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Sobriety checkpoint Saturday night


The West Sacramento Police Department announced today it will conduct a sobriety checkpoint and driver’s license check from Saturday at 7 p.m. until 3 a.m. The department typically does not announce the precise location of the checkpoint in advance.”.

“The deterrent effect of DUI checkpoints is a proven resource in reducing the number of persons killed and injured in alcohol or drug involved crashes,” said a press statement from Lieutenant Tod Sockman of the West Sacramento Police Department. “Research shows that crashes involving alcohol drop by an average of 20 percent when well-publicized checkpoints are conducted often enough.”

[adrotate group=”9″] Officers will be contacting drivers passing through the checkpoint for signs of alcohol and/or drug impairment. Officers will also check drivers for proper licensing and will strive to delay motorists only momentarily, he added. When possible, specially trained officers will be available to evaluate those suspected of drug-impaired driving. Drivers caught driving impaired can expect jail, license suspension, and insurance increases, as well as fines, fees, DUI classes, other expenses that can exceed $10,000.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

CEO of Yolo’s courts will retire


Yolo Superior Court announced today the retirement of James B. Perry, Court Executive Officer. He will retire May 1, 2013.

JAMES PERRY (Courtesy of Yolo Co. Superior Court)

(Courtesy of Yolo Co. Superior Court)

“It has been my honor to work with the best group of judges in the state and a truly remarkable staff. I have enjoyed my time serving the people of Yolo County and the state,” commented Perry in a Yolo Superior Court press release.

The press statement credited Perry with stabilizing funding levels, developing one of the first written succession plans for court staff, and successfully advocating for additional judgeships and staff.  He helped guide the court through state funding for site acquisition and construction plans for the new Yolo Superior Courthouse expected to be complete in 2015, the statement continued.  Perry held key roles on Judicial Branch Committees and Task Forces to include the Domestic Violence Task Force, Facilities Task Force, and the Budget Working Group.

Perry will leave Yolo Superior Court with 10 years of service at his post;  a total of 20 years with the Judicial Branch and 43 years of public service.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Nguyen: ‘average’ district can improve


News-Ledger’s interviews with candidates in the March 5 special school board election continue this week with local businessman Linh Nguyen —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

With a background in computer engineering and in business, Southport’s Linh Nguyen believes one of the best ways to start attacking any problem is to measure it. And he believes the measurements are clear for Washington Unified School District:


Identify a problem, measure it, attack it (News-Ledger photo)

Identify a problem, measure it, attack it
(News-Ledger photo)

“Statistically, we are average,” Nguyen told the News-Ledger.

Student test scores often have a strong link to a community’s economic level. Look at them both if you want to judge how a school district is doing, he said.

“If we can say that economically, we’re a ‘5,’ but what we’re achieving is a ‘7’ or ‘8’ out of 10, then that’s excellent. But if we’re economically a ‘5’ and we’re achieving at a ‘5,’ that’s just okay.”

West Sacramento’s school district is scoring at about 760 on the API tests, he said, which is about “average” for a place with an “average” socioeconomic level.
Nguyen (pronounced with the “ng” sound followed by “wen,” in one syllable) hopes to earn a seat on the local school board next month and help change that.

“That reflection is on the board – that’s where the buck stops,” he said. “City-wise, you can see there are a lot of successful projects that have been implemented – whether it’s (new developments like) the River Cats, Nugget, Home Depot or Ikea. They didn’t let the ‘average’ or ‘below average’ hold them back. The school district needs to do the same.”

[adrotate group=”7″]  “As a person who runs my own company, I understand what you need to do when you govern a multi-million dollar entity. We need to define a clear vision. We need to lay out a clear plan of what we’re going to do. We need to always follow up on the plan.”

Nguyen, 40, currently works at home, managing his investment portfolio. His wife is a part-time pharmacist, and the couple has three young kids – the oldest two of which are at Bridgeway Island Elementary School.

“I graduated from UC Davis in computer science engineering,” he explained. “I went back to Silicon Valley and my first job was at Genentech. I worked mostly in high-tech. After we saved some money, we started our own consulting company. But running a company is very intensive, and we were having our first kid. We decided to move to West Sacramento, which is a very good place to raise kids.”

Having two children in the public elementary school and another headed that way has generated some concerns, said Nguyen.

“I think I’m in the same shoes as a lot of parents,” he said. “My kids are in first and third grade. I can see the future coming for them. High school is coming.”

One friend typifies his concern:

“When I told him I was running for the board, the first thing he said is, ‘Great, I’ll support you.’ The second thing he said was, ‘At this point, I wouldn’t let my kid go to River City High School.’ The sad fact is that (the friend himself) went to River City High School, and his wife went to River City High School – not the new campus, but the old one. Something like that speaks volumes about how people perceive the high school.”

Nguyen is concerned by the numbers – and RCHS is higher than the state in some statistics, like expulsion rates, he said.

Between that and issues like bullying and campus security, “I don’t feel my kid is safe to go to this high school” right now, said Nguyen.

How do you fix that?

Nguyen believes that the first step is to identify the problems facing WUSD, whether they be test scores or campus safety.

“I would like the (school) board to acknowledge the problems,” he said. “That’s the first step in solving a problem. Secondly, I would like to know how we are going to measure the issues – for example, what percentage of the kids are leaving the district (to go to school elsewhere)? If we can first do a measurement on that, we can improve it. We don’t (now) have a way to measure that. Just anecdotal evidence.”

Nguyen says he has been to several school board meetings and seen others on cable TV.

“I see a lot of positive coming from the board we now have,” he said. “We could do much better. We have 7.000-plus students in the district. We have an obligation to help these 7,000-plus kids to achieve, to reach their full potential.”

He added that, fiscally, the board is “doing okay with what we have.” And with Proposition 30 passing and bringing more stability to school funding, and with the economy finally improving, he expected the school’s financial climate to start getting better.

How does he feel about charter schools?

Nguyen said he would examine them on a “case by case” basis.

“I’m not encumbered by a political agenda. . . If someone comes to me and asks about a charter school for our district, I would say, ‘show me the empirical evidence.’ When we make a change like that, there’s going to be a financial cost. The research has to support (a need for the charter school).”

Nguyen thinks that voters should look at the time commitment of being a school board member when they weigh their decision of whom to elect.

“One of the basic elements (of the job) is that you have to be willing to put in the time,” he said. “If you look at our city council, they have 22 subcommittees, reaching out to the schools, the River Cats, the port, to Sacramento County. Board-wise, we’re not reaching out to other districts around us. We’re not reaching out to resources we have. We’re not reaching out to UC Davis or Sacramento State.”

“If the board was functioning at an excellent level, we would have a direct path where Sacramento State and Davis and vocational programs would come here and work with the kids, and explain why some subject is important. We want to engage a kid, whether they are going to be a mechanic or an engineer or something.”

With a background in management and in science, Nguyen believes he can help the board do this.
What does he see as a board member’s job duties?

“One of the requirements is that we need a board that’s passionate,” he answered. “Statistically and empirical data-wise, we’re average. That’s a result of our economics. To be successful, we have to be innovative.”

Has Nguyen been endorsed by the mayor or by school board members?

“Purposely, I’ve tried not to coincide with the political side,” he answered. “I call it the political machine. I don’t want to reach out there, because I want to be independent. The first thing is that the school board is for the kids. The second thing is, it’s for the kids. And the third thing is, it’s for the kids.”

Nguyen’s prior involvement in the community include helping to coach youth soccer, baseball and basketball in the elementary school and city leagues. He also helps with the local Cub Scout troop.

The candidate said he is funding his school board campaign with “mostly my own money,” and is also walking precincts.

[Editor’s note: after this interview was published, the candidate notified the News-Ledger that he had picked up endorsements from former WUSD school board members Ardeene Westvik, Dave Farmer and Ed Hocking.]

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Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Southport: the trouble with beavers

This downed tree is a casualty of a group of beavers who have made their home in the Bridgeway Lakes area. (Photo courtesy of Marty Swingle)

This downed tree is a casualty of a group of beavers who have made their home in the Bridgeway Lakes area. (Photo courtesy of Marty Swingle)

NEWS-LEDGER — FEB 6, 2013 —

City’s trapper has so far caught five of the pesky mammals

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

“It comes in waves,” reports Dena Kirtley, the City of West Sacramento’s urban forest manager. “It has probably been about three years.”

But now, they’re back:

DENA KIRTLEY Urban Forest Manager City of West Sacramento (courtesy photo)

Urban Forest Manager
City of West Sacramento
(courtesy photo)

“About a month ago, one of my crew noticed some trees that he thought were chopped down with an axe. On further inspection, we discovered it had been beavers.”

The animals have been active “for probably six or eight weeks” in the Bridgeway Lakes area of Southport, chopping down trees. Their preferred species is willow. The animals – perhaps a family – probably came in from the Sacramento River.

“There’s a canal that belongs to Reclamation District 900, just east of Otis Road, south of Marshall,” said Kirtley, who is managing the city’s response. “That’s pretty much where Bridgeway Lakes begins. That canal runs under the road.”

“They’ve taken out several trees at Cherokee in Bridgeway Lakes, and gone around the corner behind some houses and taken out some more.”

Why do the beavers want to gnaw down willow trees in particular?

“They eat the bark and leaves off the portion that falls into the lake,” answered Kirtley. “Their intent is to make the trees reachable so they can get to the bark and leaves.”

The felled trees aren’t immediately being removed by the city.

“We leave the trees where they are, so the beavers don’t down more trees,” said Kirtley.

You might call that an official policy of “Leave it to Beaver.”

If the animals can’t get at willow trees, they will settle for other species, like live oak, she added.

How many animals are there?

“We’re hoping less than 10,” she said. “They move in from the river through the ag canals. It’s like a little highway.”

So far, there has been no problem with beaver dams as a threat to drainage.

The city’s response to the beaver infestation was to show the state Department of Fish and Game that it was taking adequate tree-protection measures, and then get a permit to hire a trapper. Parks workers have tried to protect over 100 area trees with chicken wire – a questionable strategy, allowed Kirtley, because the beavers can always just “move on down the line” to unprotected trees.

A trapper has thus far caught five of the animals. When pressed, Kirtley admitted delicately that the animals are not live-caught. They’re killed by the traps.

[adrotate group=”7″]  “It’s illegal to transport them,” she said. “Nobody else wants them. They would just be somebody else’s problem, and we are in an urban area. It’s a delicate subject. I’ve had people ask me what happens to the beavers.”

Kirtley said the animals can build aquatic lodges, but they also burrow into riverbanks – and “we think we found one of their nests.” The trapping doesn’t seem to be over.

The good news is that the downed trees will probably rise again.

“Once we think we’ve alleviated the beaver problem, we will remove the felled trees,” said Kirtley. “We’ll make a nice, clean cut below the damage, and the trees will re-sprout and we’ll have new trees.”

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Copyright News-Ledger 2013


Latest News-Ledger ‘Police Log’

NEWS-LEDGER — FEB 6, 2013 —

  News items below are collected from police dispatchers’ notes and arrest reports. The information in them has often not been verified beyond the initial reports. The News-Ledger publishes this feature weekly in our print edition. Look for the special offer at the bottom to subscribe.

Jan., 30, 5:09 a.m.
Staff at a Woodland crisis shelter said a man who told them he lived at a particular West Capitol Avenue motel had phoned them several times, becoming upset. The man said “he had a gun and was going to go to Woodland and shoot (the caller).”

Jan. 30, 6:01 a.m.
A woman said her boyfriend had left his ’69 Chevy pickup truck warming up in her Madrone Avenue driveway with the keys in it. The pickup left without him.

Jan. 30, 11:55 a.m.
Copper parts were stolen from two air conditioning units at Alyce Norman Elementary School. The loss was valued at $6,000.

Jan. 30, 12:16 p.m.
A resident of West Capitol discovered the theft of “hundreds worth of old records” from a backyard shed. It was unknown when the theft occurred.

Jan. 30, 12:58 p.m.
A witness reported a beating happening at a Stone Blvd. park: “a subject with a metal bat or pipe in the parking lot (was) beating on on somebody in the lot. . . the subject was down.”

Jan. 30, 3:31 p.m.
During a vehicle burglary on Jan., 15, someone took a checkbook and some shoes – leaving behind a laptop and other valuables, during an incident at a Harbor Blvd. restaurant parking lot. The victim has learned that a stolen check made out for $60 had since been digitally altered and cashed for $2,500. The person whose name was on the check was not currently on scene.

Jan. 30, 4:11 p.m.
A two-vehicle accident was reported at Jefferson and Lake Washington boulevards. A baby was injured.

Jan. 30, 4:20 a.m.
A car parked on Summerfield Drive was found burglarized and ransacked.

Jan. 31, 4:55 a.m.
A woman reported she was in an argument with a Cummins Way neighbor. The argument was sparked after the second woman’s dog was found chasing the first woman’s chickens, which were roaming loose outside.

Jan. 31, 8:31 a.m.
A parent came to the police lobby. A son’s bike had been stolen from the River City High School campus, and the suspect was caught on video.

Jan. 31, 8:43 a.m.
The police school resource officer was requested by a parent whose son was being bullied at Westmore Oaks.

Jan. 31, 9:16 a.m.
A car on Teal Drive was found burglarized. Gone was $5,000 worth of jewelry donated toward a fundraising walk against cancer.

Jan. 31, 9:19 a.m.
Gas was discovered stolen from a car on Clarendon Street.

Jan. 31, 9:52 a.m.
A citizen came to the police lobby to ask “how to legally put up campaign signs.”

Jan. 31, 10:21 a.m.
A witness said a man was now hiding in some bushes near a Riverpoint Court store. The suspect “was trying to open car doors earlier, and pretended to be on the phone when (the caller) asked him to leave.”

Jan. 31, 6:51 p.m.
A caller reported a case of road rage. The caller “was cut off, and followed home by a man in an unknown-color sedan.”

Feb. 1, 2:46 a.m.
A drunk driver drove up onto a sidewalk on Topaz Road.

Feb. 1, 4:16 a.m.
A man and a woman just walked out of a Harbor Boulevard restaurant without paying their $30 tab. The caller “is the only one at the restaurant, and can’t leave” to follow them on foot.

Feb. 1, 5:20 a.m.
An injured kitten was found near the staff entrance to an Embarcadero Drive business. The county animal services division was requested.

Feb. 1, 8:23 a.m.
An auto parts store on Jefferson Boulevard reported that a man in his 20s, possibly homeless, had tried to buy merchandise with a counterfeit $20 bill. He left on bike.

Feb. 1, 9:03 a.m.
A car was found burglarized on Janet Drive. Gone were a GPS system and registration papers.

Feb. 1, 10:13 a.m.
A man in his 30s was reported to have tried to pass a fake $20 bill at a store on the 3000-block of West Capitol. The suspect was now standing outside the establishment.

Feb. 1, 3:50 p.m.
A citizen said there were “100 juveniles in a standoff” that might turn into a fight near Glide and West Capitol.

Feb. 1, 5:49 p.m.
A Tortola Road man said he was in an argument with his landlady. He “is moving out in the morning and has paid his rent in full, (but) the landlady wants him out tonight and has put his belongings in the trunk of her car.” An officer was requested to mediate.

Feb. 1, 6:54 p.m.
A witness said there men were taking things from a Sandypoint Court construction lot, and putting them into the trunk of a beige Chevy Malibu.

Feb. 1, 11:09 p.m.
A citizen reported that a “bunch of vehicles (are) doing burnouts in the street and driving recklessly” near Park Boulevard and Lakeview Drive. The cars included a black Mustang and a blue and white Ford pickup.

Feb. 2, 1:45 a.m.
A neighbor reported that three men had arrived in two cars on Carolina Avenue – and had urinated on the sidewalk. They were also smoking marijuana, and were now heading to a nearby house.

Feb. 2, 2:25 a.m.
A woman on Michigan Blvd. reported the “strong smell of something burning or melting,” but she refused to evacuate because she was “unable to get her husband out of the bedroom.” Police and fire were dispatched.

Feb. 2, 6:37 a.m.
A Chevy Silverado was repossessed from Twitchell Island Road.

Feb. 2, 8:53 a.m.
A security camera was stolen from a mobilehome park on West Capitol during the night. The thief might have been caught on video.

Feb. 2, 10:24 a.m.
A Sacramento Avenue mobile home resident reported being in a verbal dispute with a plumber. The plumber was now “yelling and threatening” the resident.

Feb. 2, 11:49 a.m.
A citizen told police that there was a man around 60 years old near Riverbank Road, who “appears to be setting up camp on the levee.”

Feb. 2, 3:23 p.m.
An Acura hit a cyclist at West Capitol and Merkley avenues.

Feb. 2, 3:54 p.m.
A Casselman Drive resident reported that someone stole a dog about 30 minutes earlier.

Feb. 2, 6:55 p.m.
A caller reported that he just bought a Chevrolet Trailblazer from a Westacre Road man for $4,700.
But when driving the Chevy away, its axle started coming off.
The man returned to get a refund, but the seller refused.

Feb. 2, 8:43 p.m.
A 6th Street man said his children, age 49 and 21, were trying to break into his car because he wouldn’t give them the keys.

Feb. 2, 10:16 p.m.
A fire with 10-foot flames was reported at 4th and C streets.

[adrotate group=”10″] Feb. 2, 10:36 p.m.
An Ikea Court restaurant said a couple of men dining at the place were “acting weird (and) really antsy.” The caller “thinks they are getting ready to do a ‘dine and dash.’ (fleeing without paying their bill).”

Feb. 2, 9:44 p.m.
An officer stopped a car for a code violation on Bryte Avenue. In the driver’s seat was a 19-year old Water Street man who appeared drunk and had a suspended license. There was an open bottle of Hennesey whiskey on the floor.
The driver measured legally drunk with 0.8 percent blood alcohol. He was arrested.

Feb. 2, 11:44 a.m.
An officer pulled a 24-year old driver over at Maple Street and Michigan Blvd. The man had two arrest warrants. While searching him during the arrest, the officer located “two fixed blade knives concealed on his belt and metal knuckles,” and also some marijuana in the man’s pants pocket.

Feb. 2, 4:09 p.m.
An officer saw a man in a Jefferson Blvd. parking lot whom he recognized as a subject with a felony theft warrant.
With other police, the officer detained the suspect and searched him.
“I discovered a small metal container in his right coin pocket,” reported the officer. “Upon opening this container I noted there was approximately six small plastic baggies and three contained a white crystal-like substance inside. Per training and experience, I could tell this was methamphetamine.”
The substance later tested positive as meth. The man was also found with two glass pipes he admitted having used to smoke the drug, and a six-inch knife in his backpack. He went to jail.

Feb. 3, 12:03 a.m.
A citizen reported “seven teenage boys walking up and down Venice, banging on things as they walk by.”

Feb. 3, 3:30 a.m.
A Twitchell Island Road resident said two subjects had just tried to break into the house. A screen door was found off.
The resident saw one subject – a man in black pants and a ‘hoodie’ – and heard a second suspect.

Feb. 3, 4:18 a.m.
A man reported that after eating in a Harbor Boulevard restaurant, he went outside “he saw his silver Mercedes keyed all over.” He had a possible suspect in mind.

Feb. 3, 8:52 a.m.
A caller reported an incident the prior night at a C Street market:
A car pulled up and a man got out and “hit him two times in the head with his fist and took (the victim’s) phone and his wallet.”

Feb. 3, 10:17 a.m.
A domestic violence incident was reported on Rockrose Road.

Feb. 3, 12:26 p.m.
A “brindle pit bull” dog was seen “limping and wandering in and out of the street.” It was unknown if the dog was aggressive.

Feb. 3, 1:19 p.m.
A suicide threat was reported in the north part of the city.

Feb. 3, 2:24 p.m.
Someone stole a washer and dryer from the side of a house on Bonaire Road.

Feb. 3, 5:08 p.m.
A citizen reported that there was a bicyclist down in the street at West Capitol and Walnut, unconscious.
It was “unknown what happened — no one hit the bicyclist.”

Feb. 3, 7:42 p.m.
A man reported that two suspects shot at his car as he drove past West Capitol and Harbor.

Feb. 3, 7:58 p.m.
Police received several reports of fireworks being set off near Golden Gate Drive and Oakland bay Drive. They also received one report of several rifle and handgun shots being heard near Ballena Bay Road.

Feb. 3, 9:52 p.m.
A witness said there were about four or five drunk people at 6th Street and the railroad tracks, and “they keep jumping in front of the trains as they pass by. . . They have already dodged two trains.”

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Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Tryouts for youth soccer team


Tryouts for West Sac Soccer, a competitive program, are scheduled for Saturdays Feb. 23 and March 9. Tryouts will be held at River City High School.

[adrotate group=”9″]  Tryout times: male and female athletes born August 8/1/2002 to 7/31/2003 meet from 9-10:30 a.m.; 8/1/99 – 7/31/2001, 10:30-noon; 8/1/97-7/31/99, 1-2:30 p.m.; and before 8/1/97, 2:30-4 p.m. For information, email WestSacCompSoccer@gmail.com. $125 fee for season (no additional fees for coaches, trainers or fields).

Copyright News-Ledger

Teacher runs for spot on school board


  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.”

[adrotate group=”7″]   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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