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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

Bagdazian joins WS school board

FROM THE WEST SACRAMENTO NEWS-LEDGER — SEPT 12, 2012 —

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

West Sacramento’s school board on Wednesday interviewed a number of candidates to fill the board seat vacated by Sandra Vargas.

After a round of questions, the board voted 4-0 to ask Elizabeth Bagdazian to serve the final two-years-plus of that school board term.

“I’ve been involved (in the community) on a number of levels for many years,” Bagdazian later told the News-Ledger. “I’ve been participating in numerous programs. My daughter is 22 now and graduated in 2008 from here. I am in a place now where I felt I could table some of my other projects and make more of a direct impact.”

[adrotate group=”7″]  Herself a graduate of River City High School in 1979, Bagdazian has been a volunteer in the county library’s adult literacy program and a member of the local chapter of the Soroptimist International women’s service organization.

She is a government relations policy analyst for a private company that works in government relations and lobbying.

On what does Bagdazian hope to focus on as a member of the Washington Unified School District Board of Trustees?

“I’m pretty big on literacy and language arts,” she answered. “I think right now what’s on everyone’s mind are the ballot measures (seeking to raise tax revenues to help fund California’s schools). If they fail, we’re looking at some pretty hard choices in the district.”

How has the board been doing lately?

“I think, for the most part, they’re effective,” said Bagdazian. “The district has made some pretty good strides with API (student test scores), that’s undeniable.”

Bagdazian currently has a couple of relatives going to school in WUSD; one nephew at River City High School and another at Bridgeway Island Elementary. She lives in central West Sacramento.

  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

Riverbank gets spruced up

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

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — SEPT 5, 2012 —

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:

[adrotate group=”7″]   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:

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — AUG 15, 2012 —

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.

[adrotate group=”7″]   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.

  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