Tag Archives: election

Teacher runs for spot on school board

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 23, 2013 —

  Editor’s note: during each election season, the News-Ledger invites every candidate to a sit-down interview to cover public issues in some depth. West Sacramento voters face a special all-mail election on March 5, when they will choose from among five people competing to fill one vacancy on the local school board.

  The News-Ledger’s candidate interviews began on Jan. 23, and are continuing in the print edition through about Feb. 20.  Here’s the first of this season’s candidate interviews:

SARAH KIRBY-GONZALEZ: West Sacramento resident who is a former 'teacher of the year' in the Folsom-Cordova school district (News-Ledger photo)

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

A former “teacher of the year” in the Folsom-Cordova school district, Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez hopes to bring her classroom experiences with her to a new seat on West Sacramento’s school board.

She thinks the local board needs a teacher’s perspective.

“I don’t think the school board should be all teachers – absolutely not. But it needs to be a group of people with one person on it to be a voice on education,” she told the News-Ledger. “For me, (running for the school board) was about bringing a voice to education.”

Kirby-Gonzalez and her husband, a police officer, have lived in the Silverwood Road area of Southport for about five years. They have a toddler whom she says will soon be headed into West Sacramento public schools. She’s been interested in becoming more involved in the district where she lives for some time.

“After I was named ‘teacher of the year’ in my district, some opportunities opened up to have a voice on a different level,” she recalled. “It felt good to meet with senators, and see that they needed somebody to talk to them about education. . . I realized I wanted to have a voice on a different level. The school board has been something that just makes sense for me as an educator.”

When an election was scheduled for March 5 to fill a vacancy on the school board for Washington Unified School District here, she set out to learn more.

“I went to the mayor’s workshop (for prospective candidates), thinking that this might not be the time I would run, but I wanted to learn more,” Kirby-Gonzalez remarked. “But I looked around the room and thought, ‘Oh, I’m absolutely ready.’ I’m the most qualified person here. I need to run.”

So her name will be among the five on next month’s ballot.

With a teaching credential and master’s degree from CSUS, she has taught “almost every grade in elementary school,” and now works at a magnet school in Folsom-Cordova.

“I teach in the magnet program for our students in Rancho Cordova who need something a little different,” said Kirby-Gonzalez.

“We teach an inquiry-based learning program.”

She added that she prefers the concept of a district-operated magnet school to that of an independently-managed charter school.

“I have friends who teach in charters, and I know some good things are happening there, but my concern is that taxpayer money is going somewhere that has no public oversight, and we have no record in (Washington Unified School District) of how many kids are going. What I want to do is look more out how we can get these options into the school district. Parents obviously want choice, and they obviously want different things, but we can offer that in the district, just like where I teach.”

  Kirby-Gonzalez said she is not adamantly against charter schools and would look at new charter proposals on a “case by case” basis.

“They’re all very different,’ she said.

The candidate said she has been visiting and watching the local school board in action.

“I think the next person in there will be key in terms of working together,” she said when asked if it is an “effective” group. “I think they have some work to do in terms of collaborating and working together.”

Kirby-Gonzalez does give the district’s leaders credit for fiscal management in these tough budgetary times – WUSD has held onto class-size reduction programs (“that’s huge”) and has avoided layoffs.

“In terms of the terrible budget times we’ve been in, they’ve done a good job to keep things I would say are essential. Now, they need to look at spending money on curriculum, professional development, things like that.”

What should a board member do?

“Your job is really oversight, and also to be a guide and give direction for the district,” she answered. “It’s certainly not to micromanage every step of the way. I will tell you that I have had board members in my classrooms in my school on a regular basis, and it feels really good to have support. It’s great (as a board member) to be a cheerleader.”

Kirby-Gonzalez has developed school curriculum before, and thinks she can help WUSD update its own curricula.

“The state wants different curriculum, too, to get our kids college- and career-ready. That’s one piece of the puzzle that’s so important. (The board) needs one person who gets that.”

How is WUSD doing on test scores – and what do the scores mean?

“I will tell you as someone with some of the highest test scores around (in my classes), I don’t think they’re a very good measure,” said Kirby-Gonzalez.

The current state tests for students focus too narrowly on reading and math – downplaying such skills as critical thinking, she said.

“I’ve had teachers come to me and say, ‘now the kids can read – but they can’t think.’ It’s our job as a school district to produce informed, good citizens who can give back to their communities. I don’t think we’re doing a good job.”

“The test scores we have now tell us a lot about (the students’) socioeconomic status.”

Kirby-Gonzalez is “cautiously optimistic” that new, revised standardized tests will be better at measuring real skills. And schools will get to expand their teaching to meet the demands of the new tests.

“Assessment is huge,” she commented. “But we need the most meaningful kind of assessment.”

How would she choose a place to live if she were looking solely at its school district?

“I would choose based on graduation rates, which we obviously need to work on here. I would choose based on a solid science-type program, and they have all sorts of great things here. I would look into what is their policy on bullying. I would go to the school and visit it and walk around and see how I felt.”

WUSD needs more technology programs for kids, she feels. And it needs more parental involvement, said Kirby-Gonzalez. But how do you get parents involved?

“You do ‘family learning night,’ you have families bring food, you have cultural days where you celebrate different cultures,” she answered. “You have parent classes to learn English in the evenings. You have child care at the PTA meetings. They love their kids, but some people are just afraid to come to the schools, and you have to get them in.”

Kirby-Gonzalez also believes that by offering more curriculum choices and by better public relations, WUSD can attract back some of its students who are shipping out of West Sacramento to go to other districts. That, in turn, will bring more “average daily attendance” money from the state.

“We need to win them back,” she said about local students who go elsewhere for schooling.

She is disappointed that the local “GATE” program for gifted students has “kind of fizzled out,” and hopes to see it revived because “our gifted students are in some ways ‘at risk,’ too.” They need to be welcomed and challenged, said Kirby-Gonzalez.

Kirby-Gonzalez has endorsements from the school district teachers and classified employees, as well as board members Adam Menke and Alicia Cruz, and Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, she reports. She’s getting campaign help from a pro – family member Jeff Raimundo, a public relations and political campaign veteran.

Her campaign has a web page – www.sarah4schools.com, and a Facebook page. You can also call Kirby-Gonzalez’s campaign at (916) 482-0775.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2013

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.

  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

Five compete for open seat

NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 9, 2013 —

Former board member David Westin and temporary member Elizabeth Bagdazian are not among the candidates —

LINH NGUYEN: business owner from Southport seeks a seat on the Washington Unified School District board of trustees (courtesy photo)

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

Five candidates have signed up for West Sacramento’s special school board election on March 5.  The all-mail ballot will ask voters to pick one person to fill the remaining term – almost two years – of former board member Sandra Vargas.

  Vargas resigned in the fall. Her remaining colleagues appointed Elizabeth Bagdazian to fill the slot, but a group of citizens successfully petitioned to overturn that appointment and force the special vote.

Neither Bagdazian nor David Westin, a former school board member narrowly voted out of office in November, are running for the vacancy.

The News-Ledger this week caught up with several of the candidates.

NICHOLAS TURNEY: former college instructor, now a parent & homemaker, is running for a school board seat in West Sacramento (courtesy photo)

The five candidates are:

Nicholas Scott Turney, a self-described parent/homemaker who lives on Watercourse Lane in northern West Sacramento.

Katherine R. Gales, reported as an “education executive assistant” and who lives on Touchstone Place in Southport.

Linh T. Nguyen, who lists himself as a business owner who lives on Huntington Road in Southport.

Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez, self-described as a parent-teacher and who hasn’t listed a street address. Her Facebook page indicates she works as a teacher in Folsom Cordova Unified School District.

Francisco Castillo, who lists himself as a parent/education advocate and who lives on Ryer Island Street in Southport.

Nicholas Turney, 33, told the News-Ledger he believes that Washington Unified School District “could use a voice more representative of the north area.”

“I’m a former college instructor and I took a leave from teaching to raise our children, so I understand the benefits of having a solid education as a basis for success in the future,” he said. “I’m not affiliated with any board members or civic leaders – I’m a totally independent candidate.”

Turney said he has a kindergarten-age daughter and a son who’s still a toddler.

KATHERINE GALES: works for state education departments, wants to give public service back (courtesy photo)

Katherine Gales, 49, said she has a grandson, two nieces and a nephew of school age.

“I’m running because I have experience and understand education and I’ve been around the block,” she said. “I think everybody should be involved (in public service) at some point in their life doing what they can do. I bring my experience, knowledge and expertise in education to the West Sacramento public schools.”

Gales said she has worked for the state education department for 14 years, and has lived in the city for three. Although she responded to a call for candidates made on Mayor Christopher Cabaldon’s Facebook page, Gales said she has not received the mayor’s endorsement or other political endorsements at this point.

Francisco Castillo, 32, said he was motivated to get involved partly by the experience of having to spend the night in front of Bridgeway Island Elementary School in order to get his child a slot in the kindergarten there.

“I work in a national educational advocacy group called StudentsFirst,” he told the News-Ledger. “I’ve been in West Sacramento about five years.”

His focus includes ensuring preschool access for all children, promoting college and career preparation, and ensuring fiscal responsibility in the district.

FRANCISCO CASTILLO: Professional education advocate, endorsed by mayor & county supervisor (courtesy photo)

“I’m happy to have the endorsements of (new board member) Katie Villegas, Mayor Cabaldon, (Yolo County Supervisor Michael) McGowan, and city councilmen Oscar Villegas and Christ Ledesma,” said Castillo.

Nguyen and Kirby-Gonzalez couldn’t immediately be reached for comment – but the News-Ledger plans to invite all candidates for an in-depth interview before the election.

The website of the local teachers’ union, the Washington Teachers Association, reports that the union has endorsed Kirby-Gonzalez, the teacher.

A sixth candidate filed to run in this race, but withdrew. That was Coby Pizotti, who ran unsuccessfully for one of the seats available in the regular election in November.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2013