Tag Archives: washington

Riverbank gets spruced up

The new marquee is part of the renovation at Riverbank Elementary in the city’s north (courtesy photo/AugustineIdeas)


Riverbank Elementary was opened more than 50 years ago as a high school, later becoming Golden State Middle School and then an elementary campus.

During the 2011-2012 school year the 12-acre campus was home to third through eighth graders but after a 10-week, $8-million overhaul the campus reopened on August 22, greeting students’ kindergarten through eighth grade.

While minor work started in May while school was still in session, the majority of the work began in June when school was out, giving HMH Builders just 10 weeks to complete this transformation, intended to improve the environment and accommodate more kids.

According to a spokesperson for the builder:

  Starting on the outside, the parking lot was redesigned with safety in mind, providing much needed space to drop students off, and separating the entrances for kindergarten through fifth grade from those for sixth through eighth grade. The walkway leading to the entrance was also redesigned and made ADA compliant with new landscaping and decorative fencing. The school even received a new marquee, complete with an LED sign that can be used for posting announcements. Other improvements to the outside of the campus including adding a new section of asphalt for recess and PE activities, which doubles as a way to improve the fire departments access to the campus.

On the interior, each of the 42 classrooms on the campus received a technology makeover. All are now equipped with smart boards that allow a teacher to project his or her computer screen or other video directly onto a whiteboard and then write over it or to show educational videos. A new fiber optic network and fire alarm system was installed across the campus along with a new intercom system to improve campus-wide communication, security and fire safety. Many rooms have new windows to let in more natural light, fresh paint, cabinets, tack boards and carpeting.

Additionally, some rooms were also completely remodeled such as what was once a dark building with no windows transforming into the campus’ kindergarten wing complete with three classrooms, smart boards, windows, and a separate play area with shade structure. A building that housed outdated gym equipment has been turned into five new classrooms for second graders. Two old locker rooms that were being used as storage areas are now places for learning. The girls’ locker room is now a fitness studio with climbing wall and will also be used for indoor sports and yoga. The boys’ locker room was gutted and renovated into two wet science labs.

Riverbank Elementary School classroom, renovated (courtesy of AugustineIdeas for HMH Builders)

“We are impressed and relieved by the ability of the HMH Team to complete this major renovation to Riverbank, both on time and on budget,” said Dr. Dayton Gilleland, Ed.D., Washington Unified School District’s Superintendent, in a press release from AugustineIdeas, for HMH Builders.. “The efficiency of this project, coupled with the hard work of teachers and district staff, has resulted in a beautiful school setting that stands ready to meet our students and families on the first day of school.”

In the coming months the campus will continue to see limited construction including a completely remodeled commercial kitchen to prepare school meals. During this construction, meals for students will be made at other district facilities and brought to the school for students.

“We were delighted to be chosen to work on this project with the Washington Unified School District,” said Tim Spence, project executive with HMH Builders, in a press release. “We worked closely with the Washington Unified School District and Stafford King Wiese Architects on every aspect of the project, finding ways to save money. The improvements that were made to Riverbank over the last 10 weeks will improve the learning environment for students, teachers, and staff for many years to come.”

Copyright News-Ledger 2012

Final candidates for West Sac’s ballot:


EDITOR’S NOTE: The extended deadline for new people to enter the school board race passed without any new candidates signing up. So the list of candidates for West Sacramento’s city and school board elections we published below on Aug. 15 is now final and complete — with the exception that Nathan Eckler, who filed to run for school board, has withdrawn his candidacy.

The deadline has closed for candidates to file for election to the West Sacramento city council or to the mayor’s seat on the November 6 ballot. And while there will be only one new challenger in those races, he does pack some punch.

Oleg Maskaev, a resident of the Southport area, will challenge city council incumbents Bill Kristoff and Oscar Villegas for one of the two available four-year terms. Maskaev is a former WBC heavyweight boxing champ.

  Mayor Christopher Cabaldon will not see a challenger this year as he seeks election to another two-year term.

Things are more crowded and less final in the race for one of three available seats on the school board.

Incumbents David Westin and Mary Leland have filed for re-election, but current board president Teresa Blackmer did not.

As of yesterday morning (Aug. 14), there were eight challengers on board for the race. Here are their names and their self-described ballot designations:

Coby Pizzotti, a “parent/legislative advocate”; Alicia Cruz, a “parent/community volunteer”; Katie Villegas, “Children’s Alliance Director”; Walt R. Bowman, “retired truck driver”; Nate Eckler (no designation yet given) [application later withdrawn]; Tamera Russel, “educator/parent”; Rene L. Guerrero, “community organizer”; and Roy Sianez, “parent/legislative director.”

Because one of the incumbents did not file for reelection, the deadline for challengers to file was automatically extended to today (Aug. 15). So this list of school board candidates is not necessarily final.

A fourth seat on the board of trustees for Washington Unified School district is also in play. Because board member Sandra Vargas has submitted her resignation effective Aug. 31, the board is accepting applications from people interested in being appointed by the board to fill her seat for the remaining two years of her four-year term.

The resignation came too late to allow the vacancy to be added to the November ballot as a matter of routine.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2012

Upgrades for 5th St., stadium area

Area elected officials join River Cats CEO Jeff Savage and mascot Dinger outside Raley Field on March 30 to celebrate the completion of infrastructure improvements surrounding Raley Field, March 30. Among the improvements was the opening of 5th Street nearby. Pictured, left to right, Sacramento County Supervisor Roger Dickenson, City Councilmember Mark Johannessen, Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, River Cats CEO Jeff Savage, and City Councilmember Chris Ledesma. The River Cats hosted the Oakland Athletics at Raley Field, March 31 (the A’s won), and officially open their regular season April 13, against the Reno Aces. (From the City of West Sacramento)

Board restores p.m. school buses at RCHS


West Sacramento’s school board voted 3-0 on March 15 to restore plans for afternoon bus service from River City High School next year(with trustees Dave Westin and Mary Leland absent). A previous board vote had slated afternoon service at RCHS to be canceled.

  The board left in place its plans to cut bus service to local K-8 schools in Washington Unified School District for most kids next year.

Copyright News-Ledger 2012

Voters lukewarm on school bond


By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

West Sacramento’s school board appeared interested in pursuing a new local school bond or parcel tax on November’s ballot, despite a poll showing tepid public support for the idea right now.

TERESA BLACKMER: President of West Sac's school board

At the board’s meeting on Feb. 23, district officials heard a report from their polling consultant, Jonathan Kaufman of Solem & Associates.

“We interviewed a sampling of 400 randomly selected voters in the school district,” Kaufman told the board.

One of the questions posed was whether such voters would support a $55 million bond that would cost a “typical” homeowner $88 per year in extra taxes. Such a bond on a general election ballot would need 55 percent of the vote to pass. The poll showed 39 percent support, so “we’re quite a ways away,” said Kaufman.

One probably reason is the economy, he added.

“We’re in a ‘down’ economy, people are (having trouble) paying mortgages, there’s high unemployment, and the 2007 (school bond) measure failed,” he said.  On the other hand, voters responded positively to some of the specific plans that were floated during the interviews, including the offer of creating a citizen’s committee to oversee how the tax money is spent. They also liked some of the ideas their money would be used for.

  “They liked the idea of a citizens’ oversight committee, and they liked the idea of fixing leaky roofs,” said Kaufman.

Voters were more receptive to the concept of a smaller bond, such as a $27 million measure that might cost the typical homeowner $44 per year. If there was a large turnout of voters, said Kaufman, such a measure “might squeak through.”

As far as a parcel tax, voters were “way short” of supporting an $80/year measure and slightly shy of adequate support for a $40/year tax.

“Only a $27 million bond issue costing homeowners $30/year of assessed value, or (for the typical homeowner), $44/year, receives the required 55 percent (approval),” said Kaufman of his polling results.

The board had talked about a new bond or tax in order to finish work at the new high school campus, build a career & technical education center elsewhere, and perhaps do work such as fixing roofs and updating fire sprinkler systems. A big part of the campaign, said Kaufman, is convincing people the school district would be trustworthy and responsible with their money. And a lot of that trust comes from the district’s image in the public eye.

“The more you can communicate to the community that you are good at these tasks, the better you will do,” he said. “For public information and education, I think it’s important to do that now. The more you can educate people about all the good things you’ve been doing in the district, the better off you’ll be.”

How might the economy over the next few months affect the vote:

“If people feel things are moving in the right direction. . . they will be more open to spending money out of their pocket for public things,” Kaufman added.

Washington Unified School District has had two years of 20-plus point improvements in its student test scores. Several board members felt the polls showed that West Sacramento voters weren’t adequately aware of these gains and other accomplishments.

  “We just went through budget cuts and we didn’t have to lay off teachers,” said board member David Westin. “The numbers coming out of this research are just showing what a mediocre job we’re doing (communicating district success). . . The school district has an unbelievable story to tell. We’re achieving a lot without laying off teachers.”

Board president Teresa Blackmer said that new taxes will be problematic to some:

“There are a lot of people on fixed incomes who would be affected drastically by these kinds of decisions,” she commented.

Board member Adam Menke requested a special meeting just to focus on where any new bond or parcel tax money would go.

“We can talk all day about going for a bond, but the question would be, how much and for what?” said Menke.

The board agreed to tackle those details in a future meeting.

  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

School board items include discussion of whether to re-approve charter school

This sign may soon mark the ‘home of the Raiders’ if plans proceed to construct it in front of River City High School in Southport (schematic is from Thursday’s staff report to the Washington Unified School District board of trustees)


The local school board will meet Thursday at 6 p.m. at city hall to discuss a variety of issues, including the “roller coaster ride” in the district’s budget resulting from a troubled state budget. The Washington Unified School District is planning another round of reductions.

Also on the agenda will be:

— Consideration of whether to extend the charter of the West Sacramento Early College Prep  charter school. A state association of charter schools has suggested that the local academy be shut down for underperformance.

Board President Teresa Blackmer told the News-Ledger earlier this month she had not made her own mind up on whether to vote to renew the school’s charter.

— Results of the district’s public opinion poll. WUSD had hired a consultant to talk to West Sacramento voters and find out how receptive the public might be to a November school bond or parcel tax measure, aimed at helping to “complete” River City High School and possibly advance some other district-wide projects.

— Review of a proposed “marquee” sign for River City High School, marking the campus at the entrance from Jefferson boulevard to Raider Lane. The district is also working on design of a second sign within the parking lot shared by RCHS administration and the neighboring city recreation center, steering visitors to each facility.

EDITOR’S NOTE: an earlier version of this article misstated the last name of board president Teresa Blackmer, transposing it with that of fellow board member David Westin. The News-Ledger regrets the error.

  Support local journalism, and see all our articles every week! Subscribe to the News-Ledger.  It’s only $20 per year within West Sacramento – once a week, delivered to your mailbox.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2012

OPINION: whether to answer ‘just a few questions’

NEWS-LEDGER — DEC 21, 2011


The local school board has approved a contract with a political consultant to explore a new school bond or parcel tax in West Sacramento. The measure would seek to raise funds to build a performing arts center at the new high school, and to start a new technical education center for some of the district’s non college-going students.

A new ballot measure would probably also fund other projects around the district – partly out of widespread need for things such as facility repair, and partly out of a political strategy to get as many community members as possible to “buy in” to a new bond measure. Typically, in a new bond measure, there’s a little something for everybody – something for the high school in Southport, and something for parents of a kid in the second grade in Broderick.

  WUSD’s consultant will conduct interviews to try to determine community concerns and also to explore the campaign politics likely to surround a ballot measure for November, 2012.

This news is a reminder about political surveys and interviews in general: things are often not what they seem when someone is interviewing you for the political issue or campaign of the day. And, merely by participating, you may end up accidentally helping a political effort you oppose.

Often, when a survey company calls you, you aren’t told exactly who they’re working for. But even when you are told (as you presumably will be if you’re picked for one of these WUSD school bond interviews), your answers will probably be used in ways you don’t foresee.

A few comments about campaign surveys in general:

Some surveys are known as “push polls” – under the guise of asking for your opinion, the surveyor is asking you carefully crafted questions designed to push you in the direction they want you to go: “Would you support Measure Q if you knew it would cost this city over 4,500 jobs?”

Well, you may have been in favor of Measure Q before you got that phone call. But now, they have you wondering. There may be no factual basis at all to believe that Q would cost anybody a job – but now, you’ve got that job-killing idea stuck in your head.

Political surveys can also be designed to figure out how to get a campaign around your defenses, and the defenses of voters with like minds to yours. By answering questions from a survey commissioned by one of these people, you may help them figure out how to better craft their campaign – and defeat your own point of view.

So be careful when you pick up the phone and agree to answer “just a few questions.”


When a discount liquor store applied for a permit to take over the former Blockbuster Video site at West Capitol Avenue and Jefferson Boulevard, the News-Ledger objected.

West Capitol has a troubled reputation already for crime, drugs and alcohol. There are plenty of other liquor-vendors on the same block. And the site was just too prominent, facing one of the city’s busiest intersections and viewed by just about everybody heading to the nearby city hall, community center and city college campus.

The city planning commission evidently had some of the same concerns, giving the liquor store a thumbs-down.

Instead, a Chase bank branch has just opened at the location, boasting a spiffy and attractive new façade. Now, Chase is one of those American mega-banks whose mortgage lending practices helped create the economy we’re in today.

That begs the question: would that streetcorner’s image have been better off with the liquor store?

  To comment on this editorial, please visit the identical article at our sister website, www.WestSac.com.

Copyright News-Ledger 2011