Co-curricular programs need more protection

Here is an exercise straight out of “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Imagine Southwestern College never existed.

Science fiction’s iconic television series”Babylon 5” might not exist, nor any of the brilliant screenplays created by its gifted writer J. Michael Straczynski. Latin music superstar, songwriter and producer Julieta Venegas and her half dozen Grammy Awards might never have found voice. John Fox, a Super Bowl coach, and former Charger’s defensive tackle Ogemdi Sharron Nwagbuo could be selling footballs at Wal-Mart. Seattle Mariners clean-up hitter John Jaso might be sweeping out Taco Bell. Telemundo sports anchor Humberto Gurmilan might never have seen his way beyond his wheelchair. Ayded Reyes would likely have been deported.

Luckily this sample of brilliantly talented students began their journeys at SWC and had faculty who cared about them.

Straczynski began writing and producing plays here. Venegas wrote songs and perfected her performance skills in the SWC music department. Nwagbuo earned All-Conference honors as a sophomore when he recorded 55 tackles and 10 sacks. Fox played football on the same field. Now he is head coach of the Denver Broncos. California’s top-ranked 2011 community college cross-country runner Ayded Reyes is now on a full university scholarship and training for the 2016 U. S. Olympic team. Jaso played for iconic baseball coach Jerry Bartow. Gurmilan was News Editor of The Sun and a forensics star.

California’s theatre, sports, television media, journalism, arts and communication programs are being slashed and burned, all to balance the budget of a cash-starved higher educational system.

It is not a new story, but it is a sad one. America repeatedly stamps out enriching programs in tough economic times and seems doomed to let bad history repeat itself. Leaders in government and education making these decisions are doing so by dollars and cents. What we need is a way to budget this one-sidedness with dollars and sense.

SWC has some elite programs. Its Mariachi Garibaldi is the best collegiate mariachi on the planet Earth. Period. SWC’s brilliant Concert Choir is soon to add the Festival of the Aegean on the Greek Island of Syros to its long list of invitations. And the college’s journalism program is winning state, national and international awards. Its newspaper is ranked #1 in competition against cream of the crop universities across the nation.

For a college that few people in the nation know exists, co-curricular programs are ambassadors to the wider world and sources of pride for our challenged community. These programs inspire students to spend hours and hours working above and beyond to excel. Some enriching programs are expensive, but if our government and college administrators put in 10 percent of the time and effort that the students do to make these programs a success, our nation and our college would be humming.

Here is my challenge to SWC leadership. Do not settle for clichéd, two-dimensional thinking. Do not think you can cut your way out of our dilemma. Do not preside over the diminishment of this great college.

It is time to stop thinking like bean counters balancing books and save these programs with the spirit of entrepreneurs. Rather than paying expensive consultants, invest in grant writers to help the professors that spend endless unpaid hours begging for money to keep their programs afloat.

Ask even more from our dedicated Educational Foundation. Holding a gala every year to support student scholarships is terrific, but creating an event where proceeds spread across special programs can be just as valuable to student success. Our Associated Student Organization works to fund campus clubs that contribute to the community, but virtually nothing to support programs that invest in our students’ futures. Money is out there and many philanthropists are looking for viable programs to invest in. Build the programs, invest in organizing college and faculty alumni and start thinking outside the box to find a way. Many students’ livelihoods depend on it. Our nation depends on it.

It is time to stop treating these programs as burdens of a budget and celebrate them as gateways to the community and the world. It is possible that a future president, queen of country music, national watchdog reporter, hall of fame baseball player, Oscar-winning film director or concert violinist is spending hours investing in their future in one of SWC’s special programs.

When making fiscal decisions that affect student learning outcomes, remember this: If there is no way in, there is no path to success.


Director returns from war to battle for students

Written by: Albert Fulcher / Campus Editor

December 19, 2012


Courtesy Photos/ U. S. Navy Reservist, Lt. Cmdr. Luís Nuñez Jr.

Dry freezing temperatures and a whole lot of snow.

Dressed in full battle rattle—an armored protective vest, M4 semiautomatic rifle, a Beretta M9 semiautomatic pistol at the side, a Kevlar battle helmet, ballistic eyewear, strap cutters, tourniquets and several magazines in clear reach.

For U. S. Navy Reservist, Lt. Cmdr. Luís Nuñez Jr., that was last Christmas in Afghanistan.

It was at a spring administrative retreat training when Nuñez, director of the Medical Lab Technician (MLT) program at the National City HEC, received a phone call from his captain with news that he was “tagged” to go to Afghanistan. With less than eight weeks to prepare, he began to get his affairs in order, both at home and at the college.

“I was in shock,” Nuñez said. “I knew I would eventually be tagged. My orders came in the first week of June with a reporting date of active duty in July.”

Before he knew it he found himself in a hot, sticky Louisiana summer at Fort Polk for 10 weeks of rigorous combat training.

“We would qualify in weapons training then go into simulations out in the field,” he said. “We had IED training with simulated explosions. They had towns set up like in Afghanistan as they threw scenarios at us. They observed how we handled it, how we fired, when we called in for troops. They even had helicopters come in for evacuation drills, dealing with casualties, combat.”

Following active duty for 14 years, both as enlisted then as an officer, Nuñez began reserve duty in 2008. His background includes service as a Navy corpsman lab technician and Medical Service Corps lab officer. He said he had basic combat training as a former corpsman and a lab technician, but the intense combat training was more than he expected.

“I did fairly well with the transition to full combat readiness,” he said. “But the training they had there goes above and beyond what I would normally go through, or what a doctor or nurse would.”

Nuñez said his first stop was in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where his team split up. He soon was bound for Kabul. He said the capital of Afghanistan, with a population of about 4 million, was biblical at first sight.

“I saw so much poverty it was a shock,” he said. “People were herding sheep through the city, dirt everywhere, and dust and mud holes. The level of poverty they lived in was nothing I had seen before. I realize that there are different levels of poverty throughout the world, but I think it is more so in Kabul.”

Nuñez worked with the Medical Training Advisory Group in a mentorship program at the National Military Hospital of Kabul, a 400-bed facility built in the late 1970s by the Russians.

Nuñez said working in full body armor and being armed at all times was rigorous. Even the 400 meters to and from the compound to the hospital was dangerous. A force protection team comprised of the National Guard escorted them.

“They were all over the compound and in constant communications with the teams and there were several times we had to evacuate,” he said. “When threats were coming in, or gunfire in the background, unsure of where it was coming from, we would have to get out of the building and back to base.”

Picture8Nuñez went out on several convoys as part of the NATO team that took him to the opposite side of the city.

“We had to keep our combat skills up with quick reaction drills,” he said. “Or we would go to the large NATO base and meet with our leadership team. We didn’t mingle with the Afghans out in the streets, only with members of the Afghan National Army.”

His entire team was medical professionals. Americans, Canadians and Greeks worked together training Afghan professionals in every aspect of medical care and procedures. Interpreters translated everything into Dari, including documents. Nuñez said the Afghans had the knowledge, but as a population did not believe much in written procedure.

Teams trained and developed written procedures for the operation of all parts of the medical field, holding all hospitals accountable to a higher standard in procedures.

Col. Quadir, Nuñez’s Afghan counterpart, had 30 years of military service and worked with several previous American mentors. Quadir created a validation team of medical professional experts that traveled to the five regional hospitals with a standardized checklist for each part of the hospital. They would grade the hospitals on a number scale, determining if they could operate facilities without NATO support.

Nuñez said after six months of intense training they were able to start turning responsibilities over to their Afghan counterparts.

“The U.S. is pulling out in 2013,” he said. “And the training group grew smaller and smaller. At the height of my arrival, we had a large team of about 60 and when I left, it was cut in half. Most of this was the work done by the American teams. As the departments became independent we would send someone back early and not send in a replacement.”

Nuñez said he did a great amount of online training in the weeks before departure, got his family affairs in order and had to be sure the MLT program continued in his absence. Myrna Bryant, a clinical chemistry instructor, said he brought two professors from Balboa Naval Hospital to fill in as director. She said the program is independent and Nuñez’s experience was central to its status as one of just two accredited MLT programs in California.

“We run a tight ship here,” she said. “We missed him and were always happy to hear he was safe as he kept in touch. We knew he would do a great job in helping the people of Afghanistan.”

Former student Alejandro Tolentino, hired by Rady Children’s Hospital to operate a small lab at a local clinic in Chula Vista before his graduation, said Nuñez models hard work, high standards and leadership as a teacher.

“He is motivated, poised, structured, methodical and on point,” he said. “When he was in Afghanistan I was honored to be class president and share his motivation and dedication to future students as well as the community. Though he was back east, we all succeeded with a 100 percent pass rate for the entire class.”

Victor La Fond, a certified MLT and former student, said when Nuñez went to Afghanistan everyone worried. He said he first met him with his 3-month-old daughter as he was deciding whether to take the program. A stringent program, Nuñez warned him it would be difficult for a young family man. La Fond said he looked at his daughter and told him, “I’ve got to do something for her.” Nuñez let him in the program.

“I’ve been in his debt from that day on,” said La Fond. “Everything in my life that I have now is because of him.”

La Fond said Nuñez challenged him to do things he never thought he could and without his thorough process, starting the program and getting it accredited, things would not be as solid for his students in the workforce.

“Professionally and personally, Luís is a great guy,” he said. “I’m buying a house thanks to my education. A nice four bedroom in a great neighborhood near an elementary school my kids will go to. I think that about sums it up.”

Nuñez said the MLT program offers an Associate’s degree for graduates as technicians in clinical hospitals.

“It is a great paying job,” he said. “Between $24 and $26 upon graduation, take a national certification exam, get a state license and 95 percent of the program’s graduates have been hired.”

After a year-long active duty tour, missing Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, his anniversary and his daughter’s sweet 16 birthday, Nuñez said June 25 has new meaning.

“I’ll never forget that day I got back,” said Nuñez. “The sacrifices we made over there, being away from our family, I don’t know how we did it. I just spent my first Thanksgiving in two years with my family. I was so thankful to sit down and break bread with them, enjoy the moment and look forward to the Christmas break.”


A new home for battle tested Old Glory

HOME FROM THE BATTLEFIELD — Lt. Cmdr. Luis Nuñez director of the SWC medical laboratory technician program, presents superintendent Dr. Melinda Nish, an American flag that was flown over Kabul, Afghanistan. The flag is displayed at the National City HEC. / Albert Fulcher 

Written by: Albert Fulcher / Campus Editor

November 28, 2012

As the sun set over the dusty Kabul sky in Afghanistan, the red, white and blue symbol of freedom flew above the U.S. forward operating base. In time-honored military fashion, Lt. Cmdr. Luis A. Nuñez Jr., U.S. Navy Reserves, saluted as the color guard started down the flag, knowing its ultimate destination would be Southwestern College.

Nuñez, program director of the medical laboratory technician program at the National City Higher Education Center (HEC), said it was significant to him that he chose the flag. He said he wanted to bring home a symbol of his yearlong duty in war-torn Afghanistan where he and his comrades established clinical laboratories.

“I chose a flag for the National City Center because the closeness I feel with my team at the college is as strong as the team I served with in Afghanistan,” he said. “It was my way of letting them know that while I was away, they were there with me.”

As Southwestern celebrated its own time-honored Veteran’s Day ceremonies, Nuñez presented his gift to Superintendent Dr. Melinda Nish.

“Receiving a flag from the field is a true honor,” she said. “It is a special symbol of recognition from Lt. Cmdr. Nuñez to all of us at Southwestern. This flag will forever be a symbol of all the contributions of veterans, past and present. On behalf of the entire Southwestern College community, I thank Luis Nuñez for this honor.”

In a smaller but emotional ceremony, Nuñez, along with Nish, brought the flag to its final destination.

Christine Perri, National City HEC dean, said the first thing that comes to her mind when she looks at the flag is that it is a privilege having Nuñez working there.

“Nuñez represents all the things filled with goodness and kindness in the world,” she said. “Through his willingness to protect our liberties and freedom here, I am grateful he is home safely.”

In traditional shadowbox fashion the red, white and blue adorns the National City HEC. A reminder that many past, present and future veterans not only serve the nation, but serve the Southwestern College community with as much honor.

Southwestern College Elections 2012

Compiled by: Albert Fulcher, Thomas Baker, Angelica Rodriguez, Amparo Mendoza, Serina Duarte, Enrique Raymundo

Humberto Peraza interview

Governing Board Vice President Humberto Peraza was appointed last August during a time of turmoil and controversy. He said he decided to run for election to the board to continue his work to reform SWC and clean up the college’s reputation following the “pay for play” scandal that led to numerous felony charges against former college administrators and board members. He is a small business owner, and formerly policy director for San Diego City Council President Ben Hueso, regional director for Senator Barbara Boxer and district chief of staff to Congressman Bob Filner.

Married with two young boys, Peraza said he has coached soccer, football and Little League baseball. His wife is also a professional.

“We are a family that is constantly on the move,” he said. “That is a full-time job in itself. My parents, my aunts and my wife’s parents all live here so our family is a South Bay family. This is our home and I want to make sure that the education is good for our kids.”

Peraza said he brings experience and knowledge of the community to the college and this has fueled his efforts to reform old policies and demand transparency.

“Ultimately, I want to do something that leaves something for our children,” he said. “I am running so that the board stays on the right track. It has pushed in the right direction and hired a new superintendent. We have done more things in one year than most boards and governmental entities have done in three or four. You have instructional, ethics and campaign reform. We started the community benefits agreement. Countless things in between are happening and have been accomplished.”

Peraza said community members still have concerns about accreditation, Proposition R and past corruption. He said the current board majority is reforming the college and that “house cleaning” continues. “(The previous) board has been completely wiped out,” he said. “There is a new superintendent in town and she wiped out the (corrupt) staff. We continue to push and create reforms.”

Peraza said it takes people of courage to stand in the face of adversity.

“I have enjoyed working with this board and the superintendent to continue changes,” he said. “It has been my honor and I would consider myself lucky if I can continue to do it for four more years. We are still in the tunnel but we can see the light at the end. Perception is important. Doing the right thing, being a transparent, open government creates trust on campus in the community. I am running to continue to make those reforms, see that finished and see Southwestern College become the shining example for the rest of the region.”

Peraza said budget is the biggest challenge today and if Proposition 30 fails SWC faces “devastating” cuts to classes and programs.

“My hope is if that Prop 30 passes, that gives us a little more flexibility to stay within the budget, to be able to handle the services for the people and the students that we service right now,” he said. “That is important to make sure that we can actually educate people and that we have the faculty, staff, teachers and counselors. I don’t think anyone can come up with a sweeping solution and if they say they can, they are lying to you. If someone has a solution for a $10 million budget cut, I would love to hear it. I think that our solutions have to be looked at long term.”

Peraza said he has advocated for revenue generation as an alternative to constant cutting. He said the stadium is an example of an underutilized college resource and could generate revenue hosting local and international professional soccer, rugby and concerts.

“I have heard from experienced educators that up to 25 community colleges will close and cease to exist if the tax initiative does not pass and that is a very scary thought,” he said. “Things (in California are) getting worse and worse.”

Peraza said Senate Bill 1456, based on the Student Success Task Force Recommendations, has good ideas but is also troubling. Passed last month, the legislation narrows the mission of community colleges to transfer and certificate attainment. It will require all incoming freshmen to declare majors and have an educational plan aimed to get them through community college in two years instead of the current average of four.

“The whole thing about having people coming in and deciding what their major is going to be and turning it into almost like a factory, you are in and out in two years, not everybody works that way,” he said. “There are many students that do not know what they want and they come to community college for exactly that reason.”

Working students have it much tougher these days, Peraza said, and cannot take as many classes as the new legislation will require.

“Some will be left out in the cold and that is my biggest concern,” he said. “Not everybody is the same. It cannot be this cookie cutter ideal that everybody fits into this one box. It doesn’t work that way.”

Speech and press freedom are essential, Peraza said. He pledged to always fight for First Amendment rights for all while he is on the board.

“Student reporters (in colleges have) freedom of the press,” he said. “To me, the free press is untouchable. It should not be impacted in any way or influenced by anyone on this campus, including myself, and the administration. There should never be a time, like the (past) administration that tried to block printing of the newspaper just because they do not like what you write.”

Peraza said he is working to introduce a local hiring process that helps veteran and disabled-owned companies.

“One of the reasons is to ensure that local people get (college construction) jobs,” he said. “People that are paying for those bonds should be the ones (who benefit). If we can do that we can revitalize our local economy rather than money going somewhere else.”

Peraza said he is able to make tough decisions.

“We need the people with the most courage,” he said. “I am not worried about where else I am going to go, or where I am going to be. I am here to make sure that students get educated when there are cuts. What is the most important thing on this campus? Educating students, period.”

William “Bud” McLeroy interview

William “Bud” McLeroy grew up in Otay Mesa and calls South Bay his home. A full-time San Diego firefighter for 22 years, he is a six-year U.S. Marine Corps veteran with 30 years service in the Army Reserves. He is a commandant (superintendent) of the 80th Training Command. He owns a small business that manufactures surfboards and is in the process of opening a Hawaiian food restaurant.

McLeroy, running for Seat 3, said he spent his entire life in service and possesses the experience, expertise and heartfelt desire to serve the college and his community.

A self-described family man with four children, McLeroy said serving SWC is important to him because he and some of his children attended the college. He said he considers it a great asset to the South Bay. Students would be his top priority, he said.

“No matter who you are, your income level, you can always count on Southwestern to give you the chance to better yourself,” he said. “In the past two years, I don’t think the college itself has been running in an organized fashion that meets its potential. Recently it has come under investigation through the legal system as far as corruption. It is being able to do the right thing for the people in the community where I grew up in.”

Former SWC administrators and board members Nick Alioto, Greg Sandoval, John Wilson, Yolanda Salcido and current employee Arlie Ricasa have been charged with felonies by the San Diego County District Attorney. Former superintendent Raj K. Chopra has fled prosecution. All except Ricasa resigned from SWC following the 2010 governing board election. Humberto Peraza, who currently holds trustee seat #3, was appointed in August 2011, after the district attorney indictments and the mass resignations.

McLeroy said he could not turn his back to the problems he saw with the college because if he did he would be turning his back on his community.

“They are in trouble,” he said. “If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t be a fireman. I wouldn’t be in the military. I want to help this community and this school as much as I can. It comes from the bottom of my heart. It is not a political move. The challenges that I see, the state has cut the funding for colleges and universities. But the colleges and the universities still want to run on the same money they did before. In order to cut so that it doesn’t affect the outcome of the students we have to know how to actually place ourselves in the position to do better.”

McLeroy said he was wounded in Iraq in 2003. After rehab he went back into the reserves. For the next three years he focused to make sure that every soldier under his command was well trained.

“I had to because upon graduation day the next year they would all be deployed to a combat zone,” he said. “I gave them the upmost in respect and the upmost in knowledge so they could survive.”

Promoted to commandant after three years, he said he retained his personal commitment to all students and that he will carry this philosophy as a college board member.

“When it comes to why I am best for the job here, I’ve done this. I have a proven track record,” he said. “Failure is not an option in my school. I don’t want you to quit. I don’t want you to give up and I don’t want you to fail.”

McLeroy lost a leg in 2003. He became the first one-legged firefighter and the first amputee service member. He said he had to set an example for his family and considers Southwestern as a part of that family.

“I can come here, evaluate and make it better so students can get a better education,” he said. “If we spend money foolishly that money can’t go to the kids. I will give every ounce of energy in my body to make sure students succeed. I have to make my school survive over the incompetence that has been here.”

McLeroy said he understands that not everyone at the college is corrupt, but said the college needs to rethink expenditures and utilize the potential of the satellite campuses.

“I learned that as a teacher, as a department head and as an administrator in the military,” he said. “I feel that I can do the job. I have done it. I am not the guy coming in that doesn’t know about the school and I am not the guy coming in that doesn’t know what is involved. I am the guy that has done it and through the grace of God has made things happen and said let’s do it here.”

McLeroy said if Proposition 30 fails everything at SWC is vulnerable and the college will be hit hard. He said it is important that whomever is elected knows how to balance a budget and understands the education system and management.

“Two years ago when I sat down in debates, I said it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” he said. “Now we are at the governor’s bill that says we have to pay taxes. If you look at all the bills that have wanted to raise taxes, people say no. The governor passed a budget stating that this bill would pass. That was wrong. I was able to raise the GPA and lower the cost of business.”

He said holding people accountable is essential and though it appears that the college is coming out of scandal, it is not.

“They are still investigating findings there,” he said. “It is easy to be corrupt when you are doing it for the wrong reason.”

He said it is not enough to “squeeze by” accreditation status and that he has the experience to deal with accreditation issues. In his experience, he said, he took his school from barely passing by to full accreditation with a Center of Excellence status.

“Being a board member, you are a leader,” he said. “We need to get away from the corruption part and actually get back into the education part. People won’t remember us for the education, they will remember us for the corruption. Part of changing that is changing the people that are in power. We just need to make a clean break. We need to build our reputation up.”

McLeroy said freedom of speech and the press are rights of the American people, and that it is important that people receive unbiased information.

“I love freedom of speech, freedom of the press and I love freedom,” he said. “If I didn’t I would have never gone to war. Journalists can be the most fantastic journalist in the world if they learn to eliminate the emotional. I know in the past about people wanting to stifle the speech here. You can’t stifle speech. Just like me if I would have skewed my instruction one way or another, I would have had a student die.”

William Stewart Interview

William Stewart, a professor of philosophy at San Diego City College, is running for seat No. 1 on the Southwestern College Governing Board. Dr. Jean Roesch currently holds the seat, but is not running for re-election.

Stewart said he is a California native who moved to San Diego to complete graduate work at UCSD. Afterwards he went on to work at City College where he has taught for 26 years. He lives in Bonita.

Stewart said he wants to help SWC and give back to the community.

“I was looking for some way to have an impact on the community in a positive way and where I could model it for my children,” said Stewart. “I’m very conscious with this idea that if I want my two kids to have the right priorities it is very important that my wife and I live the right priorities.”

Stewart has worked in the California Community College system since the age of 21, he said. It combines his interest in community service with his love of education.

“I’m not looking for Southwestern to give me something, I’m looking to give Southwestern something,” he said. “I’m looking to give my time and energy. I have no political ambition. That’s not my agenda here.”

A business man in real estate, Stewart said he has knowledge of budgets.

“I think I bring to the board a very student-centric perspective because the questions are: how are the students being served? Is our budget best focused on meeting the needs of our students?” said Stewart.

Stewart supports Proposition 30 because it will help maintain current levels of classes and student services.

“If Proposition 30 passes then we can look at expanding those services, that’s going to be very helpful,” he said. “If it doesn’t pass I think we’re really going to have to look at a line item review of the budget to see how this school is going to continue running at a lower funding while still not having our students take most the hits.”

Stewart said students have taken a disproportionate hit due to these cuts because an easy place to cut is funding for adjunct faculty, part-time jobs that pay students and non-contract staff.

“Basically, the best decisions you can make are sometimes not the easiest ones you can make,” he said. “So I will be looking at the line items which require harder decisions, but decisions that are going to protect the services for the students.”

Freedom of discourse is essential to higher education, Stewart said. He said he would not permit administration to restrict free speech or free press rights as the Chopra/Alioto administration did.

“Here we are, a collective of individuals, and the suggestion that we should restrict student discourse to me would be a frightening idea,” he said.

Stewart said he is impressed with SWC even with the devaluation of education that is currently occurring in California. He said the state must reinvest in education. During a visit to the main Chula Vista campus he pointed to some aging infrastructure.

“See that board?” he asked. “That board right there is about a $400 board. If we don’t paint it for three more years there will be dry rot and you’ll have to replace the whole board. We can spend $20 on a can of paint or pay $500 later to replace the whole thing. That’s generally speaking how the state has been running the budget. When I come to SWC it’s that kind of basic pragmatism that I’ll be bringing here.”

Elizabeth Jean Roach

Elizabeth Jean Roach is an educator running for seat No. 1 on the Southwestern College governing board.

Originally from Arizona, Roach said she has lived in the South Bay for 16 years, mostly in Chula Vista. She has been involved in education since 1987, she said, and since then has worked at a charter school as well as home schooling.

On her own at 16, Roach started taking classes at Southwestern Community College in New Mexico and then Mesa Community College in Arizona, she said. She transferred to Arizona State University and then Brigham Young University in 1988 where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in secondary education and went on to teach for 20 years.

“As this seat came open I thought what a wonderful opportunity it would be to give back a community college because there is no way I could have gotten a college degree without community college in my life,” she said.

After reading a story called “The Big Jump” as a child, she said, her outlook on the method to solving problems was changed.
“By the end of this story the character finds out that the big jump is just a series of little tiny jumps and then he was able to go to where he needed to go,” she said. “I think that’s one of the things I would like to bring to the college. Whatever the obstacle, it’s not a big jump, it’s just lots of little tiny jumps and if we can just keep after it we can overcome anything.”

With four children growing older and going through the educational system, Roach said her main motivation for running for seat No. 1 is to make SWC the best that it can be.

“This is a great opportunity, this is a great school,” she said. “ This was an opportunity and I wanted to be a part of it. To make it a better part of the community and a better part for my family.”

Roach said her prime focus is to help students achieve their goals.

“I’m willing to work hard for this and for the school so that people that want to get certificates and job training can do that, people that want to transfer to universities can do that, people that want to take swim classes can do that,” she said.

One of the biggest issues Roach said she sees at SWC is low graduation rates. She expressed interest in seeing these rates increase. She said that there is a disconnect between students leaving high school and entering a community college. SWC needs more outreach to high schools, she said.

Technology can be better applied to help students find classes, she added.
“If we have one teacher we can open up a class in ways we couldn’t if we just had one classroom, 30 chairs,” she said, “but with technology we can make it available at more times and for more people.”

Roach said student success should be an issue a local community college should tackle in its own manner rather than only through legislative action at the state level.

“In school we talk about keeping local jurisdiction, let’s take care of our own housekeeping, let’s do our own chores here,” she said.

Roach said SWC is over-dependent on Sacramento for its finances.

“Financial aid and grants can be found through other sources, there is a lot of opportunity out there,” she said. “I would like to see other sources found. It would make us stronger and less dependent on the budget in Sacramento, which we know is in trouble.”

Forecasting the failure of Proposition 30, Roach said SWC needs to “consolidate, see what we can do for less, look at budgets and see what we can trim and what we can do smarter.” She said SWC should prepare for funding cuts rather than hoping for increases.

Roach said she is incorruptible.
“I started by saying I am not a union puppet and I’m not,” she said. “I’ll listen to the needs of the unions. I’m personally very concerned with faculty.”

Roach said she believes in the First Amendment rights of freedom of the press and freedom of speech, but only to a point, that point being where safety is involved.

“I think we need a vision for the future, I think we need a plan to get there, I think we need to work hard to get there because they’re our dreams, our lives, our futures,” she said. “So if we have those four keys, if we have a vision, if we have a plan, if we are willing to work hard and we have support, I think any student that comes here should be able to succeed in a reasonable amount of time. So let’s take our feet off the brakes and hit the gas and see student achievement take off.”

Senate President Honored As Freedom Fighter


Angelina Stuart

By: Albert H. Fulcher/ Senior Staff Writer

Published: Monday, May 21st, 2012 at 8:12 pm

It is a metaphor that is too obvious to miss. Angelina Stuart is a quilter, just ask all the people she has stiched together.

Painstakingly, stitch by stitch, she pulls together a panoply of colorful and textured fabric patches into patterns, creating striking quilts that become a treasure for their owners. She has done the same thing at Southwestern College, quilting together scattered fragments of SWC in the midst of dysfunctional leadership, accreditation battles and rebuilding the structure of an ailing educational institution.

People from around the state noticed. Stuart was recently awarded the Norbert Bischof Memorial Faculty Freedom Fighter Scholarship from her peers at the Academic Senate of California Community Colleges (ASCCC). Beth Smith, president of the Academic Senate Foundation for California Community Colleges, said this prestigious award is not given every year, only when there is someone truly worthy.

“(Stuart) was nominated by three different members of the executive committee and a unanimous vote occurred,” said Smith. “Each of them knew Angie from a different perspective and saw different talents she utilized in her role as a teacher and academic senate president. Her students are very lucky to have her and faculty the same. What she accomplishes with her students and colleagues works in every way possible.”

Stuart said that she had no idea when she began her role as SWC Academic Senate president in 2010 that it would take her through the trials of corrupt college leadership that led to a war-like relationship with a belligerent superintendent, an accreditation crisis, a revolution at the ballot box and a rebuilding process that required enormous vision, energy and patience.

During the tumultuous administration of Raj Chopra the college was in the national spotlight for incompetence, corruption and civil rights violations. Stuart said a friend in the ASCCC gave her advice that she took to heart.

“In a conversation with Jane Patton she told me, ‘You have to pick your battles,’” said Stuart. “I said to her, ‘I think my battle is the 10 Plus 1.’ Jane told me it was a great hill to die on.”

She said she based her leadership on the rights faculty have by law under California shared governance statutes that determine to help lead the college.

“It really helped guide me in my decisions,” she said. “Our district had never really looked at the 10 Plus 1, and so I kind of pushed the envelope, not by myself but with all faculty, we held out for what was right by law.”

The Academic Senate’s primary function is to make recommendations with respect to academic and professional matters and promoting shared consultation in the college’s process and procedures.

“I don’t think anyone could have foreseen what happened,” said Stuart. “Four years ago I had no clue we were going to go through what we went through.”

After resignation of Chopra and the selection of Denise Whittaker as interim-superintendent, Stuart said she is extremely happy with what the college did to restore its accreditation after nearly losing it.

“I am probably proudest of being part of that whole accreditation push,” said Stuart. “I think it is a new era for our faculty, the college and prioritization. It is not silos anymore, it is good. There is fresh air and the walls are down.”

She said it is the result of support and unity from the students faculty, classified and administrators to elect a new board and find a new superintendent.

“We were able to do it,” she said.

Linda Hensley, director of institutional research, planning and grants, said Stuart is a unique leader due to her collaborative nature and her compassion for her students and the college.

“I do not think anybody knows how hard she worked,” she said. “She did it for SWC, not herself.”

Hensley said Stuart endlessly labored during the summer, on weekends, late nights and early mornings. She said her ability to listen to and respect those she works with, her flexibility and responsiveness makes Stuart a great decision maker.

“We were extremely lucky to have had her during this period of time,” she said. “She repeatedly demonstrated her abilities to articulate and assert the opinion of the whole of the academic senate.”

Stuart said being part of shared consultation has been a revelation and taken away the chaos of the past. With the hiring of Superintendent Dr. Melinda Nish, she said she is very happy to see the college continuing in the right direction.

“I think Melinda is keeping true to shared governance and I am happy to see that she is giving the due diligence to the academic senate and the items that pertain to the 10 Plus 1,” said Stuart. “To me that is very telling, because if you have someone that dismisses them or chooses to ignore them or push them aside, that is not shared governance.”

Stuart said though she is honored, she is a bit embarrassed because the award only went to her and it is really about her team of colleagues.

“I couldn’t do what I did by myself,” she said. “Who am I? My philosophy is that your friends, team that you work with—they half the troubles, and double the joy. They shared that burden, they helped me, and when it is time to celebrate, they double it.”

When ASCCC Vice President Julie Adams, contacted Stuart, she said she thought it was a local or regional event and was shocked to find out about the award.

“To me it took on greater meaning once I read it was named after the founder. I had done the right thing,” she said.

Hired in 1990, Stuart teaches Spanish and English as a Second Language. Her term as academic senate president ends and she said she gets to go back to being a “regular faculty member” June 1 after six years as an Academic Senate Executive.

“I love what I do here,” she said. “I am looking forward to going back to teaching in the fall. I really miss my students.”

Time for a new quilt and time to admire some past masterpieces.

A Strong, Free Society Needs Print Newspapers

Carlos Magana/Southwestern College Sun Staff

By: Albert Fulcher, A Perspective

Published: Thursday, May 17th, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Vincent Van Gogh sold one piece of art in his lifetime. Critics called his free style of painting with vivid colors “undeveloped” and “intangible.” Jackson Pollock fearlessly defied the norm with his emotionally-charged layering of abstract strings and splashes, laying canvases on the floor and using household items as media.
Critics during the lifetimes of Van Gogh and Pollock prophesized the death of traditional painting and said their work defiled the art world, but they were wrong. Upon reflection that revolutionary pair are now considered pioneers of great art.
Naysayers who have condemned print newspapers to death are as premature and out of touch as the early critics of Van Gogh and Pollock. There remains a large consumer demand for print and ample evidence that daily and weekly community newspapers have many miles to go before they sleep. Print is not on its deathbed, it is evolving to today’s economic realities.
Print is weaved through America’s history like the stars on Betsy Ross’ flag. Since their introduction in 1690, newspapers have been the voice of America through revolution, war, peace, triumph and tragedy. Today, as through the centuries, newspapers are America’s most trusted and complete source of information.
Since the early 2000s, the newspaper industry has suffered through layoffs, bankruptcies and recession. Loss of advertising revenue, increased production and distribution costs, and the explosion of the Internet looked insurmountable. Pernicious Craigslist caused classified ads income to evaporate. Newspapers seemed to be on life support.
Like feisty Mark Twain, however, reports of newspapers’ demise seem greatly exaggerated.
“Still, even in an age of 24/7 cable news and thousands of websites, newspapers maintain their status as the best source for in-depth and investigative news coverage,” wrote Tony Rogers, of Guide to Journalism.
In March 2009, 24/7 Wall St. predicted the collapse of 10 major newspapers, giving eight of them an 18-month life span. After three years, however, all of these “doomed” newspapers remain in full operation.
A Congressional Research Service report indicated that since 2000 America has lost less than one percent of its 1,400 daily newspapers. Analysts concluded that smaller daily and community papers with circulations less than 50,000 remain profitable and better positioned with readers and advertisers than larger dailies.
“As old-style, print newspapers decline, new journalism startups are developing around the country, aided by the low entry costs on the Internet,” the report read. “The emerging ventures hold promise but do not yet have the experience, resources, and reach of shrinking mainstream newspapers.”
Of 16 specific local topics studied in a 2011 Pew Research Center Report, newspapers ranked or tied as the most reliable source for news in 11 categories.
“This dependence on newspapers for so many local topics sets it apart from all other sources of local news. The Internet, which was cited as the most relied upon source for five of the 16 topics, was distant second to newspapers in terms of widespread use and value.”
A 2010 Pew report saw improvement in profits, but the industry still faces declining revenues and has not found reliable sources to replace advertising. Some members of Congress are wondering if newspaper insolvency poses a public threat warranting federal action. Corrective measures could include tax breaks, relaxing antitrust policy, tightening copyright law, general support for the practice of journalism and helping newspapers transition into nonprofit organizations.
Evolution can be a painful process in a world where technology is almost running amuck. Time Magazine, “10 Ideas That Are Changing Your Life” reported, “Each day, the average American spends about 12 hours consuming information, taking on more than 100,000 words that total 34 gigabytes of data.”
Watchdog journalism and important local news reporting are critical to America’s civic health, and newspapers are migrating in that direction. Papers are experimenting with alternative sources of revenue. Many local papers rely on legal advertising revenue and have closer relationships with local businesses. QR codes can be embedded in ads. This is an open market revenue stream with possibilities of more ads using less space. Collaborating with radio, television and online outlets can bring business-to-business revenue used extensively in the Internet world.
It is time to think outside the box because the box is already gone. The future of print, like Van Gogh and Pollock, looks better with time.

Homosexuality-A Death Sentence

By: Albert H. Fulcher

Published: Friday, March 30th, 2012 at 2:13 am

As we sit here idly in California to see whether courts decide in favor of same sex marriage, gays and lesbians in other parts of the world are literally fighting for their right to live. In Liberia, Senator Jewel Taylor, former first lady of murderous ex-president Charles Taylor (currently facing United Nation’s charges for war crimes and crimes against humanity) introduced legislation condemning homosexuals to death.

Taylor’s ghastly amendment makes gay sex a first-degree felony punishable from 10 years imprisonment to the death sentence. Uganda is hot on Liberia’s crusade of inhumanity with similar legislation pending. In Uganda, where homosexuality is already punishable by life imprisonment, a bill pending includes the death sentence and criminalizes acts for “aiding or abetting homosexuality.”

Sadly, this is nothing new in Africa or in other parts of the world. Homosexuality carries a death sentence in Mauritania, Sudan, southern Somalia, northern Nigeria, Iran, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Many death sentences are carried out by decapitation, stoning, rape, flogging and fatal mutilation.

In early March, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association reported that Islamic states and Africans walked out on a United Nations gay panel and insisted that protection of homosexuality does not fall under global human rights. Of the U.N.’s 192 members, 76 countries have laws criminalizing homosexual behavior. Oddly enough, several countries in the world only target male gays, and allow woman-to-woman sex.

In Depth Africa, a human rights organization, reports that six African countries now have laws punishing homosexuals with 11 years to life of imprisonment and 14 countries have sentences ranging from one month to 10 years. Five countries have laws calling for imprisonment with no indication of length of sentences. South Africa is the only country on the African continent that recognizes same-sex marriages.

In June 2011 the United Nations issued its first condemnation of discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people in a declaration described as a monumental moment in world history. The only thing monumental about this is that the world allows such tragedies to continue with little or no help at all.

Homophobia is alive and well in the world today, and its roots rest in self-proclaimed moralists that ram their personal religious beliefs and bigoted fears against any person that does not share their convictions they do. Like segregation, the Final Solution, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, slavery and brutality, anti-gay laws are a crime against humanity.

No person, group or government has the right to limit the freedom of people to love the person of their choice. Religious and personal beliefs should be employed to save the oppressed of the world, not beat them down further. Homosexuality is not a crime and whether or not it is a sin is a matter of individual belief, not an issue to be preached or legislated against.

Gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people are not out to destroy personal religious and moral beliefs that people live their lives by. They only want the same rights as individuals that the majority of the world has, namely, to love whom they love without discrimination and to live their lives to the fullest without fear. Stop the persecution. Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Buddha and the great religious leaders of in the world would not have condoned these atrocities. They all believed in the free will of people. Most importantly they all believed in freedom, peace and unconditional love.

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