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Election 2018: Gavilan Community College Trustee Areas 5 and 7

Two seats up on the community college board that serves Santa Clara County and San Benito County.
Richard Perez. Photo provided.
Jeanie Wallace. Photo provided.
Michael Alcorn. Photo provided.
Irma Gonzalez. Photo provided.

There are two candidates running for Area 5 of the Gavilan Board of Trustees and two candidates for Area 7. Gavilan College serves both San Benito and Santa Clara Counties.

 

Area 5

Richard Perez Sr. is 15-year resident of San Benito County. He is married with two sons and he operates a travel business full-time. He is involved with several committees including San Benito County Parks Commissions and has worked to get a new library built.

BENITOLINK: Why are you running for this office?

PEREZ: I think it is important we get different ideas and become more collaborative within our own community. I think what we need here is diversity, we need to be able to embrace change and we need to be able to help one another get to that quality of life that we all deserve.

What issues are most important to your district?

I am an advocate for having local facilities and Gavilan has put off putting in local facilities until they recently requested a new bond. I think it is really important for people in the community to have a seat at the table so we can redirect funds to local facilities that are going to help enhance our educational system. I want to be able to advocate for residents here so they are not having to travel to Gilroy to get those classes. The kids that don’t have it here are the ones who don’t have reliable transportation or the means to get there. Without the education they will be left to suffer the burden of poverty.

What obstacles and challenges does the district face?

I think the biggest challenge right now is being able to make residents see they have a very important role to play in any election. A lot of people are disenfranchised, they don’t proactively look at solutions during election time. If we want change, we have to be the change.

What is the role of local government?

It is complicated. I think they have to be ambassadors, creating dialog in the community. They have to be able to collaborate with different points of view and be able to come up with solutions. Local government here is not as open to different opinions as they should be. Local government needs to be better equipped to locate resources that are going to benefit the community and be able to explain what their vision is. The role of local government should always be to serve the people of the community.

 

Jeanie Wallace has lived in San Benito County for 24 years. She teaches at Sobrato High School in Morgan Hill. She has been a teacher since 1985 and has been the staff representative on the Morgan Hill Federation of Teachers.

BENITOLINK: Why are you running for this office?

WALLACE: When I read an article in the Free Lance stating that there were a number of local offices on the ballot for which no one had filed papers. One of them was the Gavilan Board of Trustees. I thought about all the times I had tried to find qualified and thoughtful people to run for school board in Morgan Hill, and also about how I tell my own Civics students that "democracy is not a spectator sport." Given that I am considering retiring soon, it just seemed like I should step forward.

What issues are most important to your district?

I'd have to say the expansion of Gavilan College classes and services at the Hollister satellite campus is an important issue. There is limited space available in the [Brigg’s] building, of course, and it is my understanding that the classrooms there are pretty fully utilized. But we could use a space for students to gather, study, communicate, and just have the experience of being at college, even while they are off the main campus. I will promote finding a way to do that.

In the next year, it is expected that construction will begin on the new Hollister satellite campus. This will be a wonderful addition to our community, as well as to Gavilan itself. As a trustee, I will wholeheartedly support expediting this construction (of course within the bounds of environmental responsibility and safety considerations).

In addition to this, Hollister has a considerable number of residents who did not have the opportunity to pursue an education in their youth, especially those who have come here as migrant workers. And there are a lot of young people who do not want to pursue an academic career, but who are interested in vocational training. I am in favor of outreach to these members of our community.

What obstacles and challenges does the district face?

I think we are well off, in the grand scheme of things. Gavilan is a wonderful community college, with some outstanding programs. It has a strong administration, and is already addressing the biggest needs, in my opinion. Of course, the community college budget, like the K-12 budget, has been repeatedly slashed since the passage of Prop 13 in 1978, and funding for programs continues to be a problem. So that means that difficult choices have to be made every year.

For students and potential students in our community, one of the biggest challenges is simply the fact that the main campus is somewhat distant. I think we could benefit from expanded public transportation between Hollister and the main campus. Even after the new Hollister campus opens, we do need to encourage students to take classes on the main campus, where they can interact with the larger student community, and the full range of instructors, and take advantage of all the facilities and programs that are to be found there.

What is the role of local government?

I think that local government is supposed to promote and protect the interests of all of the local residents. More specifically, this means providing services that will elevate the standard of living of the entire community. And especially, it means undertaking challenges that individuals cannot reasonably accomplish alone. We all benefit when each person among us has a decent quality of life, and an opportunity for lifelong growth.
 

Area 7

Michael Alcorn has been a resident almost 20 years. He is the father of two and works in the software industry. He understands the financial stress families can feel raising children and putting them through college.

BENITOLINK: Why are you running for this office?

ALCORN: I want to work towards the Fairview campus. The reason I got into this was to bring a campus to this community. We should do more vocational classes; community colleges are not just a road to four-year institutions. There are a lot of different needs.

What issues are most important to your district?

Education affordability. People are feeling very slighted by the Measure E spending. They feel cheated. The education is not local, and it is hardship to get to it. A campus would be a economical bonus for the community. It will bring in businesses and state money.

What obstacles and challenges does the district face?

We have to keep people focused on their priorities. We have to justify our needs just as Coyote campus did. We need to have our voices heard, we need to have facts and figures. We have to get vocal, get it into the news media. I am not into having more classes, I am into having a campus. We want promises kept.

What is the role of local government?

It is not an abstraction like state level or federal level. It really impacts people. Kind of like the police, "to serve and protect". We are out in the community working with the people.      

 

Irma Gonzalez moved to San Benito County when she was one year old. She has four children and she and her husband ran a bakery for over 20 years. She has worked for Hollister School District and does website design.

BENITOLINK: Why are you running for this office?

GONZALEZ: In 2004 Measure E promised in-part permanent classrooms for San Benito County. Fourteen years later, San Benito County has no permanent facility and an overpaid vacant piece of land to show for this county’s buy-in for this debt burden. Now, voters are being asked to pass another bond measure but this time for $248 million. Again, the Gavilan College District is promising classrooms, labs and facilities for San Benito County.

Like in 2004, Gavilan says a Citizens’ Oversight Committee will ensure that we will know how and when the money will be spent. San Benito County taxpayers already paid for those classrooms but now we are being asked to pay for them again. San Benito County is fourteen years behind schedule. We really need those classrooms for our kids and all of our residents. As a candidate for Gavilan College District #7, I bring to the table my commitment to make the construction of those classrooms here in San Benito County my top priority; my commitment to advocate on behalf of my community for fairness, and to bring accountability, along with my vision for planning for the future. Our children and grandchildren are our future, as parents and grandparents we owe it to them to offer them a better and brighter future where their educational pursuits can become a reality. Full-time working mothers, students, and adults deserve to have the ability to pursue not only a two-year but also a four-year educational degree, here in San Benito County that will afford them the opportunity to improve their social economic status.

What issues are most important to your district?

Lack of a permanent Community College Education Center in San Benito County: With increased growth and traffic congestion, the commute times are getting longer and longer to the main Gilroy campus . As a graduate of Gavilan Community College and a mother of four, I understand the urgency of having a local college with an expanded class offering that meets the educational needs of a rapidly growing San Benito County population.

Outreach Gap: There is an absence of outreach to San Benito County residents. Putting in place an aggressive marketing campaign along with financial incentives to up the enrollment numbers would benefit both our county and the district. Due to this lack of marketing, many classes are advertised and then have to be dropped due to low enrollment.

Emphasis on Technology Curriculum:  It is no secret that the High Tech industry will, no doubt, soon have an eye on the expansive landscape of this County when considering expansion. Like it or not, the future lies in technological innovation. We must ready our student population and our existing workforce for the jobs of the future that will be locating in San Benito County.

What obstacles and challenges does the district face?

Credibility Gap: For local residents the most important issue is the lack of credibility that the Gavilan College District has with San Benito County taxpayers. This credibility gap was brought to the forefront with the placement of Measure X on the November 6, 2018 ballot by the District Board. Bridging this credibility gap without forsaking investing in the education of our children and grandchildren is our challenge to meet. Perhaps, the passage of a resolution by the Gavilan College District Board declaring the commitment to the construction of the San Benito County educational center as their top priority in funding of projects might be a first official gesture of recognition of this credibility gap.

Low Graduation Rates: The district faces numerous obstacles. Among them, low graduation rates, finding the right incentives and support to help incentivize students to stay in school until they graduate.   

What is the role of local government?

A community college responds to the educational needs of its community. One of its major roles is to provide affordable postsecondary education as a pathway to a four-year degree. Every community college is represented by an elected board of trustees who are responsible to the citizens of its district. Community colleges only succeed if they are appropriately responsive to the needs of the communities that they serve. Locally elected trustees ensure that community colleges continually update their programs and services to meet evolving educational needs. No other educational institution can match the commitment and impact of community colleges on their local communities. When a community college succeeds, the entire community succeeds in reaping its just rewards.

 

Jason Hopkins has withdrawn from the race, citing pressure of working his day job while running for office.

 

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About:
Carmel de Bertaut (Carmeldb)

I have a BA in Natural Science, a minor in environmental studies and an AA in communications studies. I have worked as an ecologist and as a writer.

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