The College of the Canyons board of trustees voted over the weekend to provide public notice of the vacant board seat that was left after longtime Santa Clarita Valley education advocate and board member Michele Jenkins died earlier this month. The notice was posted Thursday on the COC website.
According to board member Joan MacGregor, the alternative was to have a timely and costly special election to fill the seat.
“A lot of people don’t understand,” MacGregor told The Signal in an interview over the phone. “I mean, it seemed like, ‘Well, why are they rushing?’ This was very hard for all of us. But the state requires that we make a decision within 10 days of the trustee’s passing. So, we had to do it quickly. And that was to make the decision to go to a special election or to go to appointment. After studying it and talking about it as a board, we decided to go with the appointment process, because it’s much faster, and also it would save considerable dollars for the district for the taxpayers to pay — the cost for a special election.”
Eric Harnish, vice president of public information, advocacy and external relations for COC, added that the alternative of placing an item on the ballot is estimated to cost around $300,000, and that the seat would be vacant for about 10 months.
“The person wouldn’t be seated until December, a month after the election,” he told The Signal. “So, rather than let the seat remain vacant for an extended period and then incur that cost, the board chose to move forward with the appointment process.”
And so, in compliance with state education code, the Santa Clarita Community College District board of trustees provided notice on Thursday of the vacant seat to be filled by appointment. The seat is for a candidate who will represent Trustee Area No. 4, which, according to Harnish, consists of Canyon Country and the Sand Canyon and Fair Oaks areas.
MacGregor said that those applying for the seat must reside in Area No. 4.
“The maps are online (on the COC website), and so, people will be able to pull up their address and make sure that they would qualify,” MacGregor said. “After the applications are all due … we, the board, will make a decision at that time, and we will interview all candidates that are qualified and who applied.”
According to a timeline on the board’s agenda item report, the deadline is March 10.
MacGregor added that there’s no prescreening — other than to make sure candidates live in the district. She also said there’s no educational requirement, and there’s no cost involved.
“I hope that a variety of people will apply for the position,” MacGregor continued. “They do need to understand that there’s not a lot of compensation.”
She also said that those interested in applying should expect to put in lots of time and work, should they win the position.
“To me, the essence is wanting to serve and to give hours and hours of your time to the college and to the students,” MacGregor said. “It’s not just two board meetings a month. It’s going to the college events, going to community events to talk about the college, to hear about students’ reactions to the college, going to professional development and conferences to learn about community colleges and the budgeting system, to advocate up in Sacramento or in Washington, D.C., to support community colleges and, of course, College of the Canyons. So, there’s a lot involved.”
According to MacGregor, board members approve the school’s budget and personnel; they evaluate the chancellor, and, among other tasks, they ultimately support the students as effectively as they can. She said the ideal board member is someone passionate for this kind of work.
“We do this because we’re dedicated to public education,” she said. “We’re dedicated to our students in the community. I also feel we represent the taxpayers — we want to make sure that their tax dollars and bonds are used wisely and effectively.”
Those who’d like to be considered for appointment can go to Canyons.edu/board for details about the appointment process, which, according to the COC website, will be available beginning Feb. 21.