Renée C. Byer / rbyer@sacbee.com

Mayor Christopher Cabaldon of West Sacramento backed the effort to oust trustee Elizabeth Bagdazian.

Voters will get their say in West Sacramento school district trustee election

Published: Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 - 8:51 am

Voters in West Sacramento's Washington Unified School District will soon decide who to elect to the school board in a special election.

They can expect to see the special election ballot in their mailboxes around Feb. 4. Then they will have a month to mark their ballots and mail in their votes.

The election is the result of a petition, which Mayor Christopher Cabaldon and others encouraged residents to sign, to throw out the appointment of Elizabeth Bagdazian. She had been appointed by the board Sept. 5 to replace trustee Sandra Vargas, who resigned Aug. 1.

Opponents of the appointment said the school board could have acted in time to put the seat on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. School district officials said there wasn't enough time.

The petitioners needed 345 signatures to overturn the appointment. They gathered about 500, said Pam Geivett, assistant to the school superintendent.

Since Oct. 10, the board has been operating with only four members.

Cabaldon held a half-day workshop for potential school board candidates two months ago. It included a history of West Sacramento, information about running a school district and details about how to file candidate paperwork, according to participants.

"It was encouraging to see the range of folks that are stepping up," Cabaldon said. "It's shaping up to be a good election."

Despite his involvement with the election, Cabaldon says city leaders should not have a direct role in the operation of the school district.

City, county and business leaders, however, all would like to have a stronger relationship with the district, he said.

The lack of college and career readiness among graduates and a "stunning" achievement gap between students in the northern and southern parts of the city "are everyone's problems," Cabaldon said.

Tom Stanionis, chief of staff at the Yolo County Elections Department, said he can't predict the cost of the election – because of a number of variables – but it is likely to be about $130,000, based on the cost of the last mail-in election.

"We do our best to get it as low as possible," he said.

The cost of a mail-in election is half to two-thirds the amount for special elections that use polling places, he said.

Yolo County is currently the only county in California given legislative approval to offer mail-in elections. The school district will share the special election with the city of Davis, which will vote on a proposed water project.

West Sacramento City Hall, at 1110 W. Capitol Ave., will be the only polling place for the school district election. The ballots must be mailed back or dropped off by 8 p.m. on March 5.

WEST SACRAMENTO SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES

Five candidates are seeking to fill a vacancy on the Washington Unified School District board. The district covers West Sacramento. Voters will be sent special election ballots in the mail next month.

The candidates

• Francisco Castillo, 32, is the deputy national press secretary for StudentsFirst, an education reform group. He says the district needs to improve parental involvement, increase college and career tech offerings and improve access to preschool. "West Sacramento has enjoyed tremendous progress in the past few years," he said. "Our community is booming with pride and I believe we can achieve that same level of success in our schools." Castillo is endorsed by Mayor Christopher Cabaldon.

• Katherine Gales, 49, is an executive assistant at the California Department of Education. She is running for the board to offer her experience and to become more involved in the community. "There is always an opinion and there is always a passion in education," said Gales. "What you can do is to help the process in a positive way."

• Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez, 31, expressed concern about the number of students being siphoned off to other districts. "One thing Washington Unified has to work on is public relations and outreach to families, especially since they are losing students to outside districts," she said. The Folsom Cordova Unified School District teacher said she'd like to bring an educator's voice to the board. She is endorsed by the Washington Unified teachers union.

• Linh Nguyen, 40, a businessman, says his experience running a corporation can help the school district. He would like to improve schools academically, so parents don't enroll their children in other districts. "I have two kids going to Washington Unified School District," he said "I have a vested interest in the success of community schools. I'd like to see improvement."

• Nicholas Scott Turney, 33, a former college professor, says he wants to be a voice for the north side of town, where schools have been struggling. He also wants to ensure the school board spends its money conservatively. "Wise spending is going to be really important to make sure the students are able to get the best education that they can and that we use the funds that we have appropriately," he said.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Diana Lambert



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