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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

College Trustee Board Candidates Gather at PCC Election Forum Tuesday

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By EDDIE RIVERA, Community Editor

Following a tumultuous few years in which a troubled “porn professor” resigned after being threatened with firing, a Superintendent President was asked to resign at a cost of $403,000 to the district, and Pasadena City College was placed on probation by a regional accreditation review board, six candidates who have emerged to run for two vacant trustee board seats in the upcoming November 3 election.

Pasadena City College was placed on probation by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges in July for failing to comply with its own ethics, planning and communication policies. It has until October of 2017 to rectify its problems, or the college faces losing its academic accreditation entirely.

The six candidates appeared at Pasadena City College Tuesday evening for a candidates’ forum, hosted by the PCC Faculty Association.

Three of the six candidates — social scientist Martin Enriques, businessman and adjunct professor Tom Selinske, university professor James Osterling — are vying for the seat of resigned 30-year veteran Jeanette Mann in Area Two, representing the Altadena area.

Those same three candidates are set to participate in another forum Wednesday, October 7, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the main branch of the Altadena Library. That candidate forum is sponsored by Neighbors Building a Better Altadena (NBBA) and the League of Women Voters Pasadena Area.

The college is governed by a nine-member board of trustees. Seven members are elected (each of whom represents a geographical section of the Pasadena Area Community College District, which includes Pasadena, Altadena, La Canada Flintridge, Sierra Madre, South Pasadena, San Marino, Arcadia, Temple City, and the northern portion of Rosemead).

Author Hoyt Hilsman, archaeologist Marshall Lewis, and incumbent trustee William Thomson—are vying for the open seat in Area Four.

All of the candidates, including the incumbent Thomson, agreed that changes need to take place within the district.

“We’ve had a dysfunctional campus climate,” said Enriques.

“Discourse had broken down,” echoed Hilsman.

Candidate Lewis, however, blamed the board itself for not listening.

“The faculty, the students and the staff, were not listened to,’ he said, at one point. “All of this, all of the problems could have been avoided by just listening to the community.”

The candidates were asked a series of questions ranging from employees salary issues to how they would “fix” the current PCC general situation. All the candidates agreed that better communication was in order.

“We have a duty to the wider college community,” said Hilsman.

Asked whether or not they would agree to a single and equal pay raise to all PCC employees regardless of rank or level, four of the candidates would not give a clear answer, including Thomson, whose response seemed particularly unclear.

Hilsman said ,”Yes,” and Selinske answered, “It depends.” Lewis responded, “No, but..”

Enriques, for his part, said he would lean toward giving lower-paid employees larger raises.

“A 2% raise means a lot more to a janitor than to a professor,” he said.

A number of the candidates also agreed that future PCC superindent presidents, whose contracts run for four years, need to be evaluated earlier and more often than current practice.

“Evaluate them after one year, and include everyone in the evaluation — faculty, staff and students,” said Lewis.” Both Selinske and Osterling also agreed that more frequent evaluations would be a good idea.

Asked about how to improve student retention, Selinske cited an anecdote about one of his successful students and suggested better counseling for students.

Said Osterling, “We need to find a way for students to earn a degree in two years.”

Hilsman emphasized the importance of preparing students for college, better preparing them in high school, for example.

“Data, data, data,” said Lewis. “Get all the data we can, find out why they’re leaving. Maybe it’s not school, it’s something else in their life. We need to find out what.”

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