LOCAL ELECTIONS : 13 Candidates Campaigning for 5 Seats at 3 Colleges

Times Staff Writer

Citing shrinking resources and the need to reassess the role of two-year colleges, 13 candidates are campaigning for five seats on the governing boards of the Mt. San Antonio, Rio Hondo and Pasadena community college districts.

Candidates for the Nov. 5 election include three incumbents, a Cal Poly Pomona student and two former community college board members.

Five additional seats, including two on the Citrus Community College District board, are uncontested and the incumbents will be installed without an election. Those unchallenged are Edward C. Ortell and Gary L. Woods on the Citrus Community College District board and Warren L. Weber, Richard H. Green and Walter T. Shatford on the Pasadena Area Community College District board.

The following cities and unincorporated areas will vote in one or more of the elections: Arcadia, Azusa, Baldwin Park, Bassett, Charter Oak, Citrus, Covina, Diamond Bar, Duarte, East Whittier, El Monte, Foothill, Glendora, Hacienda Heights, Industry, Irwindale, La Habra Heights, La Manda, La Puente, La Verne, Los Nietos, Monrovia, Pico Rivera, Pomona, Ramona, Rio Hondo, Roland Heights, San Dimas, San Jose, South El Monte, Spadra, Temple City, Valinda, Walnut, West Covina and Whittier.

Mt. San Antonio Community College District

The candidates agreed that the administration of Mt. San Antonio College, located in Walnut, ranks among the best of two-year schools in the state. They commended the college for offering quality programs in the face of budget constraints. Several candidates said the school's physical plant needs upgrading and the phone system should be improved.

Six candidates, including one incumbent, are running for two seats. They are:

- Arnett L. Austin, 25 of Pomona. Austin attended Mt. San Antonio from 1982 to 1984 and is a junior majoring in political science at Cal Poly Pomona. This is his first attempt at public office.

"As a former student body president at Mt. SAC, I saw the workings and the needs of the school up close," Austin said. "I think there needs to be a closer link between the students, the faculty and the board so the board has a clearer understanding of what classes need to be monitored, what classes need to be pulled and what classes need to be added. I think the school should strengthen its math and science offerings. Also, too many faculty members are part-time teachers dividing up their energies between two and three colleges."

- Kenneth L. Hunt, 53, of Hacienda Heights. Hunt, an incumbent who has served on the board eight years and is currently the president, is the dean of instruction at East Los Angeles College. Hunt has four children, three of whom attended Mt. San Antonio.

"Mt. SAC had a balanced budget last year when other two-year schools had to dip into their reserves," Hunt said. "Since the passage of Proposition 13, we have lost a lot of our autonomy from a fiscal standpoint. The state Legislature and the governor now decide our budgets each session. I would like to see a return to a stable funding base, one not so dependent upon student attendance and upon the yearly opinions of the Legislature. With stable funding, colleges can get about the business of long-range educational planning."

- Hugh S. Jenings, 64, of Covina. Jenings, a retired investment banker, has 6 children and 12 grandchildren. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1970.

"Money, money, money--is there any other issue?" Jenings said. "I don't think you can tap into the public purse anymore. I think one way to get additional funding is to approach corporate heads and talk them into making $1,000 contributions each year. These would be part of an endowment fund in which the school would spend $500 and would save $500. The other half is reinvested so you have something mushrooming all the time.

- Gary V. Miller, 42, of West Covina. Miller, an educational supervisor of a night program at Charter Oak Day School in Covina, served on the West Covina City Council from 1974 to 1980. He is married and has two children.

"What it comes down to in a nutshell is the responsibility that the budget and the curriculum come together to meet the community needs," Miller said. " These needs are vocational, educational, personal and counseling. Some people need community colleges to meet personal goals of growth, hobbies and to develop their own understanding of areas of interest. I, too, would take a critical look to determine if vocational programs warrant expansion."

- Thomas J. Miller, 43, of Covina. Miller, a Covina attorney, lost by 100 votes in an attempt to gain a community college board seat four years ago. He is married and has three children.

"Mt. SAC really is in good shape," Miller said. "My role as a trustee would be to continue the quality of education that the school has given the community. Astute fiscal management is very important in this time of shrinking resources. I do want to look real hard at what areas of education are being stressed. Sometimes you take away funding from areas that might be important but not so popular. There should be a balance between educational and vocational. I would look real hard to determine if vocational (training) is being adequately stressed."

- Kenneth L. Schmitt, 50, of West Covina. Schmitt, who has one son attending Mt. San Antonio College, is a business representative for the State Board of Equalization. He has never run for public office.

"Because Mt. SAC is in relatively good financial shape," he said, "I'm less concerned with finances than with a board that is more responsive to the needs of the students." Schmitt said school administrators were heavy-handed in dealing with a controversy last year over alcohol and cigarette ads in the school newspaper. "The school came down rather harshly on the student editor, and I think they even talked of discontinuing the newspaper."

Rio Hondo Community College District

The community college in Whittier serves many lower-income communities in cities such as El Monte. More than half of the student body is made up of minority students. Candidates said fewer than 3% of the students go on to four-year colleges. They cited the need to increase that percentage and to place more emphasis on educational programs while not losing the vocational and night courses that attract single mothers and others wishing to improve their professional lives.

Five candidates, including one incumbent and two former board members, are running for two seats in two separate areas.

In Area 1, the candidates are:

- Ralph Gutierrez, 53, of El Monte. Gutierrez, a member of the El Monte Union High School District board, served on the Rio Hondo Community College board from 1976 to 1979. He is an associate professor of engineering technology at Pasadena City College. He is married and has four children.

"Negative accreditation reports in the last few years have pointed out that the school lacks long-range planning and has made few attempts to get input from the communities it serves," Gutierrez said. "Rio Hondo has a lot of problems and we have to start solving them one by one. I know of at least three students who have transferred to four-year schools after completing 70 units at Rio Hondo and a majority of those units were not transferable. They lost out on a couple of years of education as a result."

- Hilda L. Solis, 27, of El Monte. Solis is the program director of a state-funded educational program serving several high school and community college districts, including Rio Hondo. She is married.

"I don't think enough is being done to assist students to transfer to four-year colleges," Solis said. "I know in recent years the school has improved its vocational programs. If Rio Hondo is weighted toward vocational that is because many of its students are single mothers heading households and people returning to school for retraining. The California Post-Secondary Education Commission issued a report three years ago that found that fewer than 3% of Rio Hondo's students were transferring to four-year schools. I think this could be improved upon."

- Elizabeth Van Note of El Monte. Van Note was a board member from 1979 to 1983. She is married and has four children, two of whom attended Rio Hondo College. She works in the personnel office of the city of El Monte.

Van Note disagreed with Gutierrez and others that the accreditation reports were negative. "In the final analysis, Rio Hondo received indefinite reaccreditation," Van Note said. "That was the bottom line and while every accreditation report labels weaknesses and strengths, my opponents just happen to be pointing out the weaknesses. Those weaknesses are not that significant.

"Rio Hondo is in as good shape as any community college in the state fiscally and better than most." Van Note said studies showing that only a small percentage of the students transfer to four-year schools did not necessarily bode ill for Rio Hondo. "A lot of students who come from communities such as El Monte don't enroll at Rio Hondo with the intention of attending a four-year school. They're there to get employable skills."

In Area 3 of the district, the candidates are:

- Frank Hidalgo, 38, of Whittier. Hidalgo, a professor of teacher education at California State University, Long Beach, is married and has five children.

"I would like to see more openness from administrators and the board. Their style of communication is more closed than I have seen at other schools. I've evaluated transcripts here at Long Beach from a dozen community colleges and Rio Hondo has the worst record from my perspective of units successfully transferred. Students are losing time and I'm not sure if it's a problem of poor counseling or if it's an outgrowth of the college's perception of itself as a vocational school."

- Isabelle Brown Gonthier of Whittier. Gonthier, the incumbent, is a deputy labor commissioner with the state Department of Industrial Relations. She has four sons, three of whom attended Rio Hondo College.

"I think the whole fiscal picture is one of constraints and a need to hold down costs and a need at the same time to expand our academic programs," she said. "We do have fine academic programs but we need more emphasis in the area of high tech. Overall, I thought the accreditation report was very good. It found that we needed to put greater emphasis on services for minority students. Another area identified as needing improvement was the need to involve all segments of the community in academic planning."

Pasadena Area Community College District

With a full-time student population of 18,400, Pasadena City College has the highest enrollment of any community college in the area. As a result, it has been affected more than most by Proposition 13 and the attendant loss of local control over funding. Property taxes once provided a base of funding controlled at the local level. But now community colleges must await the budgetary decisions of the state Legislature and the governor, who decide funding based on the average daily attendance at each school and a formula that can change from year to year.

The vagaries of each legislative session often mean a state of uncertainty for community colleges, particularly ones with large student enrollments. The candidates said additional sources of funding not affected by the yearly whims of legislators would return local control to the schools and ensure stability.

Two candidates, including one incumbent, are vying for one seat. The candidates are:

- Joseph E. Sargis, 57, of Arcadia. Sargis, the incumbent, was elected to the board in 1981. He is chairman of the board of the Huntington Bank in Arcadia. He is married and has two grown children.

"Pasadena City College, unlike a lot of institutions, has not suffered a major decline in enrollment," Sargis said. "And we have a good balance between educational and vocational programs. Our problem is the same thing that confronts all of the community college districts in California. We have been in a state of flux awaiting the Legislature to study and decide the role and funding of community colleges. Until such time that our mission is decided upon by the Legislature and the governor, we will continue to be in that state."

- James W. Porter, 55, of Arcadia. Porter is a math and industrial arts teacher at Foothill Junior High School in Arcadia. He is married and has two children, both of whom attended Pasadena City College.

"I think all junior colleges should put more emphasis in the sciences," Porter said. "This is the wave of the future. I think we should continue to emphasize vocational programs because that is important. I'm not that familiar with what the board is doing yet. I went to one board meeting a few weeks ago and plan to attend more."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
52°