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Rejection of Finalists for College Chief Protested

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A group of Mission College teachers and students joined with community activists and politicians in Sylmar on Friday to demand that the Los Angeles Community College District be “more responsive and accountable,” and criticized a presidential search process they say has dragged on too long.

The 30-member Valley Coalition for a Responsive Community College District was formed after the Board of Trustees earlier this month rejected the three finalists for the Mission College presidency.

“We feel that the trustees have given us a slap in the face,” said Irene Tovar, director of the Valley-based Latin American Civic Assn. Tovar was one of several coalition members who served on the advisory committee that selected the finalists from a field of 55 candidates.

Also present were Assemblyman Tony Cardenas, state Sen. Richard Alarcon (both D-Sylmar) and a representative from City Councilman Alex Padilla’s office. All three have attacked the district’s decision to reopen the application process at Mission, the district’s smallest college, which serves one of the city’s poorest areas.

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“It is not a pleasure being here today,” Alarcon said. “We shouldn’t have to be here today crying for our rights. We cannot allow this [district] to be a totalitarian state.”

Several board members and state legislator Gloria Romero, a former community college trustee, have accused the Sylmar politicians of using Mission College to further their own agendas.

“The thing we need to do right now is not to point fingers but for every elected official in the Valley to work with Mission College,” said board President Kelly Candaele. “The way to get things done is to focus on policy rather than personalities.”

Alarcon, Tovar and others said they will continue to press the board to reverse its decision and appoint one of the original finalists.

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But district trustees have given no indication they will yield and have already appointed an interim president and an interim vice president--former Academic Affairs Vice President Thomas Oliver and East Los Angeles College instructor Daniel Castro, respectively.

Alarcon said the board should reconsider its rejection of the finalists, but he acknowledged having “no idea” whether any of the three was still interested in the job.

Two rejected finalists, Sue Carleo, vice president of Valley College, and Bettsy Barhorst, a vice president of Illinois Central College, said they would still consider the post, if hesitantly.

The third finalist, Saeed Ali, an aide to state Sen. Richard Polanco and a liaison for the Legislative Latino Caucus in Sacramento, did not return calls seeking comment.

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Alarcon, Cardenas and other coalition members have expressed support for Ali in the past, but did not mention him at the news conference.

The news conference took place in front of the campus library and included representatives from Mission’s student body, faculty senate and faculty union.

Other members of the coalition include several San Fernando council members and Jose Hernandez, that city’s mayor.

Coalition members said they want a permanent president as soon as possible. Candaele said that could be as soon as January or as late as next summer--not soon enough for many of the district’s critics.

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Several coalition members said they would consider launching an effort to break Mission College away from the Los Angeles district if the board did not meet their demands.

Cardenas said any serious talk about secession is premature, but “if that’s what the community wants, I’m going to have to support that.”


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