school board is doing?

“I know there are several board members who have served long terms,” Siañez answered. “Longevity and continuity are generally good things.”

Test scores seem to be on the right path, he added.

“Whenever we have an increase in test scores, that’s a good thing. It means you’re doing something right. But if one school increased by ten points, and another only by five points, I want to know about that.”

What sort of financial shape is Washington Unified in?

“My understanding is that the Yolo County Office of Education has certified the school district’s budget, which is a positive thing,” said Siañez. “I would hope that could be the case for future years to come.”


“It’s a scary thought about what would happen if the governor’s initiative (Proposition 30) to increase revenue doesn’t pass. I definitely think we need to increase revenue given the economic climate.”

One of the reasons Siañez believes he would make a good school board member is his own Latino experience.

“41 percent of the students in the school district are Latino,” he said. “It begs the question – if you look at the school board, and look at the students, does the school board really reflect the students?”

Siañez believes that sports and extracurricular activities are crucial for some students.

“Frosh football was great for me, because it kept me out of trouble,” he recalls. “After the season ended, my idle time became a problem. . . (After dropping out), my motivation for trying to return to high school was to play football.”

He supports “any and all programs that can help our neediest students with some of the voids they bring, to attend school.”

How does Siañez feel about charter schools?

“Not all charter schools are equal, he replied. “You have to look at whether there’s a need, and if there is a need, explain it. If there’s a public school that’s been failing, consider it. It’s a case by case basis.”

What is it in his experience that would make Siañez a good board member?

“My public policy experience, my experience as a parent, and my experience as a product of the public educational system,” he answered.

“West Sacramento is my new home,” concluded Siañez. I’m involved, and I plan to be here a long time. I’m eager to get involved and make a difference – I don’t want to wait.”
Siañez, along with several other challengers and two incumbents, is seeking one of three seats on the school board this fall.

  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

Meet Walt Bowman, WUSD candidate


  Editor’s Note: each local election cycle, the News-Ledger invites all candidates for West Sacramento local office to meet us for a published interview. Those interviews are seen first by News-Ledger subscribers. We’re pleased to offer our Oct. 3 interview with Walt Bowman below. He’s running for one of three available seats on the Washington Unified School District school board.

By Steve Marschke, News-Ledger Editor

Walt Bowman is a 71-year old retired truck driver who lives with his wife in the West Capitol Avenue area of West Sacramento. This November, for the second time, he will be trying to earn a spot on the Washington Unified School District Board of Trustees.

What’s driving him?

“I want to get one person off the board,” he mentioned. “I’m not going to name any names. I want to put new faces on the board. I’d like to see three new faces this time around – whether it’s me or not doesn’t matter.”

WALT BOWMAN: retired truck driver wants to change up West Sacramento's school board (News-Ledger photo)

Bowman is one of a handful of challengers joining incumbents David Westin and Mary Leland in pursuing three available seats on the school board. His own two kids are grown, but he became angry when the board made moves to close the charter school that two of his  granddaughters were attending. That school, the West Sacramento Early College Prep Charter School, has been deemed to be underperforming.

“They wanted to close that school,” Bowman told the News-Ledger last week. That started me getting mad, and my daughter said, ‘instead of getting mad, why don’t you run?’”

“I like charter schools,” he added. “I’m for it. If I’m on the board, every time it comes up, I’m going to vote for it. They’re an alternative education – some kids don’t fit in well at the regular schools, for one reason or another.”

Bowman has another grandchild at Stonegate Elementary. He has lived in New Mexico and in the Bay Area, and he spent a year at Chabot College in Hayward before his career in long-haul and local trucking.

How does he think the current board is doing – aside from the charter school issue?

“Overall, they might be doing OK,” Bowman allowed.

How about the district’s finances in this era of state-budget cuts?

“I feel they have the money,” said Bowman. “Like everybody else, they say ‘oh, we don’t have the money.’ But if they don’t have the money, how are they paying the teachers?”

  Student test scores have gone up in the past two years. Is that important?

“These people on the board now make a big deal of that,” he answered. “But they’re not in there taking that test. They’re not in the classrooms teaching. Yet they’re saying, ‘we got the test scores up.’ No, they didn’t.”

What does Bowman think of the quality of WUSD’s schools?

“They’re probably doing okay,” he answered, “but the schools on this side of the town (in the north) are kind of overlooked. I don’t think they give the schools on this side of town a fair shake.”

What big challenges does he see in the district?

“They say it’s money, but another thing is that there’s a high drop-out rate at the high school,” answered Bowman. “That’s going to be a big problem to fix. We should hire high-end mental health counselors and bring them in here. We can sit them down and get inside these kids’ heads and figure out what’s going on. They’re going to say it’s going to cost the district money. But, well. . . .”

Does Bowman have other ideas for improving the district?

“Probably some of these kids need a lot of help. Like counselors, or some kind of aides to help these kids.”

“If politicians would keep their noses out of it, and let the schools teach, the students would be better off.”

West Sacramento voters elect their school board (and their city council) “at large,” meaning there is one group of candidates voted on by people from every neighborhood. Bowman would like to see future school board voting done by districts, to help the northern part of town get more consistent representation.

“If we go by district, everyone will have a fair chance,” he explained. “You’re going to have a mix of people from Bryte, Broderick, (the central business district) and so on. You’d get a cross-section of people on there. Things would get done.”

What will Bowman do if elected?

“If I get in there, I will try to get the buses back,” he responded. The district – reacting to budget cuts – has cut a lot of its school bus service recently.

Bowman said he will not be spending a lot on his campaign, because “I don’t like to go out and ask for money.”

“I’m not backed by anybody (on the board or city council) and I don’t belong to this group or that group. But I’m going to give it a shot.”

  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

Oleg Maskaev: running for city council


  Editor’s note: During every West Sacramento election cycle, we invite each of the candidates for city council and school board to sit down for an interview to be published in the News-Ledger. On Oct. 3, we published the following interview with Oleg Maskaev. 

By Steve Marschke, News-Ledger Editor

Oleg Maskaev brings a measure of celebrity to this year’s West Sacramento City Council race. He’s the lone challenger to incumbents Bill Kristoff and Oscar Villegas. He’s also a former WBC heavyweight champion.

OLEG MASKAEV: former heavyweight champ hopes to earn a seat on West Sacramento's city council (News-Ledger photo)

Maskaev beat Hasim Rahman in the boxing ring in 2006 to earn his heavyweight title, defending it successfully later that year against Peter Okhello. At 43, he still trains (albeit at a less-strenuous level) and he plans a few more fights before hanging up the gloves. But Maskaev’s name is already well-known in sporting circles and among the Russian community worldwide.

Still, the boxer says he’s also the same “simple man” who used to work in a coal mine in Kazakhstan, a republic that used to be part of the Soviet Union.

“Everbody says ‘Oleg is a superstar,’” Maskaev told the News-Ledger. “But I’m still a very simple man. I’m still that young guy working in the mine, running in the streets and playing soccer.”

Maskaev met a reporter for an interview this week, in a meeting set up by his campaign manager, David Joyce, and also attended by his campaign videographer. He recounted how he came to be living in Southport with a great boxing career behind him.

“I worked in a mine,” he said. “My father was the boss. What happened was, I almost got killed. . . I was lucky. The wagon, which weighed close to 7,000 pounds, went down while I was working down there. I was cleaning the rails. When I saw it coming, I just jumped aside. For five minutes, I couldn’t talk. People up there were saying ‘Oleg, Oleg, are you OK?”

When his father learned of the near miss, he pulled Maskaev from the mine.

  The younger Maskaev developed a successful amateur boxing career while attending a university.

“Because of boxing, I had lots of privileges,” he recalled. “I didn’t have to go every day to college, because I was training. . . (but) I studied very hard, I passed the tests.”

He earned degrees in engineering and in a subject similar to physical education.

Then Maskaev accidentally lost his amateur status after fighting a pro. But he won that fight — which led to a phone call from New York asking him to come fight professionally. That was in 1994.

Now, the 43-year old prizefighter lives in Southport with his wife and four kids. How did he end up in West Sacramento? The answer lies partly in the town’s thriving Russian community.

“I’d been in West Sacramento a number of times (before moving here) because of my friends,” said Maskaev. “I fought a couple of times in Reno. All my fans in West Sacramento came to watch. I fell in love with the city. It was beautiful, nice, because of the nature, fishing and hunting. And because of the weather – New York is a little cold.”

He moved to the city in 2006.

Why is he running for council?

“I love the community, the city and the people,” Maskaev answered. “(There are) very nice people – I have lots of friends here.” But:

“Some things have to be changed. I know people can trust me. I’m a very easy going man. I can sit down and talk to people.”

Maskaev said he was encouraged to run from both within West Sacramento and from outside. His campaign manager supports conservative Republicans, and Maskaev said his Republican affiliation is important to him in this campaign.

“It’s very important, because I love my family, I love my church and the city,” he commented.

  The local Russian Baptist church has taken a stand against gay marriage. Are social issues like this part of the local campaign?

“I was raised in a hardworking family,” he said. “I was raised to love people and not hate them. When we’re united, we can help each other. Hate has nothing to do with it.”

Asked about his community service experience, Maskaev replied that he is proud to have served as a missionary, speaking to groups of people around the globe.

“It’s very important stuff,” he said. “I’ve spoken to many people. They look at you and want to see who you are inside. . . My message was that when I was young, there were two ways. We have to choose (between) the right way and the wrong way. I chose the right way.”

Maskaev is trying to unseat one of the local city council’s incumbents. How does he feel the council is doing?

“Right now, they are doing bad. There is no question.”

What are they doing wrong?

“What are they doing good right now?” he retorted. “I saw one improvement – sidewalks. That’s all. What about the rest?”

He gestured toward the storefronts in the Southport shopping center surrounding him.

“As you see here, we don’t have any businesses. All the small businesses went out. We can see a lot of spaces available. . . Over by Nugget, there was a nice karate gym. Now, it’s closed. Who’s going to get blamed? Not me – they are.”

What should the city do about the problem?

“They should allow them to come here, and help them.”

What’s the main culprit? Paperwork? Taxes?

“I think taxes,” said Maskaev. “That’s number one, right now,”

He was asked what he thought of the city’s police and fire services. Are they good?

“Not now,” answered Maskaev. “It used to be, yes, but not anymore, because of the budget.”

What can the city to do fix public safety issues?

“They can create a budget for that, (be) more flexible to have more police, more firefighters – it’s very important. Safety for the people.”

Is the city doing a good job improving flood protection?

“I think they’re doing OK. We have to work on that more. How are they doing it? They want to raise the property taxes for the people. It’s going to affect them. We’re going to see more houses (in) foreclosure. We can’t do it that way – we have to make a special source for that.”

Where should the money come from?

“First of all, I have to see my limits and fight with the limits,” he said. “When you’re a politician, for instance you’re on a council, you have to see your limits and what you can do.”

Do the city’s planning policies support good growth patterns?

“I have to see everything. I have to see all the cards and just do my best.”

Is there a role for government to get involved in assisting some development projects? Should taxpayer money sometimes play a role?

“It has to be involved all the time. . . checking every move,” said Maskaev. We can sit down and figure out which way is good for the development and help make sure it’s going to happen.”

Maskaev looks to be mounting a serious campaign. Asked about his fundraising efforts, he answered:

“It’s improving. . . I’m going to talk to the people. I’m a simple man.”

And then a small group began to assemble nearby to assist him on a door-to-door walk in West Sacramento precincts that morning. Time to go talk to some of the people.

  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


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.

  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

Running for school board: Alicia Cruz


  In every local election cycle, the West Sacramento News-Ledger invites every candidate to sit-down for a published interview. Below is the first of the 2012 interviews, in which the newspaper talked with Alicia Cruz, one of the challengers running for a seat on the local school board on the November 6 ballot.

  Subscribers to the newspaper see these interviews immediately as they’re published. But as a community service, the News-Ledger will put each interview online at this site as election day draws closer. We hope this helps you get to better know the folks who are looking for your vote for city council and school board.

ALICIA CRUZ: president of an elementary school PTA is running for school board (News-Ledger photo)

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

“Two years ago, I thought about running for school board,” said Alicia Cruz, a 43-year old resident of West Sacramento’s north. “I made it a point to attend board meetings regularly, and I’ve been educating myself. Now I feel I’m ready.”

Cruz has lived most of her life in West Sacramento.

“I graduated from River City,” she told the News-Ledger. “I went to a lot of tech colleges – I have a paralegal degree from Humphrey Law School – and in 2010, I graduated from Cordon Bleu.” That school provides training for cooks.
Cruz is now a clerk at Sacramento Superior Court. She’s married, with a daughter who graduated from Woodland High and a son now at Riverbank Elementary in WUSD.

She’s president of the PTA at Riverbank, and has also coached youth basketball, been a Girl Scout leader, and chaired Riverbank’s annual Harvest Festival and the recent Multicultural Fair in West Sacramento. Cruz is a board member of BBCAN, the Bryte & Broderick Community Action Network, which is organized to support West Sacramento’s northern neighborhoods.

“I’m the only one (of the candidates) representing Broderick and Bryte,” commented Cruz. “I’m also the only Latina woman. I feel like West Sacramento has been separated – Broderick and Bryte from Southport – and I’m trying to lessen that separation. I won’t just be talking on behalf of one school, I’ll be talking on behalf of all the schools.”

Cruz feels the current board “works well together, and they get things done.”

“But I look on the board as kind of like a jury. I feel like, right now, they all have the same life experiences. You should have people like myself along with all the business people and financial people.”

Like other school districts hit hard by the state’s budget trouble, WUSD is suffering.

“I think (WUSD) is better managed than most,” said Cruz. “But are we safe? I don’t think so. We’ve lost school transportation – on our side (of town), there are no buses. There’s no tutoring. Maybe I can find a company to come in and do no-cost or low-cost tutoring.”

  Student test scores are up in the past couple of years (new API scores are due out soon).

“The way they’re looking at it is (test score gains) bring in money for the district,” said Cruz. “I don’t think they’re looking at it as to how it helps the students. At my son’s school, scores are up, but I don’t think that’s the whole picture. Is that the whole school or just 20 kids whose scores went up?”

Teachers shouldn’t directly be graded on the test scores of their charges, she said.

“I think it’s just one thing. You have to look at the child’s whole learning. I’m really big on parental help, not just leaving it to the teacher.”

Overall, the district is improving, but slowly:

“They are getting better, but they’re crawling,” she said. “And I truly feel that the City of West Sacramento and the school district are not friends. I think that if they had a better relationship, they could make good things happen.”

How does Cruz feel about charter schools?

“I think what we have right now is enough,” she said. “I think we need to focus more on what’s happening in public schools.”

A couple of the candidate’s pet concerns are school attendance and obesity in children.

“Get the kids to school regularly,” she opined. “My other issue is obesity in the schools. I think if we can keep the extracurricular activities in the schools, it will help keep kids healthy and keep them coming to school more often. I think the kids need to have better nutrition offered to them (on campus) and also be educated on it.”

“Another big pet peeve is getting those kids to wear bike helmets – I may plan a surprise day, and give out gift certificates to all the kids I see using one.”

If more money becomes available to WUSD, where would Cruz like to spend it?

“First and foremost, I’d like to see (bus) transportation come back,” she said. “I think there should be stricter guidelines if it does come back. I’ve seen parents who could take their kids to school just drop their kids off at the bus stop.”

Cruz also laments a lack of preparation among kids entering high school.

“In 6th through 8th grades, there are no counselors,” she commented. “There should be more concern for our 6th through 8th graders about getting them prepared for high school. The word now is that they don’t care. Then when they get to high school, they’re not ready. If there was money, maybe I’d put one counselor in each (elementary) school.”

Cruz said that current board member David Westin recruited her, and retiring board member Teresa Blackmer is mentoring her for the board. [Editor’s note: Cruz also said she had also been endorsed by board member Adam Menke, but later said that claim had been in error.]

Her ambitions as a trustee would be realistic:

“I don’t think I can fix anything myself,” said Cruz. “I want to be part of creating solutions. I want to be part of educating parents. I’m looking at students themselves, as well as at the teachers and at the schools.”

  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 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