Profiles of the contestants
Jeffrey Richard: This first-generation college graduate says he personally understands higher education's role in upward mobility for individuals and in building citywide prosperity. "ACC is not just 'nice' to have," he says. "It's crucial to the economic prospects of the greater Austin community." The vice-president of education for the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and instructor at Texas State University-San Marcos says one top priority is encouraging high school students who might not see themselves as college-bound to take advantage of programs like Early College Start. He also wants to launch new programs based on successful models in other cities, like Dallas' Rising Star program that uses philanthropic contributions to fund scholarships.
Thomas Krueger: As a lifelong teacher, including 10 years as an engineering technology instructor and administrator at Brazosport College, Krueger says he knows how to navigate testy relations between the board and the rest of the college. The UT instructor says his prime concerns are board unity and faculty pay. However, in keeping with his philosophy of developing a unified board, he has no specific "agenda" on how to fix the seemingly intractable compensation problem, which he sees as endemic to public education. (He supports vouchers and charter schools as solutions on the elementary and secondary level.) "Taxpayers don't want higher taxes, but the faculty and staff should be considered for higher wages," he said. "The entire college is really caught between a rock and a hard place."
Rafael Quintanilla: Appointed in 1997 and elected in 1998, attorney Quintanilla currently serves as board chairman. His biggest concerns are faculty pay, encouraging other school districts to join ACC, responding to need in outlying areas of the service area (such as Williamson County), and establishing an atmosphere of open communication with the new president. He is unopposed.
Guadalupe Sosa: Sosa, who is retired from the state Department of Health, says her main concern is encouraging students in the ACC taxing district to take advantage of the Early College Start program, while charging students from nontaxed districts (the program is currently free to high school students regardless whether their district pays ACC taxes). "ACC should work more closely with member districts, starting in junior high, to guide students into a college track," she said. Sosa was chair of the South Austin Campus Advisory Committee and believes that the board needs to be more "proactive" in convincing other ISDs to join ACC's taxing district. She supports both higher faculty pay and health insurance for adjuncts and does not want to see ACC meet infrastructure needs by building over the aquifer.
Marc Levin: With his experience working with the Legislature, the former head of UT's Young Conservatives of Texas and current staff attorney for the Texas Supreme Court says he can help ACC gain bipartisan support and to battle "Austin-phobia." He wants to remove state signature requirements for district referenda and make trustee positions geographic instead of at-large. He wants to streamline ACC bureaucracy, and although he thinks the current salary scale is adequate, he'd like to see financial rewards for distinguished teaching. "It would promote friendly competition and get teachers to strive for excellence."
Veronica Rivera: A Round Rock municipal law and real estate attorney, Rivera has also been a high school teacher. She is concerned with accessibility, which to her includes not just economic but geographic accessibility to students in places like Round Rock, where students are served by a Higher Education Center the college shares with Texas State University-San Marcos. That means the board needs to be "proactive, not reactive" to ensure campuses will be where students need them, continuously reviewing and adjusting ACC's master plan. The board also has to do more to seek out grants and to convince nonmember communities to join ACC. "No one wants more taxes, so it's a question of a trustee being a champion of ACC and letting them know what the benefits are for that district."
Rodney Ahart: A lobbyist for the American Cancer Society who spent seven years as a legislative aide for various Texas Democrats, Ahart is the only one of five children in his family to have achieved a higher education. He hopes to parlay his Capitol ties into Lege support for community colleges. His priorities including recruiting more Early College Start students within the ACC taxing district (rather than from districts that don't pay ACC taxes), providing health insurance to adjuncts, ensuring the board doesn't overstep its boundaries, and getting infrastructure ready for the coming growth in enrollment. "With tuition deregulation driving up tuition 27% at UT, you're going to see more people needing the services of a community college."
More complete bios, including detailed lists of professional and volunteer positions, are available at www.austincc.edu.