MPC trustees will face challenges coming out of good times.
Thursday, November 1, 2001
Life is good at Monterey Peninsula College. Faculty salaries are up, and so is the student population. The administration remains stable and scandal-free. Bulldozers recently broke ground on a new $20 million library and technology center--the first construction the campus has seen in 30 years.
"Monterey Peninsula College has been fortunate in the last few years to have had relatively good funding coming from the state level," explains Jane Parker, vice president of the MPC Board of Trustees. But some of that will change next year.
State money is expected to drop for the 2001-2002 school year. At the same time, salary negotiations are coming up.
Still, Parker says, the new Board of Trustees will be tasked to ensure "that the college is truly serving the community, really trying to implement diversity, making sure that communication and marketing of the college occurs."
All five candidates for the two open seats on the MPC board agree that the college needs a bond measure and alumni contributions to fund repairs. They also unanimously say they must act as squeaky wheels in Sacramento to increase faculty salaries.
Incumbent Jim Tunney, a retired NFL referee and teacher and the current Board president, says he has been able to open lines of communication between board members and the administration.
"My job is to get the right players in the right place, and get the team working together," he says.
Tunney describes himself as a "coach," a "team builder" and a "cheerleader." Under his leadership, the Board members have held several Saturday workshops and have held off-campus Board meetings in Seaside and Pacific Grove. He''s also got strong ties to the Monterey Peninsula College Foundation--a key funding source--and to the Fort Ord Reuse Authority, which could play an important role in providing affordable housing for MPC employees.
Veteran local politician and former County Supervisor Sam Karas has similar Fort Ord connections, and would bring nearly two decades of community activism to the Board.
Karas says his first order of business would be to reschedule trustee meetings from noon to evenings so working folks can attend.
Karas'' wife taught English Literature at MPC for 23 years. He served as founding director of the Monterey Peninsula Visitor & Convention Bureau, the Natividad Medical Center Foundation, the Center for Community Advocacy, the Fort Ord Re-Use Authority and the Jazz, Pop and Blues Festivals. "I''m a thinker and I''m a doer--I''m not one that dwells on rhetoric," he says.
Karas has also been a staunch supporter of affordable housing, especially for farmworkers, and he says he''s ready to take up the cause for MPC''s students, faculty and staff.
"The cost of living is so high here, we need to encourage local developers to make a real effort to build affordable housing," Karas says.
While Tunney and Karas have name recognition on their side, new-gal-on-the block Heidi Hunter is winning support from some boardmembers and others who feel that her vision and business smarts (she''s a lawyer in Monterey) would make her an asset to the board.
She points out that more than 50 percent of MPC grads stay in the area. "For those that stay, they need to be trained in the industry of this area," Hunter says.
If MPC courses are designed to train workers for Peninsula jobs, then local businesses will be willing to support the school, she says. "The businesses get trained employees, and the students get good jobs.
A native of Boise, Idaho, Hunter says her hometown community college "was our lifeline to the outside world," providing a venue for concerts, plays, speakers and sporting events. She wants to see the same happen at MPC.
"From its football team to the new library to drama and music to attracting speakers, we need to start bringing the community into Monterey Peninsula College," Hunter says.
Candidate Donald Curley says that his 34 years in education gave him necessary experience in budget manage- ment, teacher recruitment, contract negotiations and marketing.
"If I were running an electrical company, I''d want to get an electrician on the Board," he says.
"I''m very students-oriented. What''s good for the kids? What will make them happy, and prepared to enter the work force, or go on to a four-year school?" He answers his own question: "First, we need to upgrade the facilities. In the future, I''d like to see a campus newspaper to notify kids of scholarships and upcoming events."
Incumbent Kathrina Ognyanovich''s four-page resume highlights an extensive background in education, politics and social work. She''s a 15-year MPUSD board member and also a former teacher--at both the Defense Language Institute and MPC. She''s chaired two NAACP committees and the Monterey County Democratic Central Committee. And the list goes on.
"Next year, we expect a 15 percent cut on the state level," she says. "It''s important to retain Boardmembers who are knowledgeable in the budget."
While some people who have worked with her on various boards and community groups have said she can be difficult, Ognyanovich says she''s simply making good on her promise to the community that elected her.
"Not every decision should come from the top down," she says, explaining that she doesn''t fall in line behind administrators.
"If you are a leader, if you are knowledgeable, if you know there is space for improvement, then you have to say no," she says. "I don''t want to rubberstamp."