By Jason Lillard
By Jason Lillard
Riverside voters, including many Riverside Community College District students, will be given the chance on Nov. 4 to cast a vote for two of the eight candidates running for the RCCD Board of Trustees. Board of Trustee members are responsible for, among other things, selecting a chancellor, creating the broad policies of the district, maintaining the physical body of the school, creating educational programs and negotiating with district employee unions.
Competing for spots on the Board, four of eight candidates, including Linnie Frank Bailey, Dr. Samuel Davis and incumbents Mary Figueroa and Mark Takano, all spoke and answered audience questions Oct. 15 at a public forum held in the First Christian Church on Jurupa Avenue.
Bailey, speaking first, described her goals as increasing the college-going rate, strengthening the sense of community and reaching out to “the over and under achievers” in Riverside County. “I’d like to carry the banner of the Riverside Community College District a little further into the community,” Bailey said.
Mary Figueroa’s stated goals included seeing the satellite campuses in Moreno Valley and Norco through accreditation, as well as expanding technology and art programs. Although not mentioned in the forum, Figueroa has a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science. She also cited her incumbency on the Board and decades of involvement in community organizations as proof of qualification.
“I have the experience to see us through the economic downturn,” Figueroa said.Davis has several degrees, including a master’s degree in education from a California State University, and a history of teaching experience and veteran advocacy.”I know the education system and the experiences students run into every day,” Davis said.
Takano has served on the Board since 1990 and has a bachelor’s degree in government from Harvard University. One of Takano’s stated goals was the need for a school for the arts in Riverside.
“I stand behind the vision of a top-notch school for the arts – a public-access Juliard. I don’t believe that arts education should just be for the wealthy,” Takano said. All four candidates expressed a need for a new chancellor, although differences were spoken regarding search plans and standards. Bailey repeated her assertion multiple times that the chancellor’s position as chief executive officer, or CEO, warrants a candidate from the private business sector. “I’d like to see a chancellor that is very comfortable in a business environment,” Bailey said.
Bailey also stressed the urgency in which the position needs to be filled.”The next search, there will be a definite outcome,” Bailey said. Figueroa disagreed with Bailey’s focus on a timely decision, rather than a careful one. “To make a decision just to put somebody in there to fill the position? No thank you,” Figueroa said.
“I’m not going to vote for any individual that I don’t feel is the right fit for RCC,” Takano said. “I don’t want to wait, but I want to be committed to finding the right match.” All four candidates expressed a desire to increase the number of full-time staff, but understood the financial constraints posed by current economic downturns.
“We have over 300 full time staff, and over 1200 adjunct staff. That’s a ratio of one to three. That’s unacceptable,” Davis said. However, the actual ratio of 300 to 1200 is a one to four.
Davis demonstrated commitment to student and faculty rapport with the Board. Many times throughout the forum, Davis cited previous direct interactions with students and faculty in attempts to learn “what areas of improvement” RCCD have to pursue.
“I’m probably the only candidate that went to all three campuses and asked the school students, ‘what improvements would you like to see?’,” Davis said.
All four candidates, when asked from an anonymous audience question, if they would reverse a decision that was “wildly unpopular with the faculty,” responded that they would not reverse themselves, and would make decisions regardless of faculty support. Davis, Bailey and Takano expressed respect for faculty opinion, but ultimately would not leave decisions up to the democratic process of the people affected directly by the policies. Support from various programs, including has helped fuel the campaigns of the candidates running. Dariush Haghighat, president of the Riverside Community College Chapter of The California Teachers Association, commented on the association’s endorsements of Board candidates.
“We have decided to endorse both incumbents: Mary Figueroa and Mark Takano,” Haghighat said. “Our endorsements came after lengthy interviews with the candidates and careful consideration by your CTA Executive Board.”Attempts were made to contact the those candidates who did not attend the forum, however, no replies were received by the time Viewpoints went to press. The forum was hosted by the League of Women Voters, a non-partisan foundation that “serves the function of increasing understanding of what’s happening and going to happen in the United States.”