Tag Archives: wusd

Katie Villegas, school board candidate

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — OCT 17, 2012 —

  EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview comes from the Oct. 17 edition of the News-Ledger newspaper. It is part of our series to bring you an in-depth look at each of the people running for city council and school board in West Sacramento this year.

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

Katie Villegas is executive director of the Yolo County Children’s Alliance. That, and prior work with families in the West Sacramento region, have given her what she feels is a birds-eye view of what local kids need to succeed.

KATIE VILLEGAS hopes to help 'connect the dots' for WUSD (News-Ledger photo)

“Basically, every job I’ve had has been working with families and working with kids,’ she told the News-Ledger. “I’ve worked in public health, child abuse prevention and foster care. (At the Children’s Alliance), we work every day with the students and families in West Sacramento. We see the things they’re not getting, and seeing it from a different level.”

That experience, she hopes, will transfer to the board of trustees at Washington Unified School District.

“I think we need somebody who can see it from a different level, and see what we could do. That’s what I do best – connect the dots and bring in the resources.”

One of those resources is a better partnership between the school district and city government, she said.

“It’s incredibly important, and partnership with the county as well,” said Villegas. “I can bring in the city, the county, local business – which would be helpful for internships – and grand opportunities. It builds on itself.”

“I think you need to look at the whole family. If a kid comes to school hungry, how are they expected to learn? They need health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance.”

She gives the current school board a mixed grade.

“I wouldn’t say they’re terrible and I wouldn’t say they’re functional,” Villegas commented. “Somewhere in between. . . It’s a difficult time to be a board member.”

What’s the board doing wrong?

“I think a few of them see it as ‘I’m getting into the trenches,’” she said of their tactical-level work. “But they’re micromanaging. I think (as a board member) you need to stay at the 50,000-foot level.”

[adrotate group=”7″]   Part of the answer, she argues, is to leave more of the educational decisions to the staff, like Superintendent Dayton Gilleland.

“We actually hire really good people,” Villegas said. “Dayton has a Ph.D. in education. I’ve met with him. He’s a smart guy. Sometimes the leadership needs to be allowed to take the chances they need to take to make the district better. They’re the experts in education, they know what to do.”

Katie, 46, has a master’s degree in social work and has lived in West Sacramento for 25 years. She’s probably the best-known of this year’s school board challengers, not only because of her day job and past civic involvement, but also because she is married to West Sacramento City Councilman Oscar Villegas. The couple lives in Southport.

The pair have two kids who have attended school at Southport Elementary School before leaving the public school district. One attended Christian Brothers High School before going to Sacramento City College, and the other is currently at Christian Brothers.

“A lot of people are wondering, ‘why are you doing this?’ because my kids don’t go to school here,” she commented. “I’m doing this because I think all the kids of West Sacramento deserve a better education.”

What concerns her most is that the kids in the northern areas – those more likely to come from poor families or be among the 40 percent Latino population of WUSD – are lagging.

“The schools are not equal,” she said. “The schools out here (in Southport) are doing fairly well, but I think the schools in the north area, where our (Childrens Alliance) office is, are not doing that well. Kids of color are not doing well.”

[adrotate group=”9″]    “If you look at how well those kids are prepared to go to college, the numbers are crazy.”

That’s one past subject of controversy between Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, who criticized WUSD for failing to prepare minorities for college, and David Westin, then-president of the school board.

“There’s a lot of lobbing (bombs) back and forth between Christopher and Dave. . . (such as) Christopher pointing out how bad the district is doing with kids of color,” Villegas stated. “(That data) is documented. But putting that into a ‘state of the city’ address’? I don’t know if that’s the most effective way to get that out there.”

Is her marriage to Councilman Villegas something that could help improve city-school district relations?

“It’s nothing but helpful,” answered Villegas. “The district and city haven’t gotten along so well. (Working with the city) is a totally big opportunity.”

Are there any conflicts of interest possible, given that the city and district sometimes need to negotiate contracts with each other?

“I think that is relatively minimal,” she said. “If there are conflicts of interest, I would listen to the attorneys” and possibly abstain from decisions.

Does Katie Villegas believe student test score results are important?

“They’re incredibly important,” she answered. “It’s a barometer of the district.”

New API scores have just been released for California campuses and districts. Did WUSD backslide?

“Not so much (in Southport),” said Villegas. “But they did in Broderick and Bryte. Overall, it’s down.”

She doesn’t give the board full credit for the past two years of big test score gains.

“I give them some credit, but kids of color are not being served,” she said.

What about charter schools: does Villegas favor the concept?

“I think that alternatives to education – because I’m one of the ones who needs them – are important,” she responded. I think we need to keep opportunities open for that.”

Villegas does believe that WUSD is in decent financial shape, considering several years of state budget cuts.

“I think Washington Unified is the most fiscally sound district in all of Yolo County,” she stated.

Villegas helped run the local 2004 high school bond campaign and has helped with her husband’s council runs. She said she has the support of WUSD school board incumbents Mary Leland and Adam Menke, as well as a number of city and regional leaders.

Will she be walking precincts and raising money for the campaign?

“All of the above,” said Villegas.

She is one of a number of challengers joining Leland and Westin in the hunt for three available school board seats on the Nov. 6 ballot.

  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

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.

  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

Meet Walt Bowman, WUSD candidate

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — OCT 3, 2012 —

  Editor’s Note: each local election cycle, the News-Ledger invites all candidates for West Sacramento local office to meet us for a published interview. Those interviews are seen first by News-Ledger subscribers. We’re pleased to offer our Oct. 3 interview with Walt Bowman below. He’s running for one of three available seats on the Washington Unified School District school board.

By Steve Marschke, News-Ledger Editor

Walt Bowman is a 71-year old retired truck driver who lives with his wife in the West Capitol Avenue area of West Sacramento. This November, for the second time, he will be trying to earn a spot on the Washington Unified School District Board of Trustees.

What’s driving him?

“I want to get one person off the board,” he mentioned. “I’m not going to name any names. I want to put new faces on the board. I’d like to see three new faces this time around – whether it’s me or not doesn’t matter.”

WALT BOWMAN: retired truck driver wants to change up West Sacramento's school board (News-Ledger photo)

Bowman is one of a handful of challengers joining incumbents David Westin and Mary Leland in pursuing three available seats on the school board. His own two kids are grown, but he became angry when the board made moves to close the charter school that two of his  granddaughters were attending. That school, the West Sacramento Early College Prep Charter School, has been deemed to be underperforming.

“They wanted to close that school,” Bowman told the News-Ledger last week. That started me getting mad, and my daughter said, ‘instead of getting mad, why don’t you run?’”

“I like charter schools,” he added. “I’m for it. If I’m on the board, every time it comes up, I’m going to vote for it. They’re an alternative education – some kids don’t fit in well at the regular schools, for one reason or another.”

Bowman has another grandchild at Stonegate Elementary. He has lived in New Mexico and in the Bay Area, and he spent a year at Chabot College in Hayward before his career in long-haul and local trucking.

How does he think the current board is doing – aside from the charter school issue?

“Overall, they might be doing OK,” Bowman allowed.

How about the district’s finances in this era of state-budget cuts?

“I feel they have the money,” said Bowman. “Like everybody else, they say ‘oh, we don’t have the money.’ But if they don’t have the money, how are they paying the teachers?”

[adrotate group=”10″]  Student test scores have gone up in the past two years. Is that important?

“These people on the board now make a big deal of that,” he answered. “But they’re not in there taking that test. They’re not in the classrooms teaching. Yet they’re saying, ‘we got the test scores up.’ No, they didn’t.”

What does Bowman think of the quality of WUSD’s schools?

“They’re probably doing okay,” he answered, “but the schools on this side of the town (in the north) are kind of overlooked. I don’t think they give the schools on this side of town a fair shake.”

What big challenges does he see in the district?

“They say it’s money, but another thing is that there’s a high drop-out rate at the high school,” answered Bowman. “That’s going to be a big problem to fix. We should hire high-end mental health counselors and bring them in here. We can sit them down and get inside these kids’ heads and figure out what’s going on. They’re going to say it’s going to cost the district money. But, well. . . .”

Does Bowman have other ideas for improving the district?

“Probably some of these kids need a lot of help. Like counselors, or some kind of aides to help these kids.”

“If politicians would keep their noses out of it, and let the schools teach, the students would be better off.”

West Sacramento voters elect their school board (and their city council) “at large,” meaning there is one group of candidates voted on by people from every neighborhood. Bowman would like to see future school board voting done by districts, to help the northern part of town get more consistent representation.

“If we go by district, everyone will have a fair chance,” he explained. “You’re going to have a mix of people from Bryte, Broderick, (the central business district) and so on. You’d get a cross-section of people on there. Things would get done.”

What will Bowman do if elected?

“If I get in there, I will try to get the buses back,” he responded. The district – reacting to budget cuts – has cut a lot of its school bus service recently.

Bowman said he will not be spending a lot on his campaign, because “I don’t like to go out and ask for money.”

“I’m not backed by anybody (on the board or city council) and I don’t belong to this group or that group. But I’m going to give it a shot.”

  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

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