Voters in the Sacramento City Unified School District in 2006 approved a shift from an at-large system of electing school board members to a system of seven geographic districts. Running unopposed, Area 4 and 5 incumbents Gustavo Arroyo and Diana Rodriguez are not on the ballot.
Area 7: Patrick Kennedy
Incumbent Patrick Kennedy, who ran unopposed in 2008, faces substitute teacher Ralph Merletti.
Kennedy is the clear choice. He is accessible and believes tight budgets should not hamper innovation. For example, he co-chaired the district's Healthy Foods Task Force to bring local foods to schools and championed the Men's Leadership Academies at three high schools, modeled on the Long Beach program, providing role models and field trips to jobs and colleges for young men at risk of dropping out.
Kennedy supports Superintendent Jonathan Raymond's bold step to establish priority schools to turnaround seven of the district's most struggling schools and the idea that teachers with special training and experience currently teaching at a priority school, who will be teaching at a priority school in 2012-13, can be skipped over for layoffs an ongoing battle with the teachers union.
Kennedy understands that the district still has too many elementary schools, and the board will have to take up that issue.
Merletti sees himself offering a "traditional family values approach" to issues, a narrow agenda.
Area 3: Mark Ambrose
This open seat is being vacated by Donald Terry, who is running for the Rancho Cordova City Council.
This race has drawn two candidates active in the core Rosemont/Rancho Cordova portion of Area 3 Mark Ambrose and Christina Pritchett. A union, political activist in College Greens, a small part of Area 3, also is in the contest Eric Sunderland.
The race is a tough choice between Ambrose and Pritchett, but Ambrose gets the edge.
From his legal practice, Ambrose has a thorough understanding of the Education Code and collective bargaining. As a young man, he was a substitute teacher in a high-poverty district a life-changing experience for him. He was a board member of the Rosemont Community Association, which successfully pushed for the creation of Rosemont High School, and he served as the school's first PTA president when doors opened in 2004. He founded the Rosemont Youth Football and Cheer Association.
A top priority for Ambrose would be to attract kids going out of the Sacramento City Unified district for schooling. He supports the superintendent's efforts to ease seniority rules at hard-to-staff schools. He'd like to make the achievement gap a standing agenda item for the board.
Pritchett is the current PTA president at Rosemont and a past president at Einstein Middle School and Sequoia Elementary School. She's also been a coach. A top priority for her would be opportunities for students who are short of credits to make up core classes they need for graduation.
Head gardener at SMUD and the son and grandson of teachers, Sunderland wants to take on what he sees as scapegoating of teachers. He prefers trying to find incentives to get senior teachers to work at priority schools over retaining younger teachers at those schools during layoffs. He has served on the College Greens Swim and Racquet Club board.
Ambrose is the best choice.