Articles & News
Editor: Choosing a community in which to raise children often starts with researching school districts. Many children start their school career in daycare where friendships follow them into elementary school, middle school and high school. This is especially true in the small communities of West Sonoma County where multiple elementary schools now lead to one high school that serves a diverse population from Sebastopol to Fort Ross on the north coast.
As our children grow through the grades, the boards that govern their schools play a huge role in their educational path. The choices we make now will impact children who are entering elementary school as much as those who are starting high school.
West Sonoma County Union High School District (WSCUHSD) offers us an opportunity to vote for an At-Large Board Trustee with 9 years school board experience, intimate knowedge of state and local school policies, and a passion for quality education. Please vote for Debbie Ramirez to represent the families who have chosen West County in which to raise our children.
If you live in Forestville, please vote for Measure D to fund vital building and campus infrastructure for Forestville Untion School.
Vesta Copestakes, Forestville
EDITOR: As a public schoolteacher for 25 years and the parent of two Analy High graduates, I wholeheartedly endorse Debbie Ramirez for the West Sonoma County Union High School District board. I met her at Pine Crest Elementary when our children were young and was immediately impressed by her dedication to the children, the teachers and the school.
Years later, when Ramirez sat on the board of the Sebastopol Union School District, she supported my students’ efforts to get climate resolutions passed. When I learned she was running for the high school district board, I knew she was the right person for the job.
Over the years, I have attended countless school board meetings and observed numerous board members discussing governance issues. I have never seen a board member as informed, articulate, and compassionate as Ramirez proved herself to be. She has a strong handle on school governance and finance, is aware of the high schools’ challenges and growth areas and is supportive of teachers. Most importantly, she is a stalwart advocate for our community’s young people.
Debbie has experience in school governance. She is particularly concerned with student safety as well as efforts around diversity and inclusion. She talked about expanding community engagement.
The candidates addressed the rather painful events of the last five years with the consolidation of El Molino and Analy and the complications caused by local fires and floods to be followed by Covid. There have been incidents of racism and sexism on campus that raise questions about the school’s culture as well as student well being.
The following is a lightly edited transcript with the questions highlighted followed by each candidate’s response.
“I hear racial slurs most commonly in the boys' restrooms and the hallways. The N-word, racial slurs against Mexicans, Asian Americans,” said Dylan Peña Pérez, a senior who's nearing graduation.
Peña Pérez and several other students of color at West County High say these and other aggressions are commonplace. He says the school has a culture of normalized racism and, despite complaints to administrators, not enough gets done to change it.
He points to incidents like one earlier this year in which a white student called a Black student the N-word. The white student's five-day suspension was reduced to two days after she wrote an apology. Some students said reducing the penalty amounted to giving the white student "a long weekend."
At a recent girls' basketball game, two West County High School fans in the stands — a white student and an Asian student — made gorilla sounds when Black players from the opposing team took the floor. The home team suffered no consequences.
Then in early April, a racist "promposal" from a white student hit Instagram and made the rounds in the community. Jerry Loya saw the post.
“It said, ‘If I were Black, I'd be picking cotton, but I'm not, so I'm picking you. Prom?’ It's just blatant racism that she wasn't even trying to hide it. And she also had two or three other of her friends post it, too,” Loya said.
The WSCUHSD consolidated their two comprehensive high schools after the 2020-21 school year. The stated objective was to resolve the structural deficit (this is an ongoing budget where operating expenses exceed tax revenues) and comply with a mandate to implement a fiscal recovery plan.
Five other fiscal recovery plans were presented at the meeting when the board chose to close El Molino. The sad truth is that the district continues to operate with a structural deficit. Debbie wrote this article to address some of the equity issues that arose with the decision to consolidate.
In June 2022, the Sonoma County Office of Education presented the first part of a study ordered by the West Sonoma County Union High School District to explore the feasibility of combining the high school district with some or all of its elementary feeder districts. The study also looked at the fiscal feasibility of dividing the district into two districts, each with its own high school.
At their September 2022 meeting, the WSCUHSD board directed their superintendent to send a letter to SCOE letting them know that they do not intend to explore this process any further at this time due to a number of factors – including a perceived unwillingness of other districts to engage and the perception that parcel tax funding could decrease if voters in the newly redistricted areas choose not to authorize a renewal.
This article, written by Debbie in December of 2020, outlines the process that would take place if redistricting were to happen in the future.
This analysis, authored by Debbie in November of 2020, explained the background of the financial crisis that the district has been experiencing and outlined some of the solutions that the school board was considering to resolve it at that time.