CCA-backed officials share their thoughts
Why should local CCA chapters spend time, energy and money to help elect faculty-friendly candidates to public office?
Because they will listen to you.
That’s the message of two trustees and a local state senator who shared their experiences as elected officials during CCA’s Winter Conference in Costa Mesa.
Officials hold forth
Trustees Mary Figueroa of the Riverside Community College District and T.J. Prendergast III of the South Orange County Community College District both discussed their roles on local college boards, while in a separate lunchtime session, state Sen. Marty Block, (D-San Diego) talked about positive changes that have occurred in the state Legislature since November’s election. A third trustee, Susan Keith of Citrus Community College, was unable to attend in person, but sent responses to written questions that were relayed by CCA Board member John Fincher of Citrus College.
“You’re not going to get everything you want, but you have someone on the board who listens,” Prendergast said. “I know I am very open to the faculty association. They were instrumental in backing my election.”
Prendergast, a high school social studies teacher in Irvine, was elected in 2010 with help from CTA’s ABC political action committee and numerous fund-raisers. In the period since his election, the board has gone from a 4-3 faculty-friendly majority to a 6-1 majority.
Figueroa, who recently retired from her correctional counseling position with the California Institution for Men in Chino, has served on the board for five terms. She said about five percent of her campaign funds were from CTA’s political action committee.
“I’m definitely an advocate on communications,” Figueroa said. “But one of the weaknesses is that once communications between trustee and staff has begun, the administration goes nuts!”
You’re the voting public
But, she told faculty, “You’re the voting public so we represent you as much as others.”
Still, both trustees noted that it is not the job of the board to micromanage college business. If an issue comes up, it’s important for board members to take it up with the chancellor or superintendent, as a courtesy.
E-mail is one of the best ways to communicate with board members, both Figueroa and Prendergast noted, but it’s also important to build relationships.
“It’s almost no different than building friendships in life,” Fincher said, reading Keith’s response. “You go out for breakfast or lunch, and you assure everyone that bargaining is being conducted in good faith and that it is not full of ‘gotchas’.”
As a trustee, Figueroa reminded the audience she must think about what’s best for the entire district, and that is always primary in her mind. She takes her board commitment seriously, and as a corrections counselor, would drive from Chino to Riverside to attend a meeting. She observed that when her constituents would ask why she’d make the two-hour drive for a meeting, she would say, “Because in prisons, it’s hopeless, but when I go to the community college, I get to see you, and I see the hope and vision and future for people who want to learn and who want to be educated. That’s why I do it.”
Block, a retired professor and dean at San Diego State University, was encouraged by the fact that the Legislature does not have to make devastating cuts to education this year. Furthermore, he predicted that the environment would not be as contentious in Sacramento as it has been.
Whether you are a Democract or a Republican, you have to recognize we will be more efficient and that the gridlock is over,” he said.
While pundits have cautioned Democrats to be prudent and not “overreach” now that there is a Democratic majority, Block said he had concerns about “under-reaching” as well, and that it is time to rebuild education in the state.
“Things are looking better,” he said.