ETHICS, BUDGET CUTS, & CHOOSING NEW CHANCELLOR TOP ISSUES IN GROSSMONT-CUYAMACA COMMUNITY COLLEGE BOARD RACE

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By Miriam Raftery

The
race: 
Four candidates are running for two seats on the Grossmont-Cuyamaca
College Board of Trustees.  Challengers Mary Kay Rosinski and Moe Bakeer
face off against incumbents Tim Caruthers and Bill Garrett, board president.  ECM
interviewed Rosinski, Caruthers and Garrett; Bakeer did not respond to interview
requests.

What’s at stake:  Community colleges face tough
times amid state budget cuts and a freeze on admissions of community college
students at San Diego State University. The current board takes pride in implementing
Proposition R, a bond measure approved by voters to renovate and build new
facilities at Grossmont and Cuyamaca College. (1) But the board has also drawn
criticism after a Grand Jury report found ethical violations and the board
declined to adopt Grand Jury recommendations, arguing that recommendations
would be too costly.  (2, 3) The board also declined to impose punishment
after it was revealed that the Chancellor had a staffer delete a maximum buyout
provision into his contract without the board’s approval. (4). The buyout
clause was later reinserted after negative press. Critics also faulted the
board for Grossmont College losing national accreditation of its nursing program.
(5)  Besides making decisions about budgeting that will impact teachers
and students, winners of this election will also choose a new Chancellor for
the district—who in turn will pick the next president of Cuyamaca College.  

MARY
KAY ROSINSKI, SEAT 4

A teacher in the National School District and 38-year resident of East
County,  Rosinski believes it’s time for voters to hold trustees
accountable. 

“The reason I’m running is that I’ve been an educator
for 27 years and I’ve worked hard to prepare students for higher
education and for the workforce,” she said.  “Then I
hear about the scandal happening in Grossmont Cuyamaca.  I feel
sorry for the students in our area in East County who worked so hard
to get to their community college.  They are placing their future
in our hands, and they find the district in disarray.  I am running
to improve conditions and bring integrity back to Grossmont Cuyamaca.”

She faults the board for refusing to adopt the Grand Jury’s recommendations
to establish an ethics committee, term limits and campaign contribution
limits for board members.  “I would work to establish the
things the Grand Jury recommended,” she said.   Rosinski
also believes disciplinary action should have been taken over the Chancellor’s
unauthorized contract changes.  “This is another ase where
consequences need to be very strong and deliver a message.”

She also aims to improve Grossmont College’s nursing program. “The
district is still hiring mainly part-time faculty and our salaries are
far below neighboring districts. Because of that, the nursing program
lost its national accreditation in 2006.”  The highly-publicized
scandal at Grossmont Hospital, which was fined by the state for preventable
patient deaths, may be a “symptom of lack of training,” observed
Rosinski.  “My solution would be to hire more full-time faculty
and retain the people who you have, because it’s very tempting
[for instructors] to go to districts that pay better.”

Past president of the National City Teachers Association and a strong
union advocate, Rosinski holds a master of arts degree from San Diego
State University and currently teaches special education. 

She calls for better oversight of taxpayer money.  “It galls
me that the state investigated several college classes that our district
offered,  noncredit classes, and they found that `no meaningful
educational activity was occurring.’  One such class consisted
of music instructors playing piano in nursing homes at lunchtime. The
nursing home residents, most of them, didn’t even know that they
were students,” she said.  “The district was ordered
to pay back $107,000.”

She also expressed concern over the state college freeze on transfer
students from community colleges.  “It is a horrible situation
and we have to do what we can to reverse that.”

This is Rosinski’s second run for the board.  In 2006, she
placed second by approximately a 5% margin among several candidates.  She
questioned why her opponent missed both public debates and stressed the
importance of attendance.

“I think the experience I’ve been through with years of
leadership and working on a district budget and committees have well
prepared me for the duties of being a trustee. It’s possible to
pay teachers better and support our excellent staff and attract new people
by cutting down things like attorney fees.  We just need to redirect
money instead of asking taxpayers for more money.”  (According
to the Grand Jury, the cost of adopting an ethics board would be offset
by savings on legal fees.) 

Rosinski is endorsed by the United Faculty-Grossmont Cuyamaca Community
College District (GCCCD), American Federation of Teachers, San Diego
Community Colleges, Local 1931, San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council,
San Diego County Democratic Party,  Rosalie Alvarado- President,
National School District Governing Board, numerous elected officials,
City Council candidate Marti Emerald, students and faculty in the GCCCD.

Rosinski said her opponent’s record on supporting students and
faculty has been inconsistent.  “This district needs someone
who will be consistent in supporting money for the classroom and less
money for attorney fees, to make sure taxpayer resources are spent wisely.”

She concluded, “With scandal continuing year after year, it’s
time to bring integrity back to this district—and give quality
programs to students who work so hard.”

TIM
CARUTHERS, INCUMBENT, SEAT 4

“This is probably the most crucial time in the Grossmont-Cuyamaca
District,” said Caruthers, who considers voting for Proposition
R to be among his most important accomplishments.  “You’ve
got a lot of new buildings being built, and you’ve got the global
and U.S. and California economy in severe constraints.”  Community
college districts get funds from two sources: property taxes and the
state.  “Property values are plummeting,” he said.  A
planned 6% increase in state funds for the district has been slashed
to less than 1%.  “What you need is someone extremely knowledgeable
who has been through the trenches to get us out of that with the least
amount of upset possible.

Caruthers holds a B.A. degree in economics from San Diego State University.  He
has owned a chiropractic business and has grown an ARCO mini-mart “into
a multi-million operation.” He pledged to keep a wary eye on wasteful
spending and guard taxpayer dollars.  “I’m versed in
medical, legal and financial aspects,” he added. 

Caruthers said he disagreed with the board’s decision to maintain
the Chancellor’s employment after the buyout clause controversy.  “I
voted against that,” he said, adding that he requested that the
Chancellor reinsert the buyout clause after discovering it had been deleted.

Asked why he does not support adoption of the Grand Jury’s recommendations,
Caruthers said he felt the recommendations were too broad-based and would
cause more taxpayer dollars to be spent.  “If the Grand Jury
couldn’t come up with anything criminal through the court system,
then why should taxpayers spend more money?” he asked.  “What
could be done if the trustees or public demanded it is to establish a
committee composed of individual board members from each community college.
If there is a complaint, they could see if it is worthwhile and they
could then decide whether to send it to the District Attorney or the
Fair Political Practices Commission if it has merit.”
He also called for better Human Resources Department control, citing
three separate reports and investigations critical of the district’s
HR.

He views looming budget cuts as a key issue facing the board.  “This
current budget is putting a hole in the dyke. We still haven’t
reached the bottom in terms of state funding,” he said, adding
that the board has discussed a 3% reduction in all budgets for the district.  “The
core of any institution is the teaching, so you have to retain faculty
and staff and classified, and you need to get inventive.” 

Caruthers opposes new taxes, which he fears would hurt small businesses,
triggering layoffs and a depression. Instead, he proposes looking for
ways to cut costs. “Keep it lean and mean.” 

Asked why he missed both debates open to the public, Caruthers said
a planned birthday celebration for his wife was the same date as the
United Faculty debate, and that he had already met with UF members in
a question and answer session previously.  He said that a family
medical emergency prevented him from attending a second debates sponsored
by the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University
Women.  “My attendance on the board is 95% plus,” he
said, adding that he only missed meetings due to illness.

His endorsements include the Republican Party of California, the Lincoln
Club of California, the California Republican Assembly,  La Mesa
Councilman Ernie Ewin, County Board of Education President Bob Watkins,
Assemblyman Joel Anderson, and El Cajon Councilman Bob McClellan. 

“These are tough economic times,” Garrett concluded.  “You
need a proven leader and someone who is not afraid to come out and speak
the truth, which is what I’ve done.”

BILL
GARRETT, INCUMBENT AND BOARD PRESIDENT, SEAT 3

Appointed four years ago, Garrett was elected to the board in 2006 and
is now President. 

Asked to name his most important accomplishment, he replied, “I
established a text book task force six months ago…What we’re
trying to do is to reduce the impact of text book costs on students.”  The
task force includes members of the board, the academic senate, the administration,
classified employees, the bookstore, and students.  Recommendations
include early ordering of text books to allow students time to price-shop
and urging faculty to choose used books where feasible.  “Have
they really changed Spanish or Algebra that much?” he asked.

The board has also recently focused on ways to inform students about
various alternatives available.  “A lot of times we think
they know, and they don’t know if they are brand new,” he
noted. 

Garrett views the budget crunch as the biggest challenge ahead.  “The
cost of utilities and everything else has gone up,” he noted, “and
we’re supposed to be able to pay for all of the increases and costs.  It’s
a real struggle, in particular because state universities and UCs have
actually reduced the number of students they can take.  What it’s
meant is that we have our second highest enrollment ever district-wide,” he
observed, “because students can’t get into the four-year
schools.”

The district doesn’t have the authority to raise fees.  Instead,
the board has reduced the number of sections offered and increased class
sizes substantially.  If we had a class that had only 12 in it,
we’re filling those up with maybe 25 to 30.”

Garrett believes choosing a chancellor will be one of the most important
acts of the new board.  “We’ve hired an outside firm
to find candidates, so we are doing a nationwide search,” he said.  A
selection committee comprised of all the constituencies in the district
will interview candidates and recommend three to five to the board.

Proposition R was approved before Garrett joined the board.  But
he observed, “We are very carefully managing that money to get
the biggest bang for the buck.  People who have been to Cuyamaca
College in the last three or four years are thrilled that Cuyamaca now
looks like a college campus. At Grossmont, we are building more but also
renovating, making sure that air conditioning and locker rooms are brought
up to standards. One thing I really believe is that the quality of facilities,
whether elementary schools or colleges, makes a difference in the learning
environment.”

Garrett said the board took no action to dismiss the Chancellor because
the Chancellor had corrected his actions by the time the board learned
of the contract clause change.  But he added, “We have established
a stronger ethics program for the board and its administrators, so there
are things that can now be done.”

As for the Grand Jury’s recommendation to establish a county-wide
ethics commission for community colleges, however, Garrett replied, “I
don’t support it because I think that’s an internal matter
that we can handle internally…We do not need the extra cost of
establishing a county-wide system. I’m a local control guy.”

Despite loss of federal accreditation, Grossmont College’s nursing
program is “alive and well,” Garrett noted.  (Federal
accreditation officials plan to revisit the campus in late October.)

He also opposes term limits, another recommendation of the Grand Jury.  “All
you have to do is to look at the State Legislature,” he said.  “What
term limits do is allow outside influences to take control because they
are around longer. I also believe that it means legislators or any elected
officials, if they know they will only be in there short term, think
short term.”

A retired El Cajon City Manager, Garrett served as President of the
Cuyamaca College Foundation and a member of the Prop R Citizens Oversight
Committee. He holds a masters of science degree in urban planning from
the University of Arizona, a masters in public administration from Cal
State Fullerton and a bachelor of arts in Political Science from the
University of Washington.

Endorsed by the San Diego County Republican Party, he has bipartisan
support from board members Deanna Weeks and Greg Barr and is also supported
by Shannon O’Dunn, who ran against Garrett in the last election.

 He pledged support for putting “students first and making
sure they have quality educators and an administration that works in
the best interest of the district and the community.”

MOE BAKEER, SEAT 3:  A security officer running against
Garrett, Bakeer initially agreed to a phone interview but was not available
during the interview time.  He did not respond to our request to reschedule
the interview.

Candidate websites:  Only one candidate in this race has a website: www.rosinskiforboard.com

More information on the board: 

1. Construction booming in Grossmont-Cuyamaca College District

2.
Jury: Ethics Board Needed For Community Colleges

3.
Grand Jury Fires Back

4. Mum’s the word on district’s chancellor

5. Accreditation
loss fails to dim optimism of nursing students

Miriam Raftery is a national award-winning journalist, a graduate
of Grossmont College, and mother of a GCCCD student.