Tag Archives: school

CANDIDATE INTERVIEW: David Westin

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — OCT 24, 2012 —

  EDITOR’S NOTE: The News-Ledger interviewed each candidate for West Sacramento’s city council and school board during the past couple of month, in an effort to help voters get to know them and their positions. Below is the result of our interview with school board incumbent David Westin, published in the newspaper on Oct. 24:

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

DAVE WESTIN: Believes in accountability for management of West Sacramento public school district (photo from WUSD website)

“Philosophically, I believe the district functions best when you have parents on the school board who have kids in the district,” said school board incumbent David Westin, who is seeking another term. “I think there’s a disconnect when people are using the school board as a stepping stone for city council or county supervisor.”

Westin and his family live in the Bridgeway Lakes part of Southport. He and his wife have had seven kids (one is deceased).

“I’m very proud to have children in the Washington Unified School District,” he told the News-Ledger. “I have one in first grade, one in third, and one will be entering kindergarten next fall.”

Westin is currently an executive for a German tech company. He has a bachelor’s degree in business finance from USC and an accounting certificate from Golden Gate University.

Westin believes that the district’s API performance is a meter of its recent success. In the two years preceding this one, WUSD saw its performance on this index of student test scores go up a total of 48 points. This year, there was a one-point slip.

“We’ve been able to change the culture in the district, and run it more like a business, with quantifiable goals and objectives,” he said. “During my two terms as board president, we were the top-rated school district in the state of California.”

That rating, he said, was based on the improvements in API scores.

How much is Westin responsible for the gains?

“I think I take some of the credit for being board president during those record-breaking years, and setting the vision that enabled us to achieve that,” he answered. “However, that said, the credit really goes to the administrators, staff, parents, teachers and the kids who did the work.”

Other positive signs for West Sacramento’s public school district include an increase in the state funding that comes in proportion to the “ADA,” or average daily attendance. Local schools are getting more ADA money because they are seeing more students from day to day in the classrooms.

“You’re seeing that in the additional $370,000 in ADA we’ve picked up,” said Westin. “That means two things – one, more people are putting their kids in the district, and two, the attendance rate has gone up so we’re engaging kids more effectively. . . The dropout rate has gone down significantly. It beats the county and state averages.”

So why did the API scores cease their upward climb this year?

Some of that is due to the economic instability of families, and to other changes like drawing new boundaries for local school attendance and changing the campuses attended by some kids, he said.

“This year, there was a one-point drop in API district-wide. There was a lot of that drop in the north. I would say that when we have families hurting, that’s going to affect the kids – they may not have stable home life or the resources to (compete).”

“There are districts like Natomas, Rancho Cordova, etc., that have fallen completely off the cliff with test scores. We’ve been able to hold steady.”

Westin believes “the current model is solid” and the school board “is doing a very good job” despite big cuts in state funding that have translated into harsh measures like reduction of most school bus service.

[adrotate group=”7″]   “I think the number-one challenge is money,” he commented.

He said he backs the political endorsements of the California School Boards Association, which urges “yes” votes on the governor’s Proposition 30 and Molly Munger’s Prop. 38 – both of which may use taxes in part to help out public schools.

If money starts to come back, where would Westin spend it?

“Number one is to reinstate busing,” he answered. I think that’s strategically important. Number two, is that the number-one issue from the parents’ perspective is to get kids to do their homework. So having more after-school homework support groups for kids is (my other) top priority.”

Another tactic to improve education:

“One of the things that will take the district to the next level is to implement a peer-to-peer program so that principals from different schools can go see how other schools in the district are run, and take ‘best practices.’ Also teachers – so a math teacher from, say, Riverbank can go see how math is taught at Bridgeway or how English is taught at Southport, or how they do it at Westmore Oaks. . . I think everyone has been focusing on taking the district to (this) level and this is what will take it to a higher level.”

What about charter schools: does Westin tend to approve of them, or disapprove of them?

“I don’t have a bias,” he answered. I am an independent person who can put children first, politics second. It’s a case-by-case basis (for considering them).”

What does a board member’s job description look like, according to this veteran school board member?

“Insuring there is accountability, transparency and bottom-line results.”

Westin reports having been endorsed by retiring board president Teresa Blackmer, current board member Adam Menke, challenger Alicia Cruz, the River City Democratic Club and the local teachers’ union.

Is Westin running hard for re-election to the board of trustees?

“I’m very active in walking precincts and I enjoy meeting the public,” he said. “One of the things that sets me apart from everybody else is, for the last eight years, I’ve had regular office hours at my house every Monday from 5-6.”

Interested people may call him at 376-0880 to schedule an appointment to talk about their WUSD concerns, said Westin.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2012

Roy Sianez, running for school board:

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — OCT 10, 2012 —

  Editor’s note: This interview with school board candidate Roy Siañez comes from the Oct. 10 edition of the News-Ledger, West Sacramento’s weekly community newspaper. We hope these interviews help you make up your mind about the upcoming Nov. 6 ballot.

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

Roy Siañez is a new resident of West Sacramento – his family closed escrow on a local house in February. But he wants to start serving this community. That’s why he is running for one of three seats available on the local school board on Nov. 6.

“I’m a parent,” he told the News-Ledger recently. “I understand the importance of a quality education for students and also the importance of parental involvement. I’m new to West Sacramento, but I’m not new to serving my community. . . I’m eager to bring that community activism to West Sacramento.”

ROY SIANEZ: wants to contribute to West Sacramento

Siañez, 39, is currently a policy director for Democrat Norma Torres in the State Assembly. He’s worked for other politicos on issues that span health, public safety, education, housing and other topics.

“As a legislative director, I advise her on every single issue,” he said.

Siañez does not have any kids in local schools – one daughter has graduated, and a second goes to school in another city.

He’s been active in a number of regional and state causes over the years, beginning with his own student college days.

“I was a member of the Latino Complete Count Committee, working to ensure the Latino community was counted appropriately for the 2010 census,” Siañez said. He’s also a former board member of the Oak Park Business Association. Another favorite cause is the Youth Leadership Project.

“I’ve served on that organization for nine years,” he told the News-Ledger. “Every year, we bring 120 high school students from across the state to this area in the summer. They stay in the Sacramento State University dorms for a week, at no cost to them. We pay for all their housing, registration and transportation.

Siañez believes in the value of education. He grew up in Modesto, raised by a single mother who worked in a factory.

“She spent most of her time working, so she wasn’t able to help me with school,” he reports.   “I kind of strayed in school.”

He dropped out of school, then – on the advice of a friend – enrolled in a junior college without even knowing that it was customary to transfer after a couple of years to finish a college degree.

Financial aid and fee waivers made it possible for him to go to college:

“That started my journey into higher education,” Siañez said. “I transferred to Sacramento State years later. At the junior college level, that’s where I started developing as a person and educationally. That’s where I became involved in advocacy.”

[adrotate group=”7″]  The activism started in Latino clubs and with a run for student senate.

Then came an internship in the legislature and an ensuing career at the Capitol. He has landed near West Sacramento’s Bridgeway Lakes area.

How does he think the current school board is doing?

“I know there are several board members who have served long terms,” Siañez answered. “Longevity and continuity are generally good things.”

Test scores seem to be on the right path, he added.

“Whenever we have an increase in test scores, that’s a good thing. It means you’re doing something right. But if one school increased by ten points, and another only by five points, I want to know about that.”

What sort of financial shape is Washington Unified in?

“My understanding is that the Yolo County Office of Education has certified the school district’s budget, which is a positive thing,” said Siañez. “I would hope that could be the case for future years to come.”

But:

“It’s a scary thought about what would happen if the governor’s initiative (Proposition 30) to increase revenue doesn’t pass. I definitely think we need to increase revenue given the economic climate.”

One of the reasons Siañez believes he would make a good school board member is his own Latino experience.

“41 percent of the students in the school district are Latino,” he said. “It begs the question – if you look at the school board, and look at the students, does the school board really reflect the students?”

Siañez believes that sports and extracurricular activities are crucial for some students.

“Frosh football was great for me, because it kept me out of trouble,” he recalls. “After the season ended, my idle time became a problem. . . (After dropping out), my motivation for trying to return to high school was to play football.”

He supports “any and all programs that can help our neediest students with some of the voids they bring, to attend school.”

How does Siañez feel about charter schools?

“Not all charter schools are equal, he replied. “You have to look at whether there’s a need, and if there is a need, explain it. If there’s a public school that’s been failing, consider it. It’s a case by case basis.”

What is it in his experience that would make Siañez a good board member?

“My public policy experience, my experience as a parent, and my experience as a product of the public educational system,” he answered.

“West Sacramento is my new home,” concluded Siañez. I’m involved, and I plan to be here a long time. I’m eager to get involved and make a difference – I don’t want to wait.”
Siañez, along with several other challengers and two incumbents, is seeking one of three seats on the school board this fall.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2012

Suspicious man reported by kids

NEWS-LEDGER ONLINE — OCT 26, 2012 —

A pair of students from Southport Elementary School report that a suspicious man in a pickup truck may have been staring at them as they walked home from a school bus stop on Linden Road.

The incident happened around 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, within a few blocks of Linden Road and Violet Drive.

“Two kids got off the bus on Linden Road, near their house,” Lieutenant Tod Sockman of the West Sacramento Police Department told the News-Ledger. “They saw a guy in a dark gray pickup truck. They described him as in his 50s with sideburns. He may have been staring at them. They got creeped out by him and thought he was following them. They took a detour, and went down what they described as an alley, and never saw him again.”

“The man didn’t speak to the kids,” he said.

[adrotate group=”9″]   Sockman said it isn’t clear whether the man was up to any mischief, but the kids “did the right thing” by being vigilant and careful.

“I wouldn’t want them to do anything else,” he said. “But it could just be a guy sitting in a truck. There was enough information that we took a police report and put it out to every single patrol car.”

Copyright News-Ledger 2012

Meet Coby Pizotti, school board candidate

  EDITOR’S NOTE: Every election cycle in West Sacramento, the News-Ledger invites each candidate for a sit-down interview. The below interview was published in the News-Ledger edition of Sept. 26, 2012. In it, we talk to Coby Pizotti, a candidate for one of three available seats on the school board for Washington Unified School District. If you’re not already a News-Ledger subscriber, look for the special offer following the interview.

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

Coby Pizotti is a relative newcomer to West Sacramento. He and his wife put roots down in the city’s Bridgeway Island area in 2009.

“My daughter was born in March,” Pizotti told the News-Ledger. “That’s actually the reason I decided to run for school board. I wanted to ensure that by the time she goes to public school – and she will go to public school – she will have a school system able to deliver a top-notch education.”

COBY PIZOTTI: challenger for a seat on the WUSD board of trustees in West Sacramento (News-Ledger photo)

Pizotti, 41, is a lobbyist for the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians. A native of Castro Valley and Hayward, he attended Chico State before getting a degree in government from Sacramento State. He has worked for Democrats in the legislature (including Speakers Fabian Nunez and Herb Wesson) and for organized labor, including the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association.

“I believe that the school board should have an advocate who has relationships with members of the legislature,” he said. “That could benefit the board, to have direct access to some of the state’s politicians.”

Has Pizotti been involved in West Sacramento and the Washington Unified School Disrtict before becoming a candidate?

“I have friends at the West Sacramento Recreation Center,” he answered. “I’ve been brainstorming with the basketball coach at River City High to come up with some ideas on how to fundraise for the boys basketball team. I haven’t really had the opportunity to get as involved as I’d like. But I believe my experience will help the school district.”

Has he been observing board meetings?

[adrotate group=”7″]   “I’ve seen two of them in person and watched one or two on (cable) TV,” said Pizotti. “I think the (current) board is relatively functional in terms of the direction it’s going. They’ve laid down some strict guidelines on what they want to see, and that has resulted in the dramatic increases in the API scores (student test scores) in the past two years. That’s huge.”

What sort of financial shape is Washington Unified School District in?

“The district is in good shape because they’ve taken steps to ensure they have a surplus that’s essentially a rainy day fund,” he answered.

But if the governor’s Proposition 30 doesn’t pass in November, WUSD will – like other districts – have more financial problems. Pizotti urges a “yes” on 30 in November, and a “no” on Molly Munger’s Prop. 32.

Proposition 30 is Jerry Brown’s attempt to close the state budget shortfall, and includes some tax increases.

“For Prop. 30, I’ve helped raise $300,000,” said Pizotti. He was cautiously optimistic that it would pass.

Pizotti explained what he thought his job would be if elected:

“I believe a board member is responsible for setting policy and getting the schools going in the direction they would like to see. It’s the administrators and superintendent who implement those policies. The school board members are responsible, I believe, for listening to their constituents, hearing what students need to be successful, and reaching out to parents to get them more involved.”

“I believe test scores are on the rise,” Pizotti added. “I think the superintendent has done a good job implementing the programs that have increased the scores.”

But “you don’t get tested on vocational education, you don’t get tested on the arts.” So testing isn’t everything, he said.

Pizotti believes that sports helped “helped put me where I am today,” teaching him discipline and team play. And sports, like other extracurricular activities, are vital in the schools.

“Not everyone’s destined for college. We need to prepare students as best we can to find the jobs they want to find,” he said. “And if you have a child involved extracurricular anything, whether it’s debate, band, sports, or clubs, you’re going to have a child that has something to do and is learning a concept like teamwork and the importance of competition and discipline.”

Pizotti isn’t a fan of charter schools.

“In general, I don’t like charter schools,” he explained. “I will not work to eliminate the ones we have, and I will support the kids there. But I will not vote to approve new charter schools. Charter schools take away from the majority of kids at public schools.”

Also:

“You can’t run a school like you do a Walmart. While most (charter schools) are nonprofit, there’s a kind of model most charter schools go by, where they don’t have to uphold contracts with labor (unions) to uphold certain standards. And many times, students don’t get the (socioeconomic) diversity they need.”

If the district gets more funding, Pizotti would certainly like to support extracurricular activities and sports. What else?

“Next thing is to hire more guidance counselors,” he said. “Guidance counselors are an integral part of the educational system. Teachers can’t always know what’s going on in the student’s homes. Could it be that mom and dad work three jobs to put food on the table? Or mom and dad are absent? Guidance counselors are the right people to identify these problems.”

They’re also in a prime spot to interrupt bullying, said Pizotti.

If elected, he hopes to create an advisory panel at each school.

“They’d be comprised of staff, parents and teachers,” he said. “They’d report to me and discuss what they need to produce a better educational experience, and produce a happier learning environment for the child.”

And he would like to “work with the police department to create more patrols of our campuses.”

“If Prop. 30 does not pass, I would like to work with W.S.P.D. to create volunteer policing on our campuses – teach people how to report what they see as suspicious. Use retirees and stay-at-home parents.”

Pizotti believes this year’s school board campaign will be vigorously fought. With a fundraising target of $20,00 for his own campaign, he believes he’s a contender to win. He hasn’t got an endorsement from any current board members, but just announced the endorsement of Assemblyman Roger Dickinson.

  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