Editorials

Twin Rivers Unified needs progress, not drama. Rebecca Sandoval is the best choice

Twin Rivers Unified School District Superintendent Steven Martinez talks during a community meeting in 2014.
Twin Rivers Unified School District Superintendent Steven Martinez talks during a community meeting in 2014. Sacramento Bee file

Of all the school districts in the Sacramento region, Twin Rivers students may most need education to work for them, and communities most need schools to be a positive force.

Yet, there’s often way too much drama. Case in point: Two rivals for the board of trustees are facing off for the third election in a row. In 2012, Rebecca Sandoval ousted board president Roger Westrup. In 2014, he sought to retake the seat. On June 5, he’s trying again, seeking the Area 6 seat that represents Gardenland, Northgate and South Natomas.

Sandoval is the better choice, if only to keep a semblance of stability.

While progress isn’t fast enough, the district’s trajectory is in the right direction on test scores, graduation rates and dropout numbers. And while the board may need a trustee who will ask tougher questions of the administration, Westrup has too much baggage to be that voice.

Though he says he learned lessons, he was on the board when some of the worst problems happened, including huge legal settlements and scathing grand jury reports. Since Westrup is endorsed by four current trustees, Sandoval may actually be more independent. And it doesn’t help his standing that he pulled two children out of the district to enroll them in the international baccalaureate program at Mira Loma High, in the San Juan district.

Westrup is right, however, to suggest that the district’s 10th anniversary is a good time to get an independent assessment of where it really stands. The district – formed in 2007 when the Del Paso, North Sacramento and Rio Linda elementary districts merged with the Grant High district – now includes 53 schools and 25,600 students.

Westrup, who is supported by teacher unions, is also correct to question the amount the district is paying for a growing number of administrators, including Steven Martinez, superintendent since 2013. On April 24, the board approved a new contract that keeps him through June 2022, but pays him an eye-popping base salary of $308,112, up from $260,000 in 2015. It’s a tough job, yes, but the results had better match that salary.

Sandoval strongly supported hiring Martinez, so she’s tied to his fate. She focuses correctly on the students most in need, including dropouts and foster and homeless youth. She wants to improve school safety, expand arts and music education, and is working with other trustees toward a possible local bond measure in November for school improvements.

For the district to keep making progress, the board needs stability and the right priorities. Sandoval can bring both.

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