Tag Archives: school district

Several school district ‘special needs’ educators to receive honors


“SELPA,” a Yolo County agency that covers special needs education locally, will hold its annual awards ceremony on May 12.

Several “special needs” educators in West Sacramento’s Washington Unified School District will receive honors.

They include paraeducator Elizabeth Felix and teachers Debra McDaniel and Claudia Parks.

The event will take place from 6-7 p.m. at the Office of Education, 1280 Santa Anita Court, Suite 120, in Woodland.

Copyright News-Ledger 2014

Two from Washington Unified School District are honored by county officials

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — March 26, 2014 —

The Yolo County School Boards Association honored a number of educators throughout the county at its annual dinner on March 17.

From the Washington Unified School District in West Sacramento, the association singled out for excellence Julie Hoskins, an “ELD” and categorical programs administrator, and the “BEST” program, led by Jerry Smith.

For local efforts of the Los Rios Community College District, the association gave honors to chemistry professor Dr. Bruce Zenner at Sacramento City College and the college’s program involvement in the West Sacramento Early College Prep Charter School. The college’s involvement in the charter school is led by Elizabeth Altschule.

Awards were presented by State Senator Lois Wolk and Assembly Member Mariko Yamada.

Copyright News-Ledger 2014

West Sacramento school board plans special, strategic meeting


West Sacramento’s public school district announced yesterday they will hold a special strategic session on Saturday. The meeting will cover “governance team building” as well as “goals, objectives, policies and priorities” for the school board and district.

The special session begins at 9 a.m. on June 8 in Room 75 at the Washington Unified School District office, 930 Westacre Road. It is a public meeting.

A facilitator from the California School Boards Association will assist the discussion.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Using a brain to make a point:


from Edwin Garcia, Kaiser Permanente

Dr. Victor DeNoble, a former tobacco research scientist who became a whistleblower against his company – and the entire industry – spoke to hundreds of students in a series of school assemblies in West Sacramento earlier this month, explaining the dangers of smoking.

Among the attention-grabbing props he displayed were the frozen brains of a monkey, and also of a human, that he held in his glove-covered hand as he worked the multipurpose rooms showing what he learned long ago about the effect that the drug nicotine has on the brain.

Dr. Victor DeNoble uses a frozen human brain to make a point about nicotine addiction and smoking, in a presentation to 4th and 5th grade students at Bridgeway Island Elementary School (photo courtesy of Edwin Garcia, Kaiser Permanente)

Dr. Victor DeNoble uses a frozen human brain to make a point about nicotine addiction and smoking, in a presentation to 4th and 5th grade students at Bridgeway Island Elementary School (photo courtesy of Edwin Garcia, Kaiser Permanente)

DeNoble’s presentations were part of an anti-smoking effort called “Don’t Buy The Lie,” which is sponsored by Kaiser Permanente in partnership with the West Sacramento-based Health Education Council.

He spoke at Bridgeway Island, Riverbank and Stonegate elementary schools.

In addition to presenting dozens of school assemblies each March in the Sacramento region,

“Don’t Buy The Lie” includes a poster contest for students in the 7th-through-12th grades who submit drawings and messages with an anti-smoking theme. The winners receive prizes and their artwork is displayed on billboards.

[adrotate group=”7″] DeNoble tells a riveting story about how he was secretly hired by Philip Morris to create a safer cigarette that wouldn’t lead to heart disease. But much of his time was spent researching something the company didn’t authorize and later fired him for: he used laboratory rats to investigate the addictive nature of nicotine.

More than 10 years after he was fired, the federal government asked DeNoble to testify in Congress against the tobacco industry. His testimony and other evidence prompted major fines against the industry and significant reforms, including the banning of cigarette advertisements from billboards.

After the Bridgeway Island Elementary School assembly, Principal Grace Chin said the presentation will have a lasting effect on students because Dr. DeNoble is a scientist and his work lends credibility to his message.


Copyright News-LEdger 2013


Kirby-Gonzalez wins board seat

SARAH  KIRBY-GONZALEZ: She's a teacher in another district, Southport resident, parent and the newest member of West Sacramento's school board (News-Ledger photo)

She’s a teacher in another district, Southport resident, a parent and the newest member of West Sacramento’s school board (News-Ledger photo)


West Sacramento voters today used an all-mail election to fill the last year and a half of a vacant four-year seat on the local school board.

The Yolo County Elections Office has released the preliminary results of that vote, and the apparent winner is Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez, a teacher in the Folsom-Cordova school district. The early count credits her with 2,573 votes, or 50.7 percent of the vote.

She is followed by Francisco Castillo, an official with the StudentsFirst reform organization, who has 1,315 votes (25.9%). The pair campaigned heavily and with tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations. Kirby-Gonzalez drew support form teachers’ unions, and Castillo from StudentsFirst and charter school advocates.

Finishing up the field:

Linh Nguyen, 738 votes (14.5%)

Katherine Gales, 252 votes (5.0%)

and Nicholas Turney, 200 votes (3.9%)

Kirby-Gonzales will fill the last year and a half of the four-year school board term vacated by Sandra Vargas on the Washington Unified School District board of trustees.

More in the next edition of the News-Ledger.

  UPDATE, MARCH 6, 2013: The Yolo County Elections Department has updated the results and made them “final and official.” Sarah Kirby Gonzalez was credited with a victory over second-place Francisco Castillo by 51.2% to 26.1%.

  Voter turnout in West Sacramento was 5,520 out of 23,141 registered voters, or 23.9%.

  For the full vote tally, visit the Yolo County Elections Department page here.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013


EDITORIAL: choices for school board

FRANCISCO CASTILLO: works for StudentsFirst (News-Ledger Photo)

FRANCISCO CASTILLO: works for StudentsFirst (News-Ledger Photo)



West Sacramento voters this week will take a look at a slate of five contenders, and choose one to fill a vacancy on the local school board.

There are some people in the community who wish to vilify one candidate or another. The current love/hate litmus test is the question of which candidate has the backing of the city’s activist mayor, Christopher Cabaldon. But you know what? These five are all good people, and any one of them would do at least a decent job on the school board.

It has been hard, however,  to find a way to judge their individual potential as school district trustees using their respective records in public service. Instead, we have to look mostly at their professional resumes and at their public remarks to try to determine how well each understands a board member’s role and how effective he or she would be on the “board of directors” of the local school district. The school board member’s job is, above all, as a manager: chief duties include hiring and managing a superintendent, making budget choices and creating an effective corporate structure, as well as setting strategic policy.

LINH NGUYEN: Background in Silicon Valley & Business (News-Ledger photo)

LINH NGUYEN: Background in Silicon Valley & Business (News-Ledger photo)

From the current group of five candidates emerge the three most interesting choices:

Francisco Castillo, an executive with a school reform organization who advocates education choices for parents;

Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez, who teaches in an outside district and speaks the language of school curriculum; and

Linh Nguyen, who brings a unique analytic approach to problem-solving, possibly learned during his experiences in business and science.

Any of these three would be a good bet on the board.

The teacher Kirby-Gonzalez, however, is the candidate who has shown the best grasp of public school issues and the closest understanding of what, exactly, a school board member really does.

SARAH KIRBY--GONZALEZ: Teaches in Folsom-Cordova District (News-Ledger photo)

SARAH KIRBY–GONZALEZ: Teaches in Folsom-Cordova District (News-Ledger photo)

It would be interesting to see what Nguyen or Castillo would do on the board (and we may well see one of them elected next week). But Kirby-Gonzalez has thus far shown the best set of qualifications for the job. From the evidence at hand, she’s the top choice.


You can see the News-Ledger’s interviews of each candidate at the links below. These interviews are made possible by the News-Ledger’s subscribers and its advertisers:

Francisco Castillo

Katherine Gales

Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez

Linh Nguyen

          Nicholas Turney

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Copyright News-Ledger 2013

Turney: communication is key


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.

  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