Board of Trustee candidates hold forum to connect with voters

Board of Trustee Forums

Board of Trustees incumbants and new candidates answers questions and addresses their plans at a candidate forum Sept. 26.

Sept. 30, 2014

Photo by Luis Solis | Photo Editor

Article by Andrea Stewart | Staff Writer

The candidates vying for positions on the Board of Trustees met for a forum at Riverside City College Sept. 26 to connect with voters.

An overarching agreement between the candidates was that RCCD is not prepared for the future. It was mentioned several times from the candidates that based on the amount of high school graduates in surrounding school districts, RCC does not provide enough classes to hold all the current students and newly graduating high school students each year.

“RCCD is a multi-campus district and with that comes some specific challenges,” candidate Bernard Fradkin said. “We need the same policies for students and the schools in this district across the board, so that one college isn’t doing something that the other college isn’t doing yet. Another cooperation that is needed is in a use of resources and personnel. There are many part time faculty that are shared in many colleges that are essential across the district that can provide students with instruction.”

Fradkin attended the forum by conference call, but because of technical difficulties, he could not hear most of what was going on within the meeting, including other candidates’ answers and any commentary made by those in the audience.

A hot topic among the candidates was that in the past, alternative funding had been very important to new and innovative programs along with sustaining current programs. Then the question was presented to the candidates, “What type of policy for alternative funding are you looking for? Is it anything different than the last chancellor did and how much more can you do with that?”

The most controversial topic when it came to alternative funding was naming rights and community involvement in funding. Some of the members thought that RCCD has enough community involvement and others think it is necessary to develop more; such as in the automobile and robotics industry. The meeting had a question and answer time where attendees, including faculty and students, were able to question the candidates directly.

Gustavo Segura, California School Employees Administration 535 representative from Moreno Valley College, asked the candidates what they would do to ensure that buildings and activities have the proper support staff. Just across the hall the restrooms were untouched by custodial staff hands and trash lay slew across a deserted campus. The candidates immediately perked up rallying to reply to Segura first.

Ben Johnson was the first to reply to Segura’s question. Johnson believes RCCD needs to restore salaries to the levels they were at prior to the great recession, before adding anyone onto staff. Johnson said that it is especially important for those staff members who took a pay cut and then undertook even more of a workload than they had prior to budget cuts.

“We need to restore support staff, I know we need them I can see it across this campus. I’m really sorry about that,” candidate Janet Green said in response to the question. “We really need to do something about that. It is really important to me that we can have a list of positions that have been taken away, what their job descriptions were. I would like those so I can have more voice at the board level.”

Following Green’s statement about support staff, its importance and why it is needed, candidate Juliann Anderson chimed in with similar opinions on RCCD staffing but in a way that does not only serve the school and district but with students in mind.

“At risk of diving below policy level, I will say this, I think our facilities are beautiful but I think we have to serve our students first,” Anderson said. “That means teachers in the classrooms, student services, counselors. I am not in favor of cutting jobs, but if we are going to add positions we are going to have to get our classes up so that our students and the community have a chance at finishing a two-year degree on time, and are not having to go to orange county or to for-profit schools to finish their degrees on time.”

Another recurring idea was that the Board of Trustees have priorities for the district and the district has to work within its means.

“At the board level, should we choose to build buildings, expand services or offer new classes, I think we need to understand at board level what type of workload that adds to the support staff,” Keri Then said. “I do not need to understand the job descriptions but I do need to understand that workload that adds to the support staff. And I would advocate that a policy should be initiated by the board that would examine the support staff workload so that we would better understand when we do ask for when we add more buildings, more services, or more classes that we also understand the impact consequently.”

The forum was useful and a significant addition to the normal board of trustees meetings, as agreed upon by all the candidates at the end of the forum. Only time will tell if the significant topics will carry over onto the Board of Trustees list of things to do in the following year.