Election Preview: Santa Clarita Community College District

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Five candidates are facing off in two district areas for positions on the Santa Clarita Community College District Board of Trustees.  District 2 candidates include Bruce Fortine, Edel Alonso and Ronda Baldwin-Kennedy, and District 4 candidates include Michele Jenkins and Jerry Danielsen.

The district oversees College of the Canyons.

District 2

All three candidates running for the COC Board of Trustees seat for District 2, cited transparency and fiscal responsibility as priorities for their platforms.

Fortine, a founding member of the board and its incumbent, is running for re-election to continue the work he began on the board and to develop COC’s programs and campus.

“Our role is advocacy, policy, fundraising and supporting the decisions and ideas that come from the faculty, staff and administration,” he said.

Alonso, an educator and school counselor for 40 years who has spent 15 years working with COC, is running to provide an educator insight to the board and to put the needs of COC’s students first.

“I know what a wonderful school it is and I also know what areas need improvement,” she said.

Baldwin-Kennedy, an attorney for the Law Office of Rose Baldwin Kennedy, law professor for American Heritage University and parent of two COC students, is running to bridge the gap between the college and the community and make the board more accessible.

“I look at it from a business perspective and also a parent perspective,” she said.  “I believe in fresh ideas and new perspective; I believe the board should be diverse.”

Transparency is a concern for all three candidates.

Baldwin-Kennedy suggests televising board meetings and holding community meetings for individuals to discuss concerns and share ideas with the board.

“The community should be involved more,” she said.  “If we get the community more involved with the college we’d have more support.”

Alonso agrees that board meetings should be televised for the public.

“I also want to see transparency on legal and fiscal issues,” she said.  “The board members need to be more engaged and transparent in the decision-making process.”

Fortine wants to make board information more accessible online and include community members in meetings.

“There are four components of transparency that are interconnected:  transparency, participation, accountability and inclusion,” he said.

Fortine’s platform is based on fiscal oversight and stability, campus and classroom modernization, and business and community partnerships.

His campus modernizations include breaking ground on the science and arts building, submitting plans for a library at the Canyon Country campus, building a parking structure at the Valencia campus and updating classrooms at the Valencia campus.

Baldwin-Kennedy’s platform includes fiscal responsibility, improved administrative accessibility, a review and renegotiation of college contracts and a development of the Canyon Country campus.  A major concern for her is the college’s already-approved contracts.

“I’d like to see a review of all the contracts that the board has approved… to make sure that those contracts were properly done in the best interest of the community,” she said.

Alonso’s platform is grounded in a student-first mentality focused on fiscal responsibility, organizational effectiveness, strategic planning and student access.  She said budgetary choices are especially import with the Measure E bond money going to COC.

“We need to be fiscally responsible,” she said.  “I want to look at data so that when we make decisions about what building to build that they are built to meet the needs of the students.”

District 4

In District 4, both candidates have a long history and connection to both the Santa Clarita Valley and the College of the Canyons.

Jenkins, a board member for more than 30 years and the incumbent, is a William S. Hart High School and COC alumna.  She is running to continue her prior work on the board and expand the college’s two campuses.

“I really enjoy what I’m doing and take it seriously,” she said.  “Even after all this time on the board, I continue to attend national board meetings… to stay abreast of national issues.”

Danielsen, a small business owner and private music teacher, graduated from Arroyo Seco Junior High School, William S. Hart High, COC and California Institute of the Arts.  If elected to the board, he wants to offer a new perspective and focus on transparency, student achievement and campus expansion.

“The board member is supposed to be members of the community and taxpayer money is involved and they should be informed,” he said.  “A student-comes-first philosophy is my philosophy.”

Jenkins said her love of COC and participation in national college trustee events prepare her for the position.  She believes the COC Board of Trustees is successful because of its consistency on the board.

“I believe that our college because we have this consistent leadership we are able to move forward,” she said.

Jenkins said she plans on expanding the Canyon Country campus and renovating the Valencia campus to accommodate more students.

“That’s an important thing to get students in more classes, especially lab classrooms,” she said.

Danielsen said his passion for education and love of COC is what prepares him for this role.  He is also looking forward to the expansion of COC at both of its campuses with classrooms, parking and handicapped accessibility.

“Now that Measure E is passed… the responsibility is a huge issue when it comes to that kind of money coming in,” he said.

With the influx of Measure E money, Danielsen said community involvement and board transparency are important.  He follows the lead of other candidates wanting to televise meetings and archive them on the internet.

“The board members are supposed to be members of the community and, when taxpayer money is involved, they should be informed,” he said.

Note: Steve Zimmer is also running for re-election for COC’s Board of Trustees for District 3.  He is running unopposed.

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On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

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