Santa Clarita Community College District candidates come together for community forum

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All six candidates up for election on the Santa Clarita Community College District Board of Trustees this November came together Thursday night to discuss the most pressing issues facing College of the Canyons.

Michele Jenkins and Jerry Danielson, vying for the spot representing District 4, and Bruce Fortine, Edel Alonso and Ronda Baldwin-Kennedy, competing for a position representing District 2, addressed the topics of COC’s budget, associate’s degrees, class availability, student readiness and previous board decisions and actions.

All of the candidates cited budgetary restraints and student enrollment growth as the biggest issue facing COC.

Alonso, an educator and counselor at the high school and college level at COC, said the college manages its money well and wants to focus more on budget priorities than dollar amounts.

“It seems to me that every decision at the college should be based on budget priorities that truly put students first,” she said.

Baldwin-Kennedy, a practicing lawyer and parent of two COC students, said she would like to see money being spent on student projects before administrative projects.

“Before we built the administration buildings there should have been a parking structure built for the students,” she said.

Danielson, a small business owner, musician and COC alumnus, agreed that money should be spent to meet student needs first and help fund the growth of the school’s Canyon Country campus.

“The growth of our Canyon Country campus is very essential,” he said. “The way to spend the money is another issue and the fact that the student needs get met is the priority.”

Fortine, a founding and incumbent COC board member, believes money is the topic of concern with a low amount of state funding to meet the college’s and community’s growth.

“We’re in a growing area and when you’re growing you need to keep building,” he said.

Jenkins, an incumbent board member and COC alumna, believes accommodating the students is of the utmost importance.

“I think the most important thing facing us is the growth anticipation that we have,” she said. “We need to keep making decisions based on data… that are data-driven.”

In terms of student preparedness and remedial instruction, the candidates disagreed on methods to address the student achievement gaps facing incoming students.

Jenkins said she believes the high schools in the area are doing a better job of teaching students pre-college-level math and English. She commended the work of COC’s faculty in creating individualistic programs that address remedial learning.

Students’ lack of college readiness, according to Fortine, is a statewide issue seen in placement exams. He sees COC’s Learning Center as a solution to the problem.

“They can go in there and get tutoring in any subject they are deficient in,” he said.

Danielson believes students’ readiness is based on their own desire for success, but remedial studies should be handled on a case-by-case basis.

“It is up to students to put effort into it… and having faculty available to help them is key to any student’s success,” he said.

For Baldwin-Kennedy, community partnership is the key. She would like to see COC use the community to provide additional tutoring programs and internships to students.

Alonso said support services and faculty-founded programs have made a difference in getting students up to speed with college-level courses. In addition to these programs, Alonso said she would like to see students provide their input and participate in developing future solutions.

The candidates also expressed their different reasons for running for the college’s Board of Trustees.

Jenkins wants to continue the work she started on the board and continue to give back to her alma mater; Danielson wishes to provide a new, fresh outlook to the board and work with all stakeholders; Alonso wants to apply her unique view of the college and board to support student-first decisions and transparency; Baldwin-Kennedy hopes to act as community representative and as a proponent of transparency; and Fortine wants to continue and maintain COC’s nationwide reputation as a prominent community college.

Additional topics discussed

  • The board’s inability to raise tuition for students because fees are mandated and set at the state level
  • Improving class availability and diminishing COC’s wait-list for those seeking a two-year associate’s degree
  • Balancing programs to meet the needs of all COC students

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On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

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