Four on the Floor
Not since the mid-Nineties has a race for the ACC Board of Trustees elicited such a crowd of contenders as this year's contest for the seat being vacated by trustee Hunter Ellinger after a six-year run. Four -- count 'em, four -- candidates have lined up to vie for Ellinger's Place 7 spot on the college's nine-member governing board; trustees John Worley and Allen Kaplan, Place 8 and 9, respectively, are running unopposed.
The ACC board, a body which remains largely a mystery to much of the electorate charged with choosing its membership, began as a project of the Austin Independent School District in 1972. Since 1982, the board has been elected at large by Austin citizens; its varied and sometimes inglorious jobs include overseeing a budget of some $86 million; setting the course for ACC's seven far-flung campuses; deciding where to direct the college's growth; and setting elections for new property taxes, which go to fund the college as well as Austin public schools. The board has seen several years of budget overruns, facility expansions, and curriculum overhauls since ACC President Richard Fonté, whom the board oversees, took over in 1997.
The four candidates vying for the Place 7 seat are Shaune Haas, a former executive assistant to ACC Executive VP Ana "Cha" Guzman (currently on sabbatical in Washington, D.C.); Dan McLendon, an ex-Round Rock ISD superintendent turned education consultant; Monica Loera, an ACC student and former student government vice president; and Barbara Mink, a former ACC administrator and currently a dean at The Fielding Institute in Santa Barbara, California.
Haas says she is running to provide a voice for Austin's outlying areas, which have traditionally complained that they lack representation on the board. She favors developing a curriculum that addresses the basic needs of the community, such as English-language and simple reading courses, rather than focusing on workforce development, a direction the board has leaned in for the past several years. Also on her to-do list: maintaining a balanced budget and better utilizing the college's current facilities to overcome the overcrowding problems which have crippled some campuses in recent years.
ACC student Loera, who also works as a junior secretary for a local law firm, says the board needs "a bigger voice" from students. While Loera was student government vice president, a position she held for about nine months, students "were only given five minutes in front of the board to say what was going on" with the student body, she says. In addition to improving the board's accountability to students, Loera wants the college to increase the number and training of administrative employees during peak periods at the beginning and end of each semester. "Sometimes [students] stand in line for two or three hours just to pay bills or see an advisor," Loera says. She would also like to see ACC build a campus in south-central Austin and raise the pay of adjunct faculty members.
McLendon, who spent over 30 years working for public schools, including a six-year stint at Round Rock ISD, says he's running for the board because he wants to "contribute to ... a community college that has the potential to be one of the best in the country." Among the changes McLendon would like to see at ACC: an expansion of the college's eight-county service area; expansion of and improvements to ACC's current workforce-training and high-tech programs; and renovation of the school's existing campuses and possible new campus construction. He also advocates boosting ACC's benefit and pay structure, which he says "can't stay static" any longer.
Mink, who commutes between Austin and Santa Barbara, says she can bring "over 30 years of direct experience in higher education" to the board. Mink also has raked in several key endorsements, including those of the ACC chapter of the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO's Central Labor Council. Mink says she wants to bring fuller board participation to ACC's planning strategies, bring an end to the kind of micromanagement of ACC operations for which the board is notorious, hold ACC administration accountable for implementing board directives in a timely manner, and implement fair compensation structures for all teaching and support staff.