Tag Archives: school district

Meet Walt Bowman, WUSD candidate

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — OCT 3, 2012 —

  Editor’s Note: each local election cycle, the News-Ledger invites all candidates for West Sacramento local office to meet us for a published interview. Those interviews are seen first by News-Ledger subscribers. We’re pleased to offer our Oct. 3 interview with Walt Bowman below. He’s running for one of three available seats on the Washington Unified School District school board.

By Steve Marschke, News-Ledger Editor

Walt Bowman is a 71-year old retired truck driver who lives with his wife in the West Capitol Avenue area of West Sacramento. This November, for the second time, he will be trying to earn a spot on the Washington Unified School District Board of Trustees.

What’s driving him?

“I want to get one person off the board,” he mentioned. “I’m not going to name any names. I want to put new faces on the board. I’d like to see three new faces this time around – whether it’s me or not doesn’t matter.”

WALT BOWMAN: retired truck driver wants to change up West Sacramento's school board (News-Ledger photo)

Bowman is one of a handful of challengers joining incumbents David Westin and Mary Leland in pursuing three available seats on the school board. His own two kids are grown, but he became angry when the board made moves to close the charter school that two of his  granddaughters were attending. That school, the West Sacramento Early College Prep Charter School, has been deemed to be underperforming.

“They wanted to close that school,” Bowman told the News-Ledger last week. That started me getting mad, and my daughter said, ‘instead of getting mad, why don’t you run?’”

“I like charter schools,” he added. “I’m for it. If I’m on the board, every time it comes up, I’m going to vote for it. They’re an alternative education – some kids don’t fit in well at the regular schools, for one reason or another.”

Bowman has another grandchild at Stonegate Elementary. He has lived in New Mexico and in the Bay Area, and he spent a year at Chabot College in Hayward before his career in long-haul and local trucking.

How does he think the current board is doing – aside from the charter school issue?

“Overall, they might be doing OK,” Bowman allowed.

How about the district’s finances in this era of state-budget cuts?

“I feel they have the money,” said Bowman. “Like everybody else, they say ‘oh, we don’t have the money.’ But if they don’t have the money, how are they paying the teachers?”

[adrotate group=”10″]  Student test scores have gone up in the past two years. Is that important?

“These people on the board now make a big deal of that,” he answered. “But they’re not in there taking that test. They’re not in the classrooms teaching. Yet they’re saying, ‘we got the test scores up.’ No, they didn’t.”

What does Bowman think of the quality of WUSD’s schools?

“They’re probably doing okay,” he answered, “but the schools on this side of the town (in the north) are kind of overlooked. I don’t think they give the schools on this side of town a fair shake.”

What big challenges does he see in the district?

“They say it’s money, but another thing is that there’s a high drop-out rate at the high school,” answered Bowman. “That’s going to be a big problem to fix. We should hire high-end mental health counselors and bring them in here. We can sit them down and get inside these kids’ heads and figure out what’s going on. They’re going to say it’s going to cost the district money. But, well. . . .”

Does Bowman have other ideas for improving the district?

“Probably some of these kids need a lot of help. Like counselors, or some kind of aides to help these kids.”

“If politicians would keep their noses out of it, and let the schools teach, the students would be better off.”

West Sacramento voters elect their school board (and their city council) “at large,” meaning there is one group of candidates voted on by people from every neighborhood. Bowman would like to see future school board voting done by districts, to help the northern part of town get more consistent representation.

“If we go by district, everyone will have a fair chance,” he explained. “You’re going to have a mix of people from Bryte, Broderick, (the central business district) and so on. You’d get a cross-section of people on there. Things would get done.”

What will Bowman do if elected?

“If I get in there, I will try to get the buses back,” he responded. The district – reacting to budget cuts – has cut a lot of its school bus service recently.

Bowman said he will not be spending a lot on his campaign, because “I don’t like to go out and ask for money.”

“I’m not backed by anybody (on the board or city council) and I don’t belong to this group or that group. But I’m going to give it a shot.”

  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.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2012

Running for school board: Alicia Cruz

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER NEWSPAPER — SEPT 19, 2012 —

  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.”

[adrotate group=”7″]   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

Petition overturns school board appointment: special election coming

FROM THE WEST SACRAMENTO NEWS-LEDGER — OCT 10, 2012 —

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.

[adrotate group=”9″]   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.

[adrotate group=”10″] 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

NEWS-LEDGER ONLINE — OCT 14, 2012 —

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.

[adrotate group=”9″] 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

‘Walking school bus’ in Southport

A"walking school bus" forms up in Southport to promote the healthfulness of walking to school

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER NEWSPAPER — OCT 10, 2012 —

Students at Southport Elementary participated in “National Walk to School Day” last Wednesday. Southport is one of the schools working in conjunction with “WalkSacramento” to promote the healthy benefits of walking to school.

[adrotate group=”7″]    Many students also participated in a walking school bus that day that began and Summerfield Park, all students were  provided with a healthy snack, donated by Cliff Bar, once they arrived at school. Cliff Bar also provided a fun sign for all students to sign to celebrate National Walk to School Day 2012.

For more information about WalkSacramento please visit their website at WalkSacramento.org.

Photo & information from Angela Cook, Southport Elementary School parent leader

  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

District defends withholding of names

FROM THE WEST SACRAMENTO NEWS-LEDGER NEWSPAPER — SEPT 26, 2012 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

Several days before the local school board was set to appoint a new board member to fill a vacancy, the News-Ledger asked the district for a copy of the list of the eight people who applied for the position. The goal was to publish the list and give West Sacramento residents a better chance to give their input on the decision.

A district staffer eventually declined to provide the names, emailing that “The Board doesn’t have the list yet, so therefore, it isn’t public information.”

The newspaper didn’t get the applicants’ names before the meeting.

DAYTON GILLELAND, superintendent of the Washington Unified School District (photo from WUSD website)

But the exchange raised a question of policy: does the Washington Unified School District really believe that its information might not be “public information” just because the school board hasn’t seen it yet? California has a fairly powerful Public Records Act that essentially says government documents are “public” unless they fit in certain specified categories of exemption – confidential personnel material or documents involving ongoing negotiations, for example.

The News-Ledger contacted WUSD Superintendent Dayton Gilleland to find out if this “board hasn’t seen it, therefore it isn’t public information” argument accurately reflects public policy. Several telephone calls and email exchanges followed.

The editor asked him:

“I was unable to get an advance copy of the list of candidates for the board appointment. My understanding is that it was withheld because WUSD did not consider this information ‘public’ based on the fact that the board had not seen the information yet. Do you regard that as appropriate and legal?”

After consultation with attorneys, Gilleland responded by email, in part:

“I do feel it was fully appropriate and legal that we would not provide a list, as you requested, when that list did not exist nor had the names of the candidates become ‘public’ prior to receipt by the Board of Education on the day of the interviews. This determination was further affirmed by our legal counsel’s opinion.”

[adrotate group=”10″]   The News-Ledger pointed out that WUSD had in its first email seemed to acknowledge the existence of a list – possibly misleading us – and, had we known there was no list, we could have instantly re-phrased our request and asked for copies of the applicants’ actual applications. And we mentioned that the California Public Records Act includes a requirement that government agencies actively help members of the public to better target their informational requests. We received no response on these points.

Was there any legal justification “within the context of the California Public Records Act” to withhold a school district document based on whether the board had received the same information?

Gilleland didn’t address the Public Records Act. He did cite a portion of the state’s  Brown Act, which talks about the need to post agendas of public meetings in advance. This state law says when a person asks for items in an agenda packet, the government agency shall “cause the requested materials to be mailed at the time the agenda is posted, or upon distribution to all, or a majority of all, of the members of the body, whichever occurs first.”

And that’s about where the dialog left off.

  If you comment on this article, your comment may also be published in the News-Ledger newspaper.

  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.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2012

Girl Scouts bring concerns to WUSD boss

Dayton Gilleland, superintendent of the Washington Unified School District, with some scouts from Troop 2203: (left-right) Kendelle Wilkinson, Kennedy Cooks, Anthena Kelly and Alexa Vasilopoulos (courtesy of Troop 2203)

FROM THE WEST SACRAMENTO NEWS-LEDGER — AUG 22, 2012 —

A letter-writing project turned into something unexpected for members of Girl Scout Troop 2203 in West Sacramento – a meeting with the superintendent of schools in Washington Unified School District.

“Troop 2203 in West Sacramento spent some time writing about improvements they’d like to see in their community,” Troop Leader Yvonne Cantrell explained in a news release to the News-Ledger. “Two of the seven troop members chose to write to the Washington Unified School District – one to ask for more yard duty attendants to curb playground bullying, and the other to ask that all classrooms be equipped with ample and functioning desks and tools for learning.”

The letters went to Dayton Gilleland, the WUSD superintendent.

“They were humbly hoping to receive at least a standard ‘thank you for your concern’ letter in return,” said Cantrell. “To their delight and surprise, the superintendent not only acknowledged receipt of the letters, he also asked that the girls and their families meet with him.”

[adrotate group=”7″]  The meeting happened on May 29.

“Dr. Gilleland graciously allowed each girl to share her story of concern, and he patiently listened and valued what each had to say. (He) explained that though some problems may seem to have an easy answer, there are a myriad of issues that the district must consider when operating a complex institution like a public school district, especially considering the budgetary climate of today,” said Cantrell.

The girls in Troop 2203 learned “that by taking action (simply writing a letter), their voices were heard and future improvement was possible now that a dialog had been started.”

  Yes, 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