Board of Trustees Holds Candidates Forum

Mark Nassim, Staff Writer

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Candidates for the GCC Board of Trustees  discussed financial issues, their experience, and education during the Trump Administration, during a forum in Kreider Hall.

     Three candidates are competing in District 4 and two are running unopposed.

One candidate vying to represent District 4 is Yvette Davis, treasurer of the Glendale Educational Foundation and former president of the Glendale Rotary Club.

The second candidate, Victor Garcia, is a 21-year-old student finishing up his studies at University of California Santa Barbara and believes his young age will help bridge the gap between student issues and administering the school.

Third candidate, Rondi Werner, a construction contract administrator, believes her expertise will be valuable to the board when reviewing newly granted Measure GC bond projects.

In one uncontested race, Ann H. Ransford, the Board of Trustees clerk, was first elected in 2009 for District 2 and is concerned with advocacy issues in Sacramento and making sure the college gets its fair share of funding.

In the other uncontested race, Armine Hacopian, the Board of Trustees vice president, was brought on in 2001 for District 3. Hacopian believes her experience and leadership can help with her priority of improving safety and security of the campus.

Here are the issues discussed at the candidates forum:

Experience

Garcia said he will bring the energy and passion that he thinks the board needs to start pushing for real change. If elected, he is young enough to not have many other commitments in his life, using that to dedicate his time to the board.

Garcia also acknowledged his lack of experience compared to his fellow candidates.

“I do plan to ask questions if there are any gaps in my knowledge,” Garcia said. “[The current board members] have the institutional knowledge to aid me in any step of the way.”

Davis said she has the unique experience being a former Glendale College student, an administrator in higher education as well as being a lecturer in universities.

For Rondi, she finds herself volunteering for many education related services to try to fill a gap in her life but it isn’t enough.

“I really think that it will be an amazing opportunity to be able to serve on the board of directors and to give back to the community college that was there for me,” Werner said.

Enrollment

The current college enrollment is the lowest since 2012, as a result could affect funding and class offerings.

As a former head of the business office of a vocational school, Davis shared her experience there that adding online classes caused a significant increase in enrollment.

“I think I can be that great voice for the district that has been overlooked and has not had much attention paid to it,” Davis said.

She wants to do the same to the college as well as increasing some of the vocational programs.

“We are about to hire a communications and community relations person, which is a position we haven’t had for a long time,” Ransford said after Werner proposed adding a more comprehensive marketing aspect.

With a new communications director coming in, Garcia mentioned a plan that would build a team of students around the new director; so they could create a campaign that shows the true colors of the school and combating the negative perception it has.

“What better way to show it from the perspective of the students that chose this school over any other school,” Garcia said. “And what better way to convince students to come here.”

The idea of expanding for students to earn bachelor’s degrees was brought up.

“If we concern ourselves with what the Cal State system offers, we sort of expand ourselves so thin that we lose the focus,” Hacopian said.

Sanctuary Campus

On Feb. 21, guild membership approved a resolution for GCC becoming a sanctuary campus, a pledge of faculty support for undocumented students.

The candidates discussed the importance of GCC becoming a sanctuary campus and how ensuring the protection of students is inherent to their success.

“If the board states in a very clear language that they stand with their students in their time of need, that resonates with students,” Garcia said. “And that allows them to feel safe on this campus and be able to focus on their efforts as students.”

Betsy DeVos

Everyone on the panel was dissatisfied with the newly appointed Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, and her lack of experience and knowledge with public education, but genuinely want her to succeed. They want to educate her, prove by example, and if the education system is threatened then they will take their voices and fight.

Werner is worried that President Trump’s administration policies may threaten the educational pursuits of undocumented students.

“I believe every student in our educational system should be afforded the opportunity to achieve their personal and professional potential through education,” Werner said. “Students are already under enough pressure without having to fear deportation or arrest while pursuing their academic dreams.”

Labor

Besides professors, the classified staff are who the students interact with the most. They are the employees in the administration offices, the cafeteria line workers and everyone else who does not perform any instructional services. The candidates agreed that they are an essential part of the school and the glue and representation of the college.

The importance of having labor unions was discussed and the forum echoed that they need to stay in place for the college to run properly.

“Unions provide members protection from unfair labor practices and provide a forum to express concerns with how the organization is being run, and to assess if their needs are being met,” Werner said.

Budget

In an event of a budget crisis, the candidates reverberated the importance of not cutting salaries of faculty.

“I would try to avoid, as much as we can, cutting the benefits and the pay of our workers because the cost of living in Glendale has gone up dramatically in the past four years,” Garcia said. “If this keeps going, people are going to leave because they can no longer afford to live in the city of Glendale.”

The quality of education for students would suffer if the pay of workers were reduced.

“I think it would be a disservice to the students to have good professors and staff walk out the door because of lower pay,” Werner said.

Werner added that she would engage all the stakeholders to work together to agree on what the necessities and the desirables are.

“It is in our best interest to maintain the programs that we have and maintain the institutional knowledge that we have so that our students come back to us,” Garcia said.

Davis stated that a better alternative to cutting pay would be talking and listening to people who know of any project or equipment that was going to waste.

Ransford and Hacopian are adamant about taking their voices to Sacramento to get their fair share of Proposition 98, a California measure that guarantees funding that keeps pace with the growth of student population and personal income of residents.

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Board of Trustees Holds Candidates Forum