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GILROY
– Gilroy residents won’t be electing a Gavilan College trustee
from their area on this year’s ballot. But Gilroyans will cast
ballots for trustees running for San Benito County and Morgan Hill
area seats on the Gavilan Board.
GILROY – Gilroy residents won’t be electing a Gavilan College trustee from their area on this year’s ballot. But Gilroyans will cast ballots for trustees running for San Benito County and Morgan Hill area seats on the Gavilan Board.

Seven candidates are vying to be part of the community college brass. Three seats are open. A fourth open seat belongs to incumbent Deb Smith, a Gilroy resident who is running unopposed. Smith will be re-appointed to her seat by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors before her term starts in January.

Trustee Area 2 (Morgan Hill)

When asked if three terms on the Gavilan Board were enough, incumbent Laura Perry answered a resounding “No. Three terms are not enough.”

Perry said it is important to have continuity on the board, especially after the retirement last year of trustee Jean Ottmar and the death of trustee George Champion. She and fellow trustee Elvira Robinson from the Hollister area offer that sense of history to the board, Perry said.

Perry said she is concerned with the budget cuts the state has inflicted on the community college system.

“In 1992 when I was first elected,” Perry said, “there was a serious budget problem and we had to lay off people. I don’t want to ever do that again.” And that is the primary reason Perry is running again.

Perry is proudest of opening the Hollister and Morgan Hill satellite sites during her 10-year tenure in office. Her greatest Gavilan-related disappointment is that the image of the college “has not been enhanced.”

She said the image is “OK” in Hollister but not in Gilroy and it is especially bad in Morgan Hill.

“I don’t think Morgan Hill sees Gavilan as part of the community,” Perry said.

Retired IBM engineering manager Mark Hinkle was interested in serving on education boards, and considered running for Morgan Hill School Board but decided, instead, to give Perry some competition.

Hinkle, who is on the statewide board of the Libertarian Party, said his previous elected experience is limited to homeroom senator in high school but has run for the Gavilan board twice, the last time two years ago. He describes the Libertarian philosophy as maximizing personal freedom – the price of which is responsibility.

Why is he running again?

“In part I have the time; in part I got interested when I read the Master Plan (two years ago) and discovered that one-third of the student body had a (grade point) average of 1.0 or below. If that’s still a concern, it needs to be addressed.”

Gavilan says this is no longer the case.

Hinkle said he has experience dealing with budgets as a high-tech manager.

“Budgets will be a key issue. I have a fair number of contacts around Silicon Valley so I can work with businesses for tours, resources.

“Any cuts must not be directly related to student education,” he said.

Trustee Area 3 (San Benito County)

With state budget crunches and community colleges statewide taking financial hits, James De La Cruz feels that the most valuable assets he can offer to Gavilan College are his skills and experience in accounting.

And that is why the accountant is running for one of two open seats on the Gavilan College Board of Trustees for Area 3.

De La Cruz, who was vice president of finance for the student body when he attended the community college, said trustees took out $1 million in reserves last year to meet the budget for the fiscal year and will have to make more decisions about future cuts.

“For the next couple of years, the Gavilan College Board of Trustees is going to face some really tough decisions in terms of budget and academics,” De La Cruz said. “What I can bring is accounting expertise when the time comes for the budget process. I also bring experience as a student in 1991.”

De La Cruz said Gavilan should look for other sources of revenue so the college does not have to spend so much of its resources.

With a life spent teaching at public schools, educational consultant and documentary filmmaker Ruben Lopez is passionate about education, which he says empowers people.

“Education is power. Knowledge is power,” he said. “Gavilan has a good program and I’d like to see it stay that way, but I don’t believe in the old saying, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ I feel if it ain’t broke make it better, and that’s what I want to do.”

“I care about the fact I can do something to help other people who have miscued or misstepped along the way,” Lopez said. “They need an opportunity to get back on track. I want to see these kids go on to four-year schools.”

If elected, Lopez wants to see Gavilan College increase its fund raising, something he says is available now. One idea he has is to create an alumni association so wealthy graduates such as 49er quarterback Jeff Garcia may want to donate funds to the school.

When a member of the Gavilan College Board of Trustees retired last year, members appointed Lucha Ortega, now the Hollister resident is vying to win the Area 3 seat outright.

Ortega, who worked as an administrator for Gavilan Student Services from 1991 to 1997, is a product of the community college system which vaulted her to achieve a doctorate in educational leadership where she did her doctorate work on California community colleges.

“I have a very comprehensive knowledge of the community college system and how it works,” Ortega said. “I’m familiar with the mission, philosophy and values.

“The type of students you find there are predominantly economically and educationally disadvantaged and some older people who have full-time jobs and take the weekends or evenings to pursue education. We have a full array of students, all the way from high school graduates to the adult population.”

If re-elected, budget responsibility will be one of Ortega’s priorities. Ortega would also like to address the issue of increased access to resources available at the college.

As a full-time student at Gavilan College, Rito Ramirez feels that he can offer a student’s perspective to the Gavilan College Board of Trustees for Area 3.

And his first order of business if elected would be to expand communication between the students, Board and faculty of the college.

“There’s a big miscommunication between the Board, the faculty and the students,” Ramirez said. “The Board expects people to come to public meetings, but sometimes that’s impossible. The Board should be brought into the 21 century and at least e-mail everyone, take the initiative. I want to have them come to campus and ask students what they feel.”

Ramirez would also like to see the Hollister branch of the college expand by increasing the number of available classes.

“For Hollister, we have the Briggs Building, but the college needs to look at expanding out here where the growth is,” he said. “For the future we need the campus to come this way and also in Morgan Hill.”

“My biggest concern is the students because Board decisions affect them and of course the instructors, but I want to ask them what they think or perhaps what we should cut if it comes to that. Because we’re there, because we need them, not the other way around. I want to put the ‘I’ back in community so that it’s ‘you and I,’ not ‘I’ and ‘I.'”

Elvira Robinson has served on the Gavilan College Board of Trustees for Area 3 for the past 12 years and is running for yet another term.

Robinson, who helped establish the Latino Advisory Committee to the Gavilan president, said she is a voice for the Latinos who attend the college.

And if re-elected, Robinson would like to establish long-term goals for the Hollister Gavilan campus since the facility is currently at capacity, she said.

“I’d like to see long-range planning here in Hollister because of the distance students have to drive (to Gilroy),” she said.

The largest obstacle the Board will face in the coming years is budget cuts, Robinson said.

“We’re not going to be receiving the money we have been receiving in recent years,” she said. “We’re going to have to look at cutting back programs and classes and sections. We’re going to have to do that with staff, administration and the Board. We need input from all staff and campus.”

She proposes that the Board can help find funding in other areas to lessen the impacts of budget shortfalls at Gavilan. Robinson also wants to help develop programs to help graduates rise above minimum wage jobs.

“I want to make sure we have programs that prepare students for jobs beyond minimum wage, to have them make a decent living when they leave our campus,” she said.

Robinson says that with her 12 years of experience, she has knowledge of the issues facing the community college.

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