The two candidates facing each other in the Area 6 race for the Elk Grove Unified School District Board of Education have more in common than they may think: Both have spent many years in education, both are married to educators and both have at least one son in an Elk Grove elementary school.
But they have their differences, too.
[Editor's note: This is the first in a series of profiles of the candidates running for school board in Elk Grove. Check back to read about the races for Area 1 and Area 7. Within each story, the candidates will be presented alphabetically by last name. ]
Steve Ly Wants to Correct 'Disconnect'
Steve Ly just wants a chance to talk to union leaders without anyone else in the room.
Ly, who is running for a seat on the Elk Grove Unified School District Board of Education, said trustees should be able to talk with labor representatives without mediators or attorneys.
"I know that we all have the same interests–we all know that," he said. "But the question is, how come we can't sit together and actually find a solution we can all agree on? The more we talk, the closer we come to finding a resolution."
He said mediators being involved in talks between the district and its labor unions "means they've reached a point where they're not communicating with each other."
If he's elected, Ly said he will establish informal, regular meetings with labor unions and constituents.
Ly ran for school board a decade ago, and is married to a library media teacher at . He works for the Sacramento County Office of Education and has worked in youth violence prevention and anti-bullying programs. He is also a former truancy officer for the Washington Unified School District in West Sacramento, and is a native of Laos. He has two sons at .
Ly is critical of the , and said it shows a "disconnect" between the school board and its constituents. He called himself "an advocate for the front line, the trench," and said the district should cut equally "across the board."
He also criticized the district's to the school board, saying that while it saves the cost of holding a special election, it "circumvents" voters and gives those appointees––an unfair advantage come election time.
"It would probably be a lot cheaper if we just appointed a president instead of electing one–then why do we have an election? Because this is a democracy."
Jake Rambo: Budget Troubles Threaten District's Existence
Jake Rambo couldn't stay away from Elk Grove schools for long.
"I basically graduated on a Friday in June and I was right back at within weeks [volunteering]," Rambo said.
The longtime resident and state administrative law judge was appointed to the Elk Grove Unified School District Board of Education in March, and is running for election for the first time this November. He served on Elk Grove's Charter Commission, and has worked as a Deputy District Attorney in Yolo and Amador counties, as well as helping to train prosecutors and set up a domestic violence prosecution program in Afghanistan. His wife teaches in the Sacramento City Unified School District.
He said in the time he's spent on the board, the biggest eye-opener has been just how dire the district's budget is.
"We have teachers that are asking for donations of paper from their students," Rambo said, adding that the budget challenges pose "an existential threat against" the district.
But he said the current economic situation can be an opportunity for the district to learn and find new efficiencies.
"Really, what we have to be doing is taking advantage of the opportunity to learn from this time," Rambo said.
Rambo, who has a son in the fourth grade at and two other sons who are toddlers, said he also wants to work to maintain good relationships with the district's labor unions. He and other board members will soon be trained in "interest-based bargaining" techniques, he said.
He also wants to mandate funding for technology, saying the district should treat it more like paying the electric or water bill.
"With utilities [like] water, power, sewer, you pay those bills, period, end of discussion," he said. "You can't have a school without them."
Rambo said he credits his success in life to the education he received in the Elk Grove Unified School District, and wants to "pay it forward" by volunteering. He coaches a mock trial team at Elk Grove High School, and worked for a time as a substitute teacher. He said since joining the board, he's proud of the work he's done on anti-bullying and ensuring employees who are in the military won't lose wages if they are called to duty.