Tag Archives: local

Turney: communication is key

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER NEWSPAPER — Feb 20 & 27, 2013 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

NICHOLAS TURNEY: candidate in the special West Sacramento school board election on March 5 (News-Ledger photo)

NICHOLAS TURNEY: candidate in the special West Sacramento school board election on March 5 (News-Ledger photo)

“Better communication” is an important theme for Nicholas Turney, one of five candidates running in a special election March 5 to fill a vacant seat on West Sacramento’s school board.   So it gave Turney “renewed hope” when the current board recently announced that it would make better public communication a strategic priority for the district in 2013.

“They are looking at increasing their communication with the community,” Turney told the News-Ledger. “They want to work on community outreach and their social media usage, so that they can better communicate with West Sacramento – both with the people who have students in the district, and with the residents in general.”

“When I met with the superintendent a few weeks ago, I explained to him that this is something you cannot fall behind on,” added Turney. “We have moved into an era where everybody communicates through their computers or smartphones.”

For that reason, he argued, Washington Unified School District needs to let people register their kids for school online,  advertise campus events over the internet, and make technology more available in the classroom.

Turney also thinks that technology can help WUSD get its message out to West Sacramentans who don’t speak English.

“The way that translation software has come about, you can, with the click of a button, translate a web page from English to Russian, Spanish, Cantonese or whatever,” he said. “That’s another issue I brought up to the superintendent  and the district – we have a lot of people in West Sacramento for whom English is not their language. Having information accessible to them where they can push a button and read it in their own language is so much more helpful. It gets more parents involved.”

[adrotate group=”10″]  Turney said he has attended the past few local school board meetings, and believes the current board is “starting to come together.”

“They really made an effort to spend some time, work together, and come up with this document that has their (strategic) priorities on it,” he said.

Turney, 33, lives with his wife and two kids in the Rivers subdivision in West Sacramento’s north. He has a daughter in kindergarten, and a younger toddler “who is now taking up 95 percent of my time.” Turney is the current homemaker in his household.

The candidate grew up mostly in the East Bay, and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communications from Chico State University. He’s a former adjunct instructor of speech communications at Woodland Community College.

Turney’s interest in running for school board stemmed mostly from his experience when starting to enroll his daughter for kindergarten at Riverbank Elementary School in West Sacramento. After receiving “not the best first impression” of that school, he instead enrolled her in Davis.

“I had trouble getting information from (Washington Unified School District),” Turney recalled. “When I attended registration, and I was still a little uncertain about things. Then I attended the parents meeting the week before school started, and there was no discussion of curriculum.”

“There was a discussion of the social programs that are available to help the students in need,” he continued. “Granted, I am glad those programs are there, because there are a lot of students who need the help. At our neighborhood school (Riverbank), over 60 percent of the students need free or discounted meals. Over 50 percent are English language learners. They have a uniform closet for students who can’t afford to buy their own uniforms. All these things are great to have. . . but when I went to learn about the school, I wanted to learn about what the kids are going to learn at the school. I didn’t get that.”

His candidacy doesn’t have the backing of any local city officials or school board members, but Turney does have the endorsement of the Yolo County Republican chapter. That’s important, he said, because Republican values such as fiscal responsibility would be good for West Sacramento’s school board.

How good are the schools in Washington Unified School District?

“They’re improving,” answered Turney. “It’s a sign that things are potentially getting better. The test scores seem to fluctuate, going up and down, when you look at the data year by year. Overall, they’ve shown improvement over the past.”

The independent study high school just made the ‘800 Club’ (the group of campuses earning ‘800’ scores on the standardized student tests),” he added. “Big kudos to them, because these students are not in traditional schools, for a variety of reasons.”

But, added Turney, “I’ve never really been a fan of standardized testing. There’s no motivation for (students) to do well on the test – it doesn’t affect their grade, or whether they’re going to college. . . I think if they really wanted to judge how students are doing and how teachers are doing in the classroom, they need to look at it over time, and take a more qualitative approach, and talk to people.”

Charter schools can be a divisive issue: some people view them as legitimate alternatives to public schools, and others see them as competing with public campuses and taking resources from them.

“I’m more ‘case by case,’” said Turney. “Since charter schools tend to have more of an overall different theme – some focus heavily on the arts, some try to focus more on languages or whatever – it is going to be case-by-case. They still need to hold to the same standards.”

How does he characterize the fiscal situation of WUSD?

“It’s kind of hard to say, because there hasn’t been a lot of transparency in terms of the available numbers,” Turney answered. “From the comments that have been made by the district and the teachers’ association, it seems like they have been reserved when it comes to spending and cuts. But it’s hard to say what the actual numbers are.”

What does the “job description” of a school board member look like?

“Most importantly, they need to be able to be a communications liaison between the community and the district,” answered Turney. “They need to make sure that members of the community have their voices heard.”

“Additionally, I think a board member needs to function well as a team player,” he added. “If the board can’t work well together, the schools won’t benefit.”

  This concludes the News-Ledger’s interview series for the 2013 special election. You can find the News-Ledger’s interviews with the other four school board candidates (Francisco Castillo, Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez, Linh Nguyen and Katherine Gales) at this website.

  Basic election info:
  West Sacramento has a special all-mail election to fill one vacant seat on the school board of the Washington Unified School District. The election date is Tuesday, March 5. As an alternative to mailing your ballot, you may drop it off on the main floor of city hall, 1110 West Capitol Avenue, during business hours up to election day. For more information, call the elections department, 1-800-649-9943.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2013

 

Join the West Sac Singers

The West Sacramento Singers in a holiday concert inside the Southport Nugget market in December (News-Ledger photo)

The West Sacramento Singers in a holiday concert inside the Southport Nugget market in December (News-Ledger photo)

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER —

Take your vocals out of the shower.

Anyone 18 & up is invited to join the West Sacramento Community Singers, in their third year of entertaining at local events. Especially needed are altos, baritones & tenors, but all are welcome. Rehearsals begin March 3. Go to http://www.meetup.com/West-Sacramento-Community-Singers/ or call 916-376-0756.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

EDITORIAL: $50 may buy a young child some college dreams

NEWS-LEDGER EDITORIAL — FEB 13, 2013 —

What can we all do to help West Sacramento’s schools?

Well, one of the top strategic goals now being put forward by the local school board is to “foster a culture of high expectations.” And that is something that the City of West Sacramento, and the rest of us, can all help with.

For inspiration, consider this:

About 500 students graduate every year from the high school in Kalamazoo, Michigan. And each of them does so knowing that unknown donors have pledged to pay their full college tuition in the state’s public college and university system. The “Kalamazoo Promise” was announced in 2005, and it was intended not only to help local kids, but also to help the local economy.

[adrotate group=”7″]  Students who enter the local school district part-way through their education get partial assistance, and those who are in it for the entire ride get the full “Promise.”  Knowing that their kids must stay in local public schools to qualify, families have an incentive to stay put in Kalamazoo. The city is meant to benefit from its ability to attract and retain families.

Announcement of the new program was greeted with celebration and also a degree of skepticism – how could somebody really be willing to pay for every local kid’s college education? But reality has set in, and the kids and their families are now starting to develop college expectations from a student’s early grades.

Local teachers and schools bought into the ambitious program, adding instructional hours and increasing college prep.

Too ambitious and expensive for your tastes? There are plenty of other college fund programs to look at.

Among them are those created by the City and County of San Francisco as well as the County of Cuyahoga, Ohio. These locales are going about the same thing, but on a much smaller scale.

Cuyahoga expects to spend $2 million a year putting $100 into a college fund for every new kindergartner. The funds can be redeemed by graduates towards college or vocational training.

The City and County of San Francisco are chipping in with the first $50 contribution to a college fund for every one of its new kindergartners. (For information, see http://www.k2csf.org/)

These smaller funds, even with compounding interest, may never pay for a big chunk of a student’s college education. But the accounts can be supplemented over the years with other donations from friends, family and a student’s own savings. And they’re not just about the money; they’re about the idea of going to college.

Just the existence of a college fund in a student’s name, even if it’s a modest one, can help  shape the expectations of a family and its kids. A family that may not have expected to send its child to college might begin to raise its sights.

West Sacramento is a city of challenging demographics, like Kalamazoo and San Francisco. Not every kid now going to school here believes that college or other higher education are realistic options. Funding a college account for each young child would be one way to chip away at that kind of defeatism.

A college fund program in West Sacramento need not rely on the cash-strapped Washington Unified School District for dollars. The program could be a partnership, using funds cobbled together from the city and from private donors to help. After all, encouraging kids to stay in local schools and then go to state colleges and universities (like the local Sac City College branch) would be good for West Sacramento’s economy.

It’s one way the whole city can help the local school district “foster a culture of higher expectations.”

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Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Southport’s beaver problem: better to manage the animals than to kill them

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — FEB 20, 2013 —

EDITOR’S NOTE: On Feb. 13, the News-Ledger published a story about city-sponsored trapping of a beaver colony discovered in Southport’s Bridgeway Lakes area. You can find the original article here. Below is a response.

The author, Heidi Perryman, Ph.D. (courtesy photo)

The author, Heidi Perryman, Ph.D. (courtesy photo)

By Heidi Perryman, Ph.D.

Trapping, as you know, is a short-term solution that will need to be repeated again and again when new beavers return to the area. It almost always makes more sense to keep the beavers you have, solve any problems they are causing directly, and let them use their naturally territorial behaviors to keep others away.

Protecting trees is an easy fix. Wrap them  in a cylinder of galvanized fencing, leaving enough space for the tree to grow. Or try the less obtrusive abrasive painting. Paint the trunks with a latex paint that matches the color of the bark, adding heavy mason sand. Beavers dislike the gritty texture and will not chew.

[adrotate group=”10″] Remember that beaver-chewed trees will ‘coppice’ which is an old forestry term referring to hard cutting back a tree so that it grows in bushy and more dense. This is why beavers are so important to the population of migratory and songbirds – their chewing creates prime nesting real estate for a host of bird life. Willow is very fast-growing and if the stumps are left in the ground they will replenish quickly.

Why should a city learn to tolerate beavers? They are a keystone species that create a dramatic impact on the spaces they cultivate – even urban and suburban spaces. Here in Martinez we have documented several new species of birds and fish since they colonized our creek, as well as otter and mink! In addition, beavers are considered a ‘charismatic species’ which means that children love to learn about them and they provide a great educational tool for teaching about habitat, ecosystems and stewardship. Why not involve the local Boy Scout troop in planting willow shoots every spring?

Take Amtrak to our sixth beaver festival this summer and see it all for yourself!

  The author is president and founder of “Worth a Dam,” whose organization can be seen at www.matinezbeavers.org.

  Do you like what you see here?

  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 2013