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Car thief takes the bait


News-Ledger Staff

The bait this time was a Cadillac Escalade. A thief took the bait in West Sacramento last Tuesday, Feb. 12.

According to police reports and information from West Sacramento Police Department Lieutenant Tod Sockman, local police and the CHP left the specially-equipped Escalade alone at the corner of Westacre Road and Merkley Avenue for some time.

Then they waited to see what happened.

The “bait car’s” sensors tripped on the night of Feb. 12.

At 8:52 p.m., a signal from the car reported it was on the move. Police responded.

“Officers got directly behind the moving vehicle,” said a police report. Then, using a remote control, they “locked the doors and deactivated the engine. A felony vehicle stop was performed by marked police units.”

  With officers at the ready, the Escalade’s unauthorized driver was then called out near West Capitol Avenue and Jefferson Boulevard. But the suspected thief made a break for it, “bailing on foot” until pursuing officers took him into custody just south of the vehicle stop.

Into jail for allegedly trying to steal the “bait” car went Jason Daniel Moore, a 29-year old resident of Hobson Avenue.

The News-Ledger asked Lt. Sockman if the “bait cars” were left unlocked or with the keys inside.  He said methods vary from case to case, but the keys weren’t left in this Escalade.

“In general, they have to work for it,” he added.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Castillo wants to be ‘parent advocate’

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

FRANCISCO CASTILLO: one of five West Sacramentans running for school board in the special election of March 5 (News-Ledger photo)

FRANCISCO CASTILLO: one of five West Sacramentans running for school board in the special election of March 5 (News-Ledger photo)

“I’m a parent advocate,” sums up 32-year old Francisco Castillo of Southport, who is one of five people running for a vacant seat on West Sacramento’s school board.

Castillo said that what originally drew him into the school board race was his family’s need to camp at night outside their local campus, Bridgeway Island Elementary School, in order to secure a spot in that school’s kindergarten program for one of their two young children.

“We got there at 2 a.m.,” he recalls. “I said, ‘Wow, something needs to be done about this.’ Not that I had a solution. . . but that sparked an interest in my getting more involved with my son’s education.”

Because both Castillo and his wife were working parents, they needed to ensure their older child got a place in the morning session at that campus, and there weren’t enough slots to meet the need. Thus the all-nighter.

Castillo came to San Francisco from Nicaragua when he was five, and was raised by a single mother from about the age of eight. She was not comfortable getting involved in her son’s American schooling.

“She avoided attending parent conferences, not because she didn’t want to go, but she didn’t have the information and access,” he told the News-Ledger. “She spoke Spanish.”

Now, he considers parental involvement to be one of the “pillars” of his education platform.

“What are the resources we can give parents to tell them ‘your child’s education is important, your involvement is urgent?” he asked rhetorically.

“There are even businesses in West Sacramento and outside West Sacramento that can provide some of the resources that help support parental engagement.”

Those “engagement” tools could include the use of technology, he said.

“There are different ways to get parents involved and we need to think outside the box.”

Castillo also wants to expand Washington Unified School District’s preschool programs.

“There’s a lot of research that says that. . . in the long run, it will help them academically,” Castillo commented.

His third “pillar” is college preparation and career education.

“The numbers are pretty evident,” he reported. “Only eight students of our high school seniors last year are considered college-ready . . (The others) need to take remedial classes because they’re not college-ready.”

Castillo said he was referring to California State University tests provided to college-bound kids at River City High.

He sees a lot of potential value from creating new and better partnerships between the school district and the City of West Sacramento, along with making deals with business partners in the region and beyond.

“How do we partner with Silicon Valley and bring some of those resources to West Sacramento?” asked Castillo. “I don’t think we’re thinking on that level. We think of West Sacramento as just the city of West Sac. We need to go outside the city. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, there are programs already out there.”

Castillo’s “day job” is actually in the field of education advocacy. He works as deputy national press secretary for StudentsFirst, a nonprofit that “helps pass policies that put the interests of students first. . . in working with state legislators.”

The organization tries to “elevate the teaching profession,” “empower parents through information and choice,” and create “fiscal transparency and responsibility,” he said.

Does providing parents with “choice” mean advocating charter schools?

Speaking for himself, Castillo replied that “I support providing parents with excellent educational options, whether that’s public charter school or traditional public school. A lot of parents in West Sacramento (currently) send their kids over to Clarksburg, to the charter school there.”

He believes that charter schools are an option – but they need to be held accountable, and even shut down if they don’t perform.

How about providing school vouchers, so parents can easier send their children to private schools?

“I’m still kind of thinking about that one,” Castillo answered. “There’s a lot of research that shows that low-income families benefit from vouchers.”

The candidate said he perceived Washington Unified’s school board – before the November election – to have been somewhat “polarized,” but he believes that with new members on board, it has made a lot of progress in the past few months.

He likes the can-do spirit of the City of West Sacramento, and hopes the school district can repair some relationships with the city and enjoy the fruits of a better partnership. As a former staff member of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, he saw some of that happen in the City by the Bay.

“When I was working for him, he appointed the first-ever liaison to the school board. . . It made sense, because the city was providing resources to the school district, and the district was able to work with the city to get a lot of things done. We all know there’s been some tension (in West Sacramento) between the city and the school board.”

Castillo and his family have been in West Sacramento for about five years, he reports. In addition to working for Mayor Newsom, his resume includes service on San Francisco’s youth commission, and working at a teen center and for several nonprofits. He attended San Francisco public schools, earning a political science degree from San Francisco State.

What does he see as the job duties of a school board member in WUSD?

“A school board member is someone who can help craft a strategic vision for the district,” said Castillo. “A school board member can’t do anything alone,” but requires the ability to be part of a team, he added.

“The school board gives the superintendent a clear vision and clear direction about where we need to go. . . it’s not about micromanaging.”

He was asked whether the district’s schools could be called “excellent,” “good,” “fair” or “poor.”

“I think the district is ‘good,’” he responded. “We can strive for excellence. We can get to that same path the city is taking as far as being an excellent city.”

How is the district doing in student test scores, and how much does that matter?

“Bridgeway Island is excellent – their API is around 780, it’s doing great,” he answered. “It’s not the only thing that measures (performance). “I think (the district) is doing fairly well, and improving every year. The north part of the West Sacramento is where the schools are struggling a little more.”

Castillo said there’s a perception – with some validity – that there is a difference between how the “north” and “south” are handled in WUSD.

“It seems like we don’t pay much attention to the north area of West Sacramento,” he said. “Because (Southport) is a newer area, it tends to get more of the resources.”

It’s important to put the resources where they’re needed, wherever that may be, he added.

“I think there’s a sense of the ‘South of West Sacramento’ and the ‘North of West Sacramento.’ How about ‘all of West Sacramento’?”

Castillo believes the district is in pretty good financial shape.

“I have to give ‘props’ to the superintendent, his staff and even the board,” he commented about their money-handling. And the passage of state Proposition 30 will bring a “surge of money” to the district following several years of cost-cutting.

Where should the money go?

“One idea would be having it go to the classroom. . . but it’s the kind of vision we have to decide as a school board, with the input of the superintendent,” he answered. There might be “holes to fill,” he said, like restoring school bus routes cut during the economic hard times.

Castillo reports that he has been endorsed by West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, by Mayor pro tem Oscar Villegas, school board president Mary Leland and vice president Katie Villegas, by county supervisors Mike McGowan and Matt Rexroad, and by Laborers Local 185, among others.

He invites interested people to contact him – and provide suggestions – by phoning (916) 668-9659, emailing castilloforwestsac@gmail.com, or visiting www.castilloforkids.com.

“I don’t have all the answers,” Castillo commented. “Some of the best solutions come from the community.”

  Editor’s note: This interview is the fourth in a series. Each of the five people running for a seat on the Washington Unified School District has been invited to talk to the News-Ledger about the issues. The final interview will appear in print on Feb. 20.

  The ballot will be an all-mail ballot, with votes due by March 5. Ballots may be dropped off at a location on the first floor of city hall, 1110 West Capitol Avenue.  

  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

Register for kindergarten Saturday


West Sacramento’s local elementary schools will accept registration for kindergarten and transitional kindergarten students on Sat., Feb. 23, from 9 a.m. to noon. Bring your child’s birth certificate, social security card, immunization records, proof of physical (dated after Aug., 2012, for kindergarten students) and a copy of your PG&E bill for address verification, to your local campus. For kindergarten, child’s fifth birthday must be on or before Oct. 1, 2013.

Questions? Contact Bridgeway Island Elementary at 375-7778; Elkhorn at 375-7670; Riverbank at 375-7700; Stonegate at 375-0960; Southport at 375-7890; Westfield at 375-7720; or Westmore Oaks at 375-7730.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Fundraising with firecrackers


If your church or nonprofit is interested in getting a permit to sell fireworks in West Sacramento during this year’s Independence Day (July 4) season, go to the information session scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 26, at 6 p.m. in the city council chambers, 1110 West Capitol Avenue.

The permit lottery will accept applications March 1-31. For more information, contact City Clerk Kryss Rankin at 617-4500.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Man convicted for growing marijuana on public land, patrolling with gun


Last month, a Yolo County jury found 57-year-old Fidel Alvarez guilty of “cultivation of marijuana” and “possession for sale of marijuana.”  The jury also convicted Alvarez of being armed during the commission of these crimes.

According to the office of Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig:

Last September, agents from the Yolo County Narcotics Enforcement Team and the Mountain and Valley Marijuana Investigations Team discovered a marijuana grow one third of a mile off Highway 16 in Yolo County on public lands.  The marijuana grow contained over 500 plants that were only a few days away from harvest.  Agents discovered Alvarez walking through the field of plants dressed in camouflage clothing and carrying a .22 caliber rifle with a homemade flash suppressor.

Alvarez admitted to agents that he had been hired by drug dealers in Richmond to come and tend to the marijuana plots.  He stated that he was going to receive a percentage of the profits from the sale of the marijuana.  Experts testified that the plants would produce somewhere between 250 and 500 pounds of marijuana which would have a street value of $250,000 to $500,000, said the D.A.’s office.

“These marijuana grows on public lands are dangerous and the cause of numerous acts of violence across the state,” said prosecutor Michael Vroma, in a press release.  District Attorney Reisig commented on the environmental impact.  “The toll these marijuana grows have on the surrounding environment due to chemicals and fertilizers is immeasurable,” said Reisig in the same release.

Alvarez will be sentenced on February 25 by Judge Timothy L. Fall.  Alvarez faces up to four years in prison.

Editor’s note: the News-Ledger asked the D.A.’s office for a few more details about this case, but the requested information was not provided.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Gales seeks a school board seat


By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

What can Katherine Gales bring to the local school board?

KATHERINE GALES: school board candidate believes a board member needs to research the issues (News-Ledger photo)

KATHERINE GALES: school board candidate believes a board member needs to research the issues (News-Ledger photo)

“At the top of the list is research,” she answered. “That’s what I do first if I don’t know something. I’m going to learn about it, especially if I’m going to be held responsible for making a decision about it. I’ll take my experience and I might take other persons’ opinions, but I’m going to go to the Internet and I’m going to Google it, and I’m going to find out exactly what it is.”

Gales, 50, told the News-Ledger that doing the background work is a key part of a school board member’s job.

“It’s important for the school board member to understand what’s going on in that area, so they can make a decision,” she explained. “You have to be up on current events. . . and you can be affected by anything coming into the district. If I don’t know about a certain community, it’s my obligation to get a good understanding or recuse myself from decision-making in that area.”

Gales has been working for the state Department of Education since 1997. She is now an executive assistant at the downtown Sacramento office. She serves as a “branch level office manager,” she said.

Gales said that one reason she took the job was to figure out why different schools taught different ways – a realization that came from comparing her own education at an “old school” in the Monterey area to her daughter’s campuses in Natomas and New York.

  Gales grew up in an Army family and moved around, but she went to high school in  Monterey, at a campus with large classrooms that were well equipped for science, home economics and so forth.

“When (my daughter) got into junior high, it was different from what I experienced in junior high,” said Gales. “That made me get even more involved. . . In home economics, we had kitchens in our classrooms. . . I compared that to my daughter’s school (in Sacramento), and they had portables.”

Working into her adulthood, Gales earned a pair of degrees from the University of Phoenix.

“I have a bachelor’s in business management and a masters in management,” she reported.

She did not marry her daughter’s father, but both parents were involved in the now-grown daughter’s life. For the past three years, Gales has lived in West Sacramento with her daughter and her seven-year old grandson, who attends school in Washington Unified School District. Gales also has several nieces and nephews in town, also going to West Sacramento public schools.

She’s running against four other candidates for one available spot on the ballot for school board, in a special election March 5.

How does she think the current school board is doing?

“I’ve attended the local school board meetings since December,” Gales answered. “They seem to work fine. Over two or three meetings, I think they’re working through what they need to do. As far as what I saw, they’re doing pretty much what they need to do and what I would do. I don’t know what goes on in closed session.”

How good is the local district?

“They’re about as good as they can be at this time, but anything can be improved and be better. That’s what I can contribute.”

How well are the schools doing in standardized test scores?

“I know Bridgeway Island (Elementary School) did pretty good on the API and Southport was second,” she answered. “The others came behind them. Test scores are important, but I’m focused on what’s coming down the pipeline (from the state board of education).”

New curriculum standards and new tests are on their way, she said.

Fiscally, Gales thinks the district is in good shape.

And she said she would consider new charter schools on a “case by case” basis. What would it take for a new charter school to get her approval as a board member?

“You have to be productive, and you have to follow the requirements of the law, first and foremost,” said Gales.

She was asked what kinds of challenges she sees in WUSD’s future.

“I think the main thing sticking out in my mind is that it’s very important for them to be diverse in their workforce,” answered Gales. “All staff should closely mirror the national average. . . In West Sacramento, we may not have a really high level of ethnicity in one area or the other, but (students) should be exposed to at least the top three or four (ethnic groups) that most people are exposed to on a regular basis.”

“I don’t know that we have any African-American teachers.”

Gales also said she wants to see better conflict-resolution in local schools.

“When my daughter went to school in New York for a year, they had a program set up,” she explained. “It was called peer mock court or peer court, where the kids actually could go to court if they had a dispute or something. They could discuss the issue in front of a body of peers or administrators, to get to the core of a problem before a decision was made for discipline.”

“I don’t know if that’s even done here, but it doesn’t seem like they have any kind of structure set up to deal with discipline. A lot of times, it seems like it’s just decided by the principal and teacher – I’m not sure, I really can’t speak on it.”

Gales was attracted to run in this race because the timing was right to become active in the community, she said. She saw news about the special election on Mayor Cabaldon’s Facebook page. She hasn’t, though, obtained endorsements from him or any of the school board or city council members.

But, as she added by email after the interview:

“What I have received is support from friends and family including, but not limited to, friends in the Sikh community and my church at the Calvary Christian Center.”

  Editor’s note: Five people are running for one vacant seat on the Washington Unified School District Board of Trustees. A winner will be chosen in a special, all-mail ballot in West Sacramento on March 5.

  Katherine Gales, profiled above, is one of the five.

  The News-Ledger newspaper is presenting an interview with each of these five candidates. The series will conclude in our print edition on Feb. 27.

  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


Food give-away in West Sac


The Yolo County food bank will distribute free food to eligible West Sacramento and Clarksburg residents on Feb. 19. The schedule includes distribution from 9-10 a.m. at the West Sacramento County building, 500 Jefferson Blvd.; 10:30-11:15 a.m. at Trinity Presbyterian, 1500 Park Blvd.; 11-noon at Yolo Housing Authority, 685 Lighthouse Dr.; and noon-1 at Clarksburg Firehouse.

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

Copyright News-Ledger 2013