State Center Community College District faces big challenges. Some of these hurdles are remnants of the Great Recession and its crippling budget cuts. It doesn’t help either that our leaders in Sacramento use the state’s community colleges as a catch-all for education and have failed to specifically define their mission.
But SCCCD has added to to its challenges by ignoring -- or failing to recognize -- the demands of an ever-evolving, technology driven world. It’s as if the district is stuck in the 1970s and can’t figure out why what succeeded then isn’t succeeding now.
The results are quite predictable: Campus leaders come and go quickly, students can’t get the classes they need, graduation rates are dismal, college accreditations face added scrutiny, and the business community is frustrated because it has difficulty hiring young workers with 21st century skills.
Things were so bad in March that the district had to lure 79-year-old Bill Stewart out of retirement to provide stability. Thank goodness that Stewart’s love and loyalty to a district that he once adroitly led moved him back into the chancellor’s chair.
In a word, “complacency” is the culprit. And the ultimate responsibility for this failure to reinvigorate the five-campus district rests with the seven-member SCCCD Board of Trustees.
Two of those trustees, Area 1’s Isabel Barreras and Area 5’s Dorothy “Dottie” Smith, are up for re-election on the Nov. 4 ballot, thus voters have the opportunity to reshape the board and get the district moving in the right direction.
We recommend that voters start this effort by voting for challengers Robert “Bobby” Kahn in Area 1 and Miguel Arias in Area 5.
As executive director of the Madera County Economic Development Commission, Kahn knows the needs of students and business in his area. In an interview with the Editorial Board, Kahn said that he would help the district update its vocational programs, create more partnerships with Madera Unified School District and the community, and advocate for better utilization of Madera’s community college campus.
Kahn has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Pepperdine University and worked four years for the Fresno Chamber of Commerce. This background would well serve voters throughout the district.
Barreras, who has been on the board since 2002 when she defeated Kahn in a close race, is a product of the district, having attended Madera Community College Center. She is bright and articulate, and has developed connections to education leaders all over the state. However, she has spread herself too thin with her multi-organizational memberships. Thus she has failed to anticipate and address problems in her role as a SCCCD trustee.
Arias is executive director of Fresno Unified School District’s Community and Family Services and a former Mendota Unified School District trustee. He would bring a new energy and a heightened sense of accountability to the SCCCD board.
Arias told the Editorial Board that he was inspired to run because of the trouble students were having getting classes and their mounting frustration over not being able to graduate quickly and transfer to a four-year university.
His priorities are expanding high-demand programs such as nursing, the police academy and welding; strengthening partnerships with K-12 school districts, and allocating funds so that students can either graduate quickly or more into jobs that pay living wages.
Arias is a clear choice over Smith, who has been a trustee since 1981. Smith has put a positive mark on the district during that time, but voters must focus on what is best for the district’s future.
Bobby Kahn in Area 1 and Miguel Arias in Area 5 are the best choices for the State Center Community College District Board of Trustees.