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By Aletheia Meloncon, Angelica Siordia, Mercedes De Leon and Xiomara Galeano

RCC got its first glimpse of chancellor candidate Raul Rodriguez during a forum held on April 30. (Justin Henderson)

By Aletheia Meloncon, Angelica Siordia, Mercedes De Leon and Xiomara Galeano

For the past two years, Riverside Community College District has been in the process of searching for a permanent chancellor. Many applied for the position, but the Board of Trustees had narrowed it down to two candidates.

The two candidates were Raul Rodriguez, superintendent/president of San Joaquin Delta Community College, and Troy Justesen, U.S. Department of Education assistant secretary for Vocational and Adult Education.

Shortly before publication, Viewpoints was informed that both candidates were withdrawing for personal reasons. Viewpoints was also informed that the Board of Trustees was not able to come to a unanimous decision regarding the selection of a chancellor.

On May 6, chancellor candidate Troy R. Justesen attended a public forum at the Riverside City Campus Digital Library Auditorium, where he answered questions and gave his statements on why he should be the next RCCD chancellor.

Dairiush Haghighat, president of the California Teachers Association for the RCCD, had originally voiced concerns about Justesen.

“Justesen comes from a non-traditional and prestigious position as Undersecretary of Education. He is intelligent (and) sophisticated, with Washington D.C. connections,” Haghighat said. “He has never had a full-time position in higher education, and the majority of his experience is running government bureaucracy, and his learning curve would be long.”

The Academic Senate voted unanimously not to recommend Justesen, claiming that he did not have the experience or strengths to move the District forward. Richard Mahon, president of the Academic Senate Committee, drafted a letter after the meeting to endorse Rodriguez with no mention of Justesen.

The letter stated, “By unanimous vote the RCC Academic Senate recommends that Rodriguez be selected to serve as the next Chancellor of the RCCD.”

Key issues in Rodriguez’s favor were his vast experience in community colleges.

“Rodriguez was able to address, generally in some considerable detail, every question that was put to him,” Mahon said in the letter.

Rodriguez currently is the president of San Joaquin Delta Community College. Within a district that ranges from 2,400 square miles, he oversees a college that serves about 21,000 students and a workforce of 1,500 full-time and part-time employees.

Rodriguez participated in a public forum on April 30 for the college and community.

Questions were asked about the accusations regarding his contract extension with the Board of Trustees at the San Joaquin Delta Community College District.

“The allegations are directed towards the Board,and it was found that they did not violate the Brown Act. However, someone on the Board had released my evaluation to the press,” Rodriguez said. “You wonder why I would be looking to leave.”

Early in March, the Board at Delta Community College extended his contract for three more years. The contract does not expire until July 2009, yet, back in November, an evaluation had already refused a contract extension.

The election that was held to extend Rodriguez’s contract was done in a closed session which, it was alleged, violated the Brown Act.

The Act was passed in 1953 to safeguard the public’s right to access and participate in the government process.

Ted Simas, a member of the Delta Community College District Board of Trustees, had accused other members of violating the Brown Act.

“I am the Trustee that made the accusations on the violation of the Brown Act,” he said, “Dr. Rodriguez had nothing to do with violating the Brown Act.”

Even before each candidate withdrew, some RCCD staff voiced their concerns as to whether the candidates were fully prepared to meet the challenges of the position.

On May 14 at 5:52 p.m., RCC Board of Trustees President Mary Figueroa sent an e-mail to the RCCD faculty and staff announcing the withdrawal of both candidates. “I would rather have the candidates pull out now, than to get in the job and be overwhelmed,” she said regarding their decisions.

Viewpoints reporter Stephanie Holland broke the news of the withdrawal to Dwight Lomayesva, Associate professor of History and Clarence Romero, Associate professor of Psychology.

“It’s costing us thousands and thousands of dollars to go out recruiting these people, and twice we have failed,” Lomayesva said. “I’m really concerned that the Board of Trustees is not doing what they were hired to do. Why is it that they have failed again to find us a good candidate for the chancellorship?”

“I don’t know this for a fact, but it sounds like dissension among the Board members. I think they need to get their act together,” he said.

Romero also voiced his concerns regarding the news.

“Maybe there is an inherent problem in the overall process, and maybe we need to interview the people that dropped out to give us feedback on some of the issues, that they see that needs correcting,” he said.

Holland was able to reach Board of Trustees member, Jose Medina for comment.

“I’m disappointed that we weren’t able to find someone,” he said.

Haghighat, who spoke openly about Justensen said, “It was unfortunate that both candidates withdrew.”

“I don’t know what basically factored in the outcome. Most members of faculty seemed to like Dr.Rodriguez,” he said. It’s now uncertain when RCCD will get a new chancellor.

“The search will continue, but we probably won’t get candidates until the fall,” Medina said.

Additional reporting by:Stephanie HollandSandra DiazCorinne Love

Troy R. Justesen listens to questions raised by audience members that included RCC officials, instructors and students during the chancellor forum on May 6. (Lawrence Gonzales)

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