Gavilan College Trustee Lois Locci is expected to step down from her position on the community college board later this year. This leaves an open seat on the board in the new district system set to take effect this November. Anyone interested in running for the position has until August 10 to file with the San Benito County Registrar of Voters.
Dr. Locci taught English and Intercultural Communication at De Anza College in Cupertino, adding a second career as chair of the education department of UC Extension, providing professional development for teachers K-14 in four counties and three countries. Also at UC, Dr. Locci led the development of Advanced Placement and honors courses for the University of California College Prep Online until retiring in 2012. She serves on the BenitoLink board and in December 2014 started a four-year term as Trustee for Gavilan Joint Community College District.
Locci recently spoke with BenitoLink about her time on the Gavilan board, the lack of a real campus in San Benito County, and the potential $248 million college bond measure that could wind up before voters this November.
How long have you served on the Gavilan College Board of Trustees? How did you get involved?
Lois Locci: I was elected in 2014. I felt a natural draw towards Gavilan because I taught at De Anza College for years before I started a second career with the University of California.
What area of the college district do you represent?
I ran as an at-large candidate which means I have represented every resident in 2,700 square miles including south San Jose, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, and San Benito County towards Coalinga. In 2015, Gavilan moved to elections by district which takes effect for the first time this November 2018. There are seven districts and the elected trustee this November will serve a much smaller segment in District 7 which forms a “U” north up Fairview Road, south of the City of Hollister and towards Coalinga, north again to Aromas and San Juan Bautista.
Why are you not seeking reelection this year?
I feel I have done what I came to do.
What have been some of the biggest accomplishments of the board of trustees during your time there? What have been some of the biggest challenges?
I would name three key accomplishments that have advanced Gavilan. They are the move to district-level voting, the placement of Dr. Kathleen Rose as Superintendent-President, and the execution of the last phase of Measure E construction. These are actions directly attributed to trustees and our role, yet the college has taken major strides forward by the relentless efforts of faculty and staff, for example, designing new career programs, providing intense student support, and expanding science lab sections in San Benito County at Maze Middle School and San Benito High School.
Where do you stand on the Fairview Corners issue and the lack of a real campus in San Benito County?
I ran in November 2014, motivated in part by the tension in the community about the Measure E bond that did not result in any building activity at the proposed campus for San Benito County at Airline Highway and Fairview Road. While I have been as frustrated as fellow residents by this, it turns out there never has been habitat permission to build at Fairview Corners, this despite every effort by the District. This means Gavilan could not have started any building projects, even now after waiting 10 years. Unfortunately, what people want to interpret as a breach of trust, or a nefarious plot, is in fact the result of hard reality blasting away at the best of intentions and the best laid plans of all involved. Yet the record—the facts of the case—may not matter so much to people who feel offended, hurt, disappointed, disregarded or to those who take a strident position regarding the location of a future campus.
Where do you stand on the potential $248 million general obligation bond that could go on the ballot in November? Do you anticipate local support here in San Benito County despite the issue with Measure E funds being diverted to a campus in Coyote that created distrust among the public?
It’s important to clarify that the trustees have not yet decided. We are carefully analyzing survey results, monitoring bond deliberations of other school districts in our service area, and chatting with residents and thought leaders throughout the region. I can say with confidence that we work thoughtfully and will decide based on the best information available.
If we trustees vote to place a general obligation bond on the November 2018 ballot, I trust voters will keep in mind the young people who should be able to take the greater portion of their school programs right here in San Benito County and then one day complete a full degree without commuting on a dangerous Highway 25. A California community college is an economic gift that sustains over time, stimulating local commerce and reducing the cost of higher education for 2.1 million students statewide. At the current University of California yearly cost for tuition and housing, a community college transfer student saves $200,000 before graduating with a four-year degree. Most ardently, I trust voters will not want to punish the District for past actions, both real and imagined, and rather support the future of our young people and our community. Frankly, I fear that without bond dollars, we will not see an educational center, let alone a full campus, for many, many years to come.
What requirements does a candidate for board of trustees need to meet?
I would encourage U.S. citizens (who must be registered to vote) to visit the County of San Benito Registrar of Voters, 440 Fifth Street, Second Floor, Room 206, Hollister, CA 95023 to chat with the professionals there to verify eligibility starting with residence in District 7. You can also do this online at www.sbcvote.us. You will want to heed their advice about the rules; they can keep you clear of land mines.
I want to say first that one does not need to have experience in higher education to be a successful trustee. It does require, however, willingness to attend training sessions at the college and in Sacramento, sometimes out of state, and to build a strong understanding of a trustee’s role. While trustees are elected, the job is less that of a politician, more akin to a financial advisor with fiduciary responsibility. Voters depend on trustees to watch the store on their behalf and to make decisions both wise and defendable. It also requires the habits of a confidential communicator; there are topics that simply must be kept private, for example, personnel actions. Positive attitudes toward negotiation and consensus building are most helpful. Ranting and raving doesn’t work well.
Anything else you'd like to add?
I’ve attached a document that fleshes out my understanding of some of the topics of contention that emerged over the years. These include the purchase of Fairview Corners, the Coyote Valley Educational Center, and the Academy.
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