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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?

  “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.”


“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

The City of West Sac wants you:


The City of West Sacramento is recruiting citizens to serve on various commissions, overseeing topics such as agriculture and natural resources; arts, culture and historic preservation; the city appeals process; aging; disaster preparedness; economic development; housing; parks and community services; and planning issues.

For more information or an application, visit www.cityofwestsacramento.org or go to city hall, 1110 West Capitol Avenue, third floor. You may also call City Clerk Kryss Rankin at 617-4500.

Copyright News-Ledger 2012

Spaghetti feed for Mike Carr & family

Mike Carr: familly can use some help as he undergoes cancer treatment


A spaghetti feed fundraiser to benefit Mike Carr and his family is planned for Oct. 26 at VFW Hall 8762, 905 Drever St., beginning at 6 p.m. Carr is a longtime West Sacramentan and retired firefighter now fighting cancer. Tickets are $20 (advance only) and there will be a silent auction and raffle. For tickets, call 371-8839, 371-5822 or 483-8808.

For more on Mike and his story, see Daryl Fisher’s recent column here.

Copyright News-Ledger 2012


Photos from Raiders’ win:

A Liberty Ranch defender tries to bring down Raider receiver Malik Dumentz by his jersey. Click to enlarge. (photo by Eric Harding, www.ebharding.com)


The River City High School Raiders last Friday continued their creep back into the win column after a slow start under a new coach and new system.

The varsity football team beat Liberty Ranch 20-17 in a home game for RCHS, bringing their record to 3-1 in league play and 3-5 overall.

The junior varsity Raiders are still looking for a way into the win column, with an 0-6 record overall.

The football squad has tonight off, and will take on Galt in West Sacramento on Oct. 26.

RCHS quarterback Tucker McAmoil hands off to Jamal Williams (photo by Eric Harding, www.ebharding.com)

RAIDER DEFENSE: Junior Chean (left) and Artis Jackson take on a Liberty Ranch ball carrier in last week's RCHS victory (photo by Eric Harding, www.ebharding.com)

Copyright News-Ledger 2012

Multi-charity raffle & dinner Saturday


The West Sacramento “All Charities Raffle” is back, sponsored by the West Sacramento Foundation.

A number of local organizations are participating by offering raffle tickets at $10 for such prizes as the use of a condo in Maui or Puerto Vallarta for a week, a $500 shopping spree at Ikea, a flat screen TV or burgers at Whitey’s for a year. Contact your favorite nonprofit or call Charlie Moore, (916) 417-5623, to buy a ticket.

You can also support local charity by attending the raffle dinner: $5 for a spaghetti dinner on Oct. 20 at Our Lady of Grace School, 5-7 p.m. Call Charlie for info.

Copyright News-Ledger 2012

Running for school board: Alicia Cruz


  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.”

  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

Getting older & getting grumpier


I was having a somewhat heated conversation with a friend the other night when she suddenly got right in my face and blurted out, “You know, Daryl, you’re getting to be a grumpy old man!”

“What?” I exclaimed with a smile, sure that she was just putting me on.


“I’m not kidding,” she said with conviction, “you really are turning into one of those grumpy old men that no one wants to be around. What are you going to do next, drag out an empty chair and start calling the President of the United States names?”

Later that evening, still not quite able to grasp the fact that I had just been compared to the Jack Lemons, Walter Matthaus, and Clint Eastwoods of the world, I decided to get out my trusty Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate dictionary and look up the word `grumpy’. Among other unflattering words, it defined grumpy as “moody, cross, surly, and prone to fits of sulkiness and ill humor.”

Then, to make matters worse, I decided to use the Internet to further explore the world of grumpiness, only to run across an article that said part of the reason that men get grumpy as they get older is that their brains start to shrink as they age. More specifically, the article said, “As men age, they lose brain tissue at almost three times the rate of women, curbing their memory, concentration and reasoning power and often turning them into grumpy old men.”

The article was penned by Ruben Gur, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and he believes he has found evidence that shrinking brains may make men grumpier than women because some of the tissue loss is in the left frontal region, which controls such things as attention span, abstract reasoning, mental flexibility, inhibition of impulses and memory. He theorizes that men lose more tissue because they have lower blood flow than women, particularly in the frontal lobe region. To compound matters, women’s brains metabolism – the rate at which the brain breaks down sugar – slows as they age, but men’s brains keep working at a vigorous pace, leaving men with a lot more toxic byproducts in their brains than women, which is also one of the reasons women live on average ten more years than men, and apparently hardly get grumpy at all.

So, having discovered that grumpiness is indeed something that men are prone to getting, I decided to ask my thirty-something daughter if she has been noticing any changes in my behavior now that I am well into my 60s.

  “What do you mean?” she asked me with caution.

“Well,” I explained, “I’ve been reading about how men get grumpier as they age, while women pretty much stay the same. So would you say that I’m not as nice as I used to be, compared with your mother for instance?”

“But mom’s always been nicer than you,” my daughter said matter-of-factly.

“Well, then let me put it another way. Do you think I’m more moody, sulky, or ill-humored than I used to be?”

“But Dad, you’ve always been moody and sulky. In fact, Mamu (the nickname my grandchildren call my mother) once told me that you’ve been that way since you were a little kid. She said you hardly ever smiled when you were young and always loved to be off by yourself, kind of lost in your own world. She said your twin sister was always the life of the party, while you were kind of a downer every time you walked into a room.”

“My own mother said that?”

“Now,” continued my daughter, obviously on a roll, “as for you being ill-humored, I don’t think I would go as far as calling you that, but I do have to admit it still amazes me that you write a humor column for the News-Ledger. I mean, you’re about the most serious person I know, and you’re really not very funny at all. In fact, when I read some of your columns, I can’t really believe they are written by the same strict and scary man who raised me.”

“I was strict and scary?”

“Are you kidding? Don’t you remember the time you told me and my brothers that if we ever did drugs you would take us out in the backyard and shoot us?”

“Now I never said anything like that.”

“Well, it may not have been those exact words, but it sure came across that way!”

“So, then you’re saying that I’ve always been more or less a grumpy old man?”

“Pretty much.”

“And that I’ve haven’t been getting worse now that I’m in my 60s.”

“Not that I’ve really noticed.”

“Good! That’s a load off my mind!”

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