*Editor's Note: This is the first of three profiles Dixon Patch will publish on the three individuals vying for two seats on the Board of Education. Look for profiles on Joe DiPaola and Guy Garcia in the coming days.*
One reason why John Gabby is on the DUSD school board is small but significant. Gabby's daughter is currently a first-grader within the and Gabby wants to make sure she receives the education that she, and every other child in the district, deserves.
It’s a goal that Gabby, 34, has chipped away at for the past four years as a member of the school board, most recently serving as its president. Throughout his tenure, Gabby has had to make tough decisions during tough economic times on behalf of Dixon’s students.
He is running again in hopes of continuing to work on turning around many of the issues that Dixon schools have faced in recent years.
Gabby said he’s proud of the work he has accomplished in his current term, helping bridge communication gaps and helping the school district work through the financial crisis. Should he get re-elected, Gabby would like to see a lot more get done, however.
One of the things Gabby would like to see for the district is more state funding.
“I think there is a correlation between state funding and the quality of education we can provide to our kids,” said Gabby. “The less money you have, the less quality education you provide to the students.”
One of the many factors affecting the district’s budget that Gabby expressed concern for is its attendance and decrease in enrollment.
“When students are absent or transfer to another school, the district loses money for each student… and that really hurts the district,” he said.
Gabby would also like to see , but with less funding available to improve or sustain academic programs, he feels “the district’s hands are tied.”
When the district lacks the necessary funding, programs often get downsized or cut, which impacts student scores, Gabby said. Much like a domino effect, the less money the district has to support educational programs, the deeper DUSD goes into program improvement.
Class size is also a major concern for Gabby. As programs, classes and teachers get cut, the amount of students in each class increases.
“If we can somehow lower the class size,” said Gabby, “that will make a tremendous difference in our students’ education.”
With all that the schools are facing, he says that the teachers are feeling especially overwhelmed. Dealing with increased class sizes and not being compensated for cost of living increases, he says, it is taking a toll on their ability to teach effectively.
One of the greatest challenges Gabby anticipates for this upcoming term is budget cuts.
“Once you’ve cut down to the core, you can’t cut anymore,” said Gabby. “There’s only so much you can cut before it really starts to affect our students.”
One program greatly impacted by the budget cuts is kindergarten and elementary school physical education. The physical education class sizes, Gabby says, have reached a point where the ratio of students to teachers is at an unsafe level. When the safety of our kids is compromised by lack of faculty members or an excessively large class size, something has to change, said Gabby.
But despite all that the district is facing, Gabby remains optimistic and believes that while there is much room for improvement, much improvement can and will be made.
“I feel like the communication of the staff and the administrators has gotten much better and I think the meetings are getting a lot less harsh,” said Gabby. “I think a lot of people are on board with us now, and I don’t think I could have said that a few years ago.”
Gabby recalls at the beginning of his term, a lot of panic and frustration between parents and students and the district.
“It used to be terrible,” said Gabby. “Those decisions were some of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make… A lot of people blamed us when we had to cut programs, but I think people get the picture now. I think we’re all in the same boat.”
Now that communication is starting to turn around, Gabby believes the district can now refocus on fixing many of the problems that have not been resolved. Gabby anticipates positive things for the district and for the students, parents and teachers of DUSD, “I hope I get a chance to help represent them for the next four years,” said Gabby.
Gabby has lived in Dixon since 1988 and works as a mortgage broker at on North Lincoln.He is a 1995 graduate of Dixon High School and graduated from Sacramento State University with a degree in business marketing.
When he isn't working or attending school board meetings, Gabby spends time with his family -- he is married to Jana Gabby -- and enjoys jet skiing, camping and snow skiing. He is also a fan of the Sacramento Kings.
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