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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

Getting older & getting grumpier


I was having a somewhat heated conversation with a friend the other night when she suddenly got right in my face and blurted out, “You know, Daryl, you’re getting to be a grumpy old man!”

“What?” I exclaimed with a smile, sure that she was just putting me on.


“I’m not kidding,” she said with conviction, “you really are turning into one of those grumpy old men that no one wants to be around. What are you going to do next, drag out an empty chair and start calling the President of the United States names?”

Later that evening, still not quite able to grasp the fact that I had just been compared to the Jack Lemons, Walter Matthaus, and Clint Eastwoods of the world, I decided to get out my trusty Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate dictionary and look up the word `grumpy’. Among other unflattering words, it defined grumpy as “moody, cross, surly, and prone to fits of sulkiness and ill humor.”

Then, to make matters worse, I decided to use the Internet to further explore the world of grumpiness, only to run across an article that said part of the reason that men get grumpy as they get older is that their brains start to shrink as they age. More specifically, the article said, “As men age, they lose brain tissue at almost three times the rate of women, curbing their memory, concentration and reasoning power and often turning them into grumpy old men.”

The article was penned by Ruben Gur, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and he believes he has found evidence that shrinking brains may make men grumpier than women because some of the tissue loss is in the left frontal region, which controls such things as attention span, abstract reasoning, mental flexibility, inhibition of impulses and memory. He theorizes that men lose more tissue because they have lower blood flow than women, particularly in the frontal lobe region. To compound matters, women’s brains metabolism – the rate at which the brain breaks down sugar – slows as they age, but men’s brains keep working at a vigorous pace, leaving men with a lot more toxic byproducts in their brains than women, which is also one of the reasons women live on average ten more years than men, and apparently hardly get grumpy at all.

So, having discovered that grumpiness is indeed something that men are prone to getting, I decided to ask my thirty-something daughter if she has been noticing any changes in my behavior now that I am well into my 60s.

  “What do you mean?” she asked me with caution.

“Well,” I explained, “I’ve been reading about how men get grumpier as they age, while women pretty much stay the same. So would you say that I’m not as nice as I used to be, compared with your mother for instance?”

“But mom’s always been nicer than you,” my daughter said matter-of-factly.

“Well, then let me put it another way. Do you think I’m more moody, sulky, or ill-humored than I used to be?”

“But Dad, you’ve always been moody and sulky. In fact, Mamu (the nickname my grandchildren call my mother) once told me that you’ve been that way since you were a little kid. She said you hardly ever smiled when you were young and always loved to be off by yourself, kind of lost in your own world. She said your twin sister was always the life of the party, while you were kind of a downer every time you walked into a room.”

“My own mother said that?”

“Now,” continued my daughter, obviously on a roll, “as for you being ill-humored, I don’t think I would go as far as calling you that, but I do have to admit it still amazes me that you write a humor column for the News-Ledger. I mean, you’re about the most serious person I know, and you’re really not very funny at all. In fact, when I read some of your columns, I can’t really believe they are written by the same strict and scary man who raised me.”

“I was strict and scary?”

“Are you kidding? Don’t you remember the time you told me and my brothers that if we ever did drugs you would take us out in the backyard and shoot us?”

“Now I never said anything like that.”

“Well, it may not have been those exact words, but it sure came across that way!”

“So, then you’re saying that I’ve always been more or less a grumpy old man?”

“Pretty much.”

“And that I’ve haven’t been getting worse now that I’m in my 60s.”

“Not that I’ve really noticed.”

“Good! That’s a load off my mind!”

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

Food giveaway today in West Sac


The Food Bank of Yolo County will distribute free food to eligible West Sacramento and Clarksburg residents on Tuesday, Oct. 16.

Distribution times are: 9-10 a.m. at the county building, 500 Jefferson Blvd.; 10:30-11:15 a.m. at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 1500 Park Blvd.; 11-noon at the Yolo Housing Authority, 685 Lighthouse Dr.; and noon to 1 p.m. at the Clarksburg Firehouse.

Please bring a bag, and attend only one site. For information, call (530) 668-0690.

Copyright News-Ledger 2012

RCHS soccer pursues playoffs

By Jorden Wusstig
RCHS Journalism Program & RCHS Soccer Player

The River City varsity boys soccer team is currently in the middle of their league play. They have finished their first half of the season with a 4-0-2 record. The losses came from Consumes Oaks and Vista Del Lago.

Their goal this year is to make it to the playoffs. Coaches Kamal Singh and Jessie Melgoza constantly tell the athletes that however much effort they put into the season is how much they will get out of it. The top three teams in the division will make it into the playoffs.

On Oct. 2, River City took on Liberty Ranch. This wasn’t just any game, it was a “must win” to stay in the playoff hunt. Although Liberty hasn’t won a game yet this season they put up a fight against the River City varsity, scoring a goal in the first half at the 19-minute mark.

That goal woke up the RCHS boys, and it was nonstop attacking and pushing forward on the Liberty Ranch goal. The half ended with River City down 1-0.

Coaches Kamal and Jessie were furious with their team’s play in the first half. The coaches believed there was no good reason to be trailing to this opponent. The coaches tried a new tactic and pushed up one midfielder to the forward position which turned the formation into a 4-3-3.

In the 21st minute, Jesus Melgoza gained a foul at the edge of the box. Grabielle Munez slammed it into the net while the wall was still being prepared. The game was now 1-1.

Not too long after, Manuel Moreno took on three players in the box and hit a sneaker in between the defender and the goalie for a score, making putting RCHS up 2-1. After that goal, the coaches put back the extra forward to play defense to more safely preserve the lead. The game ended with that 2-1 lead.

On Thursday, RCHS made their record 5-0-2 against a solid El Dorado squad at home.

In the 25th minute, Tim Virgen with the assist to Manuel Moreno put the ball in the back of the net giving River City a 1-0 lead at halftime.

The coaches at halftime told the athletes that 1-0 is not enough of a lead.

Then, in the 28th minute, a corner kick taken by Jorden Wusstig put the ball in the middle of the box and Adrian Castillo gave it a great finish to give RC that cushion.

RC ended won the game 2-0, which made them another game closer to their playoff goal.

  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

Man stabbed on boat docked at port


By Steve Marschke

News-Ledger Editor

One man is in the hospital and another is in jail after a stabbing onboard a boat docked at the Port of West Sacramento on Sunday evening.

According to an initial report from a West Sacramento police officer, the incident took place on a privately-owned, 55-foot, concrete-hulled boat docked near the River City Rowing Club.

At about 6:40 p.m., 27-year old Andrew Hornsby “escaped” the boat and flagged down a rowing club member to call 911 after being stabbed about five times in the torso and face. Before being taken away by ambulance, he told police that his assailant was 40-year old Robert Dale Parke of West Sacramento. The victim claimed that Parke pulled a seven-inch knife and stabbed him after the pair argued.

  According to the officer, Hornsby identified Parke before leaving the scene in an ambulance. And, after being read his Miranda rights, the suspect – Parke – told police the knife was still on the boat, reported the officer. Police located the knife on board.

Two women and a third male were also located on the boat.

According to Sergeant Nathan Steele of the W.S.P.D., Hornsby was listed in stable condition Monday morning. Parke was jailed for assault with a deadly weapon.

But detectives were still trying to piece together what happened, Steele told the News-Ledger Monday afternoon.

Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Ken Fellows at (916) 617-4955.

  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