Government / Politics

Gavilan president tells supervisors top concern is more educational opportunities in county

Dr. Kathleen Rose, president of Gavilan College, addresses local concerns about a planned campus in San Benito County

Dr. Kathleen Rose, Gavilan College superintendent and president, recently gave an update on the school's progress to the San Benito County Board of Supervisors, and also addressed long-standing concerns, such as the long-awaited educational center planned for the corner of Fairview Road and Airline Highway.

Saying that she has been at the college in other capacities for seven years and in education for 34 years, Rose told the supervisors on Oct. 11 that Gavilan will be celebrating its centennial in two years, and it’s gearing up for a number of activities that will include Hollister.

The college, she said, is moving forward by embarking on a comprehensive education plan, which has not been done for a decade. She said she’s hoping conversations can be had with everyone concerned in order to develop a plan that will encompass all the needs of educational and industry partnerships in order to go forward 20 years and beyond.

The strengths of Gavilan, she said, are 18 programs that are considered ADT, or Associates Degrees for Transfer.

“Those are programs where students come and do their first 60 units and then they’re guaranteed a spot at CSU as a junior, without losing any units in transfer,” she said. “Our career technical education programs are exploding. We just received $700,000 three months ago and will be able to add more programs.”

There is thought about bringing in curriculum in agriculture for the first time, along with other programming based on industry partnerships. Rose said the basic skills in adult programs are centered on its work in San Benito County.

“We have seven different locations in and around the Hollister area where we are offering non-credit courses,” she said. “It’s a huge market here.”

Rose said, as the new president, she didn’t have a blueprint to determine how to do her job. She said she has been analyzing many of the decisions made over the last 14 years and has talked to stakeholders to help her understand what needs to be done. She went over some recent accomplishments with the board:

“We’ve conferred more than 1,100 degrees and certificates in 2016,” she said. “We had more students in the fall than we thought we were going to have. We’ve had an opportunity to open our doors to students though our GECA (Gilroy Early College Academy) program and our non-credit programs. We have a community-based adult school consortium called Gavilan Aces that involves all of our district area. And, I’m proud to say that two weeks ago we received word that we have been awarded our third federal STEM grant, which will be $1.5 million over the next five years in partnership with San Jose State.”

Over a five-year period, the college experienced growth in terms of its majors, Rose noted.

“You’ve been hearing a lot about what we’re doing in Coyote Valley,” she said. “We are moving the Public Safety Training South Bay Regional Consortium to Coyote in January. The Public Safety Training Consortium at Gavilan that it’s a part of, is a large collaborative that provides testing for most of the public safety training on the Central Coast.”

Rose described upcoming upgrades to the campus, including the swimming pool, which is being refurbished because of a major leak. It will reopen next summer. She said winter intersession courses are being expanded and the spring schedule will be expanded to include Monday through Friday classes, as well as accelerated classes.

“Our future vision, of course, includes San Benito County and Fairview Corners (college-owned land at the corner of Fairview Road and Highway 25),” she said. “I have been on the job only 100 days and Fairview Corners has been an ongoing topic. Every time I go out to Ridgemark for a meeting, I look at that piece of land and wonder what our future will be. Our board is continually talking with me about that and we’re continually talking about our instructional purposes at Fairview Corners.”

Supervisor Anthony Botelho thanked Rose for introducing herself to the board and going over the plans for the college. He told her that while there seems to be a lot of activity in Santa Clara County, a lot of San Benito County’s money continues to go north, rather than staying in the county.

“We have seven locations giving uncredited classes,” he said. “What is it going to take to have credited classes and some development on Fairview Corners?”

Rose said that is the No. 1 question that she’s asked when she comes to Hollister, and is the first question she asked the Measure E Oversight Committee when she became president.

“We purchased the land and I read all the documents of Measure E. I saw the original intent was to build a university center at Fairview Corners and to bring the development of a complete campus to Fairview Corners,” she said. “It’s very clear to me that was the original intent, but the funding is not there to support a university center. University center concepts are not done anymore. I don’t know if they were even done in 2003.”

What she does know, Rose said, is that looking at the educational programs that are offered, along with the density of the population and the master education plan, she will have the demographics she needs to work with the board to determine what educational programs will best support the building of facilities at the Fairview location.  

A subcommittee is studying how to bring instructional content first and also see what is going on with housing development in the area. Rose said work continues with Fish & Wildlife on mitigation issues with the property.

Supervisor Jaime De La Cruz, who went to the college and years later was on its board of trustees, said that when he was attending Gavilan, it provided the best teachers and mentors, and students had easy access.

“Gavilan College is important in San Benito County and I remember the discussions we had about Measure E,” he said. “I remember some of the discussions were that a Gavilan College educational facility was going to be built on the west side of Hollister, and not on Fairview Road.”

Supervisor Jerry Muenzer said he had many concerns about the college. He said a former trustee had told him that a university center would never be built on Fairview.

“There’s the perception that much of our money that was due to San Benito County went elsewhere within the district,” he said. “San Benito County gave up its junior college in the 60s to become part of Gavilan District and there’s talk now of leaving the district to create our own college. The perception out there is that our concerns have fallen on deaf ears. If you want to be of service to San Benito County, you need to deal with these perceptions.”

Supervisor Robert Rivas described the relationship between the community and the college as fractured.

“In all honesty, this community really is the foundation of Gavilan College if you look at the people who attend the college,” he said. “The college benefits from our community. The satellite campus here is useful. Any opportunities to expand and improve these services in the downtown area would be greatly appreciated.”

Hollister resident Marty Richman, a vocal critic of the way Measure E funds were diverted to Santa Clara County, said that in the modern world, if you’re a critic of something, then you must hate it.

“I don’t hate it; I want it to do better,” he said. “Originally, you only needed a 500 full-time student equivalence to open an education center. The reason this didn’t happen was it went up to 1,000. My concern is we’re going to sit around for 10 years, then they’re going to open it up and the state is going to say it’s 1,500.”

He suggested that if nothing is going to be built at Fairview, perhaps it should be sold to get back the $8 million it cost.

“That land is not going to educate one single person over the next 10 years,” he said. “I understand that the trustees put the money in Coyote Valley because they were chasing money. They thought there was going to be a huge development there, but that fell through. Now they’re scrambling and they came up with the training facility for the police department. That was never in the original plan.”

Richman said that despite violating Proposition 39 (California Clean Energy Job Act) and a lack of willingness to sue the district, officials still need to do the right thing, which is to provide more education closer to Hollister.

“The more you offer closer to home, the more people you get,” he said. “Yes, you can get in a bus or car and go there, but it wears you out if you’re working for a living.”

Speaking as a private citizen, rather than the county clerk-auditor-recorder, Joe Paul Gonzalez said he was glad to hear Rose discuss the student warranty issue.

“That issue has been one of the biggest problems at Gavilan College,” he said. “Classes are announced, then they’re too small and they get canceled. My son’s coursework was delayed because of the critical classes that were canceled and he wasn’t able to complete the work within the two-year program, and he extended an additional year. I’m glad that the students can now trust the college to stand by the classes that they announced they were going to teach. That will bring more students to rely on the campus to provide the coursework they need to go onto a four-year university.”

John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a freelance photojournalist with additional experience as a copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter, and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer, having worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John worked as a scriptwriting consultant, and his own script, "God's Club," was produced and released in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime, which are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: [email protected]