Tag Archives: school district

Gales seeks a school board seat

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER NEWSPAPER — FEB 6, 2013 —

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.

[adrotate group=”7″]  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.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2013

 

Nguyen: ‘average’ district can improve

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 30, 2013 —

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

Teacher runs for spot on school board

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — JAN 23, 2013 —

  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.

  Do you like what you see here?

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  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

Feb. 19 is last day to register

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER —

West Sacramento voters will choose a new school board member at a special election on March 5.

Last day to register to vote in time for the Washington Unified School District race is Feb. 19. You must be 18, a County of Yolo resident at least 15 days before the resident, a U.S. citizen, and you must complete a registration affidavit. For information, contact the Yolo County Elections Department, 625 Court St., Room B05, Woodland, CA 95695, or call (530) 666-8133 or 1-800-649-9943.

The News-Ledger traditionally invites each candidate to sit down for an interview to be published in the newspaper. Those interviews began publishing in the Jan. 23 News-Ledger and will continue until approximately Feb. 20. For information on subscribing to the News-Ledger, call (916) 371-8030.

Copyright News-Ledger 2013