CONTRA COSTA -- With state dollars dwindling and key tax measures facing voters in November's election, the six candidates vying for two Contra Costa Community College District board seats all agree the funding morass is the biggest issue facing the colleges.
The district -- including Contra Costa, Los Medanos and Diablo Valley colleges, and two satellite campuses in San Ramon and Brentwood -- could lose about $9 million if Proposition 30 fails in the Nov. 6 election. The district, which serves about 62,000 students annually, has also floated Measure A, an $11 per parcel tax that would generate about $4 million a year for the district.
Budget constraints are the key issue for these candidates.
In Ward 2, which represents Walnut Creek, Lamorinda and parts of West County, incumbent Tomi Van de Brooke is running for her third term against Saint Mary's College professor Tom Cleveland and former Martinez school board member Vicki Gordon.
Van de Brooke, who ran unsuccessfully in June for a Contra Costa supervisor's seat, has been a community college district trustee since 2005. The board's fiscal prudence has allowed it to build a reserve of more than 23 percent, and professors are teaching about 2,000 more students than they are paid to serve, she said.
Passing Prop. 30 and Measure A are critical, but the district must also address a student achievement gap and prepare for changing demographics.
"Providing support services to students who come with either or both academic and economic challenges is critical to the community colleges," she wrote in an email. "These students often require support services in the form of tutoring, counseling and basic skills courses."
With chancellor Helen Benjamin nearing retirement, finding a capable successor will be a new board's responsibility, she said.
Cleveland wants to find innovative ways to expand class availability, such as more night classes, online courses and hybrid online-classroom courses.
"Faculty salaries have to be adjusted to retain full-time and part-time quality teachers," he wrote in an email. Administrators and student employees also need to be compensated for good work.
The CPA -- who has audited city of San Francisco and Peralta community college districts in his career -- hopes to find alternative funding separate from the state.
Gordon, a former middle school teacher, hopes to boost the district's vocation and apprenticeship programs.
"We need to aggressively seek out and create partnerships with businesses and continue to look for grants such as the $14 million 'Design, Build, Ship' that we just received from the federal government," she wrote in an email.
The district can save money by trimming energy costs and consolidating services at the main and satellite campuses, Gordon said.
"PDF files and use of cloud computing are a fast and inexpensive way to quickly obtain vital information on student learning and not repeat the expensive and time-consuming diagnostic tests and assessments these students have already taken," she wrote.
Trustee Robert Calone is not running for re-election for Ward 5, which represents East County. Three candidates are vying for the four-year post -- education program analyst De'Shawn Woolridge, Heald College professor Greg Enholm and trade publication editor Daniel Borsuk.
Woolridge hopes to bridge the gap between high school students and the district by integrating and aligning courses. The 21-year-old also hopes to start a digital textbook program and modify the existing Textbook on Reserve Program to save students and their parents money. He also supports a transportation program alloting free and discounted bus and BART tickets to students.
"We have little influence on what the funding will be before it reaches the district," he wrote in an email. "We need to manage the budget very carefully and with openness."
Enholm pumped Measure A and Proposition 30, saying a loss would "result in denial of admission to thousands of qualified students and a substantial reduction of about 500 courses districtwide."
Turning the Brentwood satellite facility into a full-fledged community college should be a priority, he said.
"Now is the time for current leaders to recognize that far East County residents ... deserve that the district commit to building a full 110-acre community college eventually to become the equal of CCC, LMC and DVC," he wrote in an email. He recommended funding of the Brentwood satellite office be used for such a project.
Borsuk, who served on the Contra Costa County Board of Education for 20 years, from 1990 into 2010, said he would find public, private and nonprofit funding if elected, and then tackle labor issues.
"As a former union member and steward, I would promote improved labor-administration relations by reviewing ways the district can best use reserves, on tackling the issue of paying competitive faculty salaries and when it is time to hire more full-time faculty," Borsuk wrote in an email.
Borsuk said he hopes to find new sources of revenue through federal and state legislative channels and the business sector. The public's trust needs to be restored, he wrote, because the board is influenced by special interests.
Six candidates are vying for two trustee posts in Ward 2 and 5 for the district that includes Contra Costa, Los Medanos and Diablo Valley colleges.
DANIEL L. BORSUK
TOMI DIANE VAN DE BROOKE