Valley Voices

Ron Manfredi: Our community college district serves more than Fresno

The 2015 graduates of Madera Community College Center prepare for their commencement.
The 2015 graduates of Madera Community College Center prepare for their commencement. Vida En El Valle

A recent opinion column in The Bee written by State Center Community College District Trustees Miguel A. Arias and John Z. Leal, while well-intended, lacks in historical perspective and important facts.

In a nutshell, Arias and Leal appear to argue that the proceeds from a potential bond under consideration by the SCCCD Board of Trustees for voters to consider in 2016 should be spent exclusively in urban Fresno. Possibly these two trustees (from a total of seven) are not familiar with the distant boundaries and numerous communities in our district.

Established in 1965, SCCCD and community colleges throughout California changed their generic title from junior college to community college to better define one of the major missions of the system: to better serve the educational and work-force training needs of their communities.

However, for a number of years following the district’s creation, it consisted of only two campuses — Fresno City College and Reedley College. That translated into years of property taxes paid by other communities without adequate and accessible educational services.

The lack of attention and services to other communities, especially in the rapidly growing northern areas of the district, ended in the late 1990s when campuses were established in Madera and Oakhurst. This was followed in the 2000s with the establishment of the Clovis campus. Clovis and Madera have been the fastest growing of our district campuses.

Therefore, while substantial resources must be allocated to refurbish facilities at FCC and upgrade the antiquated FCC Career and Technology Center in south Fresno, the board must also consider the needs of Reedley College and that the campus communities in Madera County and Clovis are overdue for an equitable allocation of resources.

Fresno City College is and will always remain the “flag ship” of our district offering technical-skills training and certifications along with transfer credits to four-year institutions, the highly accredited registered nursing program, public safety academies and more.

For decades Reedley College, my alma mater, has positively served the smaller communities of southeast Fresno County and Dinuba and provided highly acclaimed programs in agriculture, forestry, dental hygiene and aerodynamics along with traditional transfer programs.

Contrary to what appears to be the position of these two trustees, Reedley College and the northern campuses are also in need of major revamping of existing facilities and facility and program expansions.

In addition,the newer campuses (Clovis, Madera) have the room to grow and expand the necessary academic and technical facilities that are the most pressing needs for the rapidly growing populations of their regions.

While we certainly cannot provide a “brick and mortar” campus in every town, the campus sites are strategically placed thorough the district to provide accessibility from “home to class” for most students. Let me remind these gentlemen of the widespread “communities” of Madera, Clovis, Oakhurst, Reedley, Sanger, Kerman, Dinuba and the many other cities and towns served by SCCCD.

The comments of these trustees also fail to acknowledge the substantial groundwork that district staff and previous trustees have accomplished in establishing a “blueprint” that they are claiming needs to be developed. To note:

▪ A district Facilities Master Plan was approved by the board in 2012.

▪ Recent community-wide surveys conducted by an independent contractor for SCCCD indicated that the services and performance of the district had a 86.5% favorable rating.

▪ The surveys indicated that 61% said they would vote “yes” for a SCCCD bond (55% is needed to pass).

These are important points to stress because the tone of the Arias/Leal column implied that the necessary groundwork for a SCCCD bond had not been done. This is simply not the case. The preliminary work has been researched.

It is now time for the board of trustees to come together and make important decisions for the future of the entire district. In September, Interim Chancellor Bill Stewart and staff are preparing to go to the board with recommendations on the most urgent building needs for the next decade. The consideration will be a $450 million to $600 million bond that would go to the voters in 2016.

It is time for the SCCCD Board of Trustees to come together and address the “community” needs of SCCCD and put forth a bond for voter consideration that is fair, sensible and beneficial to all.

Ron Manfredi of Madera served SCCCD as an elected trustee for four terms (1985 to 2002) and later nine years on the SCCCD Personnel Commission, six as chairperson. He is a retired city manager.