Tomorrow will be Adriana Barrera’s six-month anniversary as president of Mission College. Make that six very full months of seven-day workweeks. Her hard work is paying off in high marks from the campus and the community.
How different this is from a year ago when the community was polarized by an earlier, aborted presidential search. Last year we wrote that the best way to repair the rift was for the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees and the district chancellor to move forward and find a first-rate president.
That is exactly what they did. Barrera’s selection ranks as one of the San Fernando Valley’s success stories of 2000.
Since taking office July 1, Barrera has earned a reputation as a stabilizer and as an inclusive leader who aggressively seeks community input. The former president of El Paso Community College in Texas, she brought to the job a fervent belief in two-year colleges as lifelines for their communities.
Both the college in El Paso and the Sylmar campus serve low-income Latino students, many of them immigrants struggling to learn English, find jobs and gain a toehold in a new country. Barrera immediately understood Mission College’s central role in the community, whether in providing vocational training needed to land jobs or serving as a focus of community events such as weddings and quinceanera celebrations.
Mission College entered 2000 engulfed in misgivings and mistrust. It ended the year with an event that expressed its community’s pride in and hope for this important northeast Valley institution. On Dec. 1, Barrera was formally inaugurated as president.
Much work, of course, remains for 2001.
Mission College’s last permanent president resigned after missing three deadlines to use hard-won state funding. The funds were later restored, but finding the money (and the room) to expand remains a challenge for the the Valley’s newest, smallest but fastest growing community college. Enrollment at the already crowded, 7,100-student campus is expected to reach 10,000 in the next five years.
The community college trustees this month agreed to put a $1.2-billion bond issue, the largest in district history, on the April ballot. Mission College’s share of the bond would be $111 million to fund a classroom building, a multipurpose gym with racquetball courts and a simulated driving range, a parking garage that would more than triple the number of spaces available and several other expansions, including more science labs.
California voters in November approved Proposition 39, which makes passing a school bond easier by lowering the majority needed for passage from two-thirds to 55%. But bonds remain a tough sell, especially to fiscally conservative Valley voters. It will be up to Barrera to convince voters that Mission College will make good use of these funds.
And it will be up to the college’s newly revitalized community of supporters to get out the vote.