Washington Unified school district in West Sacramento has grown from 7,000 students in 2004 to 7,500 today. Incumbent Theresa Blackmer is not running and Sandra Vargas has moved out of district. Voters will select three board members.
Among the challengers, Katie Villegas and Alicia Cruz stand out.
Currently executive director of the Yolo County Children's Alliance, Villegas' life work has been focused on kids. Active in the schools as a PTA member, leading the successful bond campaign for the high school, on the K-8 conversion team, on the board of a pre-apprenticeship training center, establishing universal preschool she would focus on the core subjects of math and English, as well as more career-technical opportunities. Married to City Council member Oscar Villegas, she should take care to avoid conflicts.
Cruz, a 40-year resident of West Sacramento, has been a stalwart volunteer PTSA, Bryte and Broderick Community Action Network, bringing a summer music camp to the district, chairing the district's multicultural Harvest Festival. She'd be a much-needed advocate for schools in the northern part of the district.
Challengers Coby Pizzotti and Roy Sianez are relatively new to West Sacramento and should get more community experience.
The two incumbents, Mary Leland and Dave Westin, both elected in 2004, have shepherded the district through K-8 conversions, completing River City High School, balanced budgets and a new superintendent. What's next?
Leland is measured and focused on long-term improvement, looking for ideas from successful districts demographically similar to Washington Unified like Sanger Unified.
She's on the 2x2 Committee, promoting cooperation between the city and schools, including the universal preschool partnership. She's also worked hard on expanding opportunities in career-technical education with Sacramento City College.
We have the same concerns about Westin as in the past. As we said in 2004, while enthusiastic, it seems as if he is "running for education czar and not to be one of five board members." He says he "mandated" a 20-point API increase for each school and he oversells what he calls "state-best" gains. Elkhorn Elementary, for example, made big gains in 2010 and 2011 but dropped 24 points in one year from 730 last year to 706 this year, putting it below 2010 levels. Other schools' performance has flattened such as Southport and Stonegate.
Leland is the better choice.
Villegas, Cruz and Leland would bring a good mix to the board.