It’s a pity that hardly anyone is paying attention to the folks vying to govern Arizona’s largest community college system, which has been marred by infighting.
This election could determine the future of the 10-college system and the type of education its 200,000 students get.
Yes, it’s that serious.
Four seats are open on the seven-member board. Only one incumbent, Jean McGrath, is on the Nov. 6 ballot. Board member Augustine Bartning was booted because of invalid petition signatures.
What’s wrong with MCCCD?
McGrath is among the mostly conservative governing board members who with Chancellor Maria Harper-Marinick made dramatic decisions that infuriated faculty and staff:
But this election isn’t just about solving the infighting of the faculty with Harper-Marinick and the existing board. It’s much deeper than that.
At stake is the sort of college system Arizona’s most populous county should have to meet the increasing demand for technical workers, and to help low-income students and minorities get a chance of earning a four-year and post-graduate college degrees.
What’s wrong with the incumbent?
You should reject McGrath. She has presided over one of the most disruptive tenures that left staff reeling with anger and the system with zero state financing.
McGrath has pushed a manifesto written by Jeffrey N. Darbut, the vice president of administrative services at Mesa Community College and her campaign treasurer.
The manifesto, “Organizational Change at the Maricopa Community Colleges,” effectively calls for consolidating resources, selling property and turning the colleges into a private conglomerate that prepares students for jobs – and away from the current mission of readying them to further their education and transition to a four-year university.
The 10-college system already prepares students for technical jobs, but it also is a bedrock for those who seek to move onto a four-year college.
For the sake of the system and the students it serves, you must reject candidates who would effectively privatize the college system without staff, faculty and public input. There should be a thoughtful and public discussion to inform the direction of the colleges – not something to beshoved down our throats by a few board members.
Who are the better choices?
Many voters have cast an early ballot. But if you’re dropping off your ballot or voting on person Tuesday, then consider the candidates backed by the Maricopa Colleges Faculty Association Political Action Committee and a group of football supporters. They’re not always right, but at least the candidates these groups are backing would give the public a say.
The candidates are: Marie Sullivan, Tom Nerini, Stan Arterberry and Roc Arnett.
Roc Arnett, former president and CEO of East Valley Partnership, is facing Kathleen Ann Winn for an at-large position. By many accounts, Arnett is a respected Republican who values education, even if he doesn’t boast a college degree. He would be a reasonable voice on the board.
Marie Sullivan is facing Sherman Elliott and Debi Vandenboom for a seat in District 3 that includes Phoenix College and Paradise Valley Community College. Elliott is a dean of Grand Canyon University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences. That should be problematic for anyone. How can he possibly have the colleges’ best interest when he works for another educational institution? Vandenboom is a privately contracted tutor who offers nothing but the board’s status quo.
Sullivan, meanwhile, supports transparency and public input, and that should count.
Stan Arterberry is facing McGrath in District 4 that includes Glendale Community College and Estrella Mountain Community College.
This is a no-brainer. You should give Arterberry a chance. He’s a former community college chancellor and president who opposed the district’s decision to eliminate football. He would ask the chancellor to put on the board agenda a discussion to “clearly explain the rationale used by the administration to eliminate football.”
Tom Nerini, a school counselor, is the only one running in District 5 that includes Gateway Community College and South Mountain Community College.
The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com has published a question-and-answer Voter’s Guide. It’s worth it to read their full answers.
We should elect visionaries who can steer the colleges to meet the demands of today’s modern economy but without forgetting the most vulnerable who otherwise cannot afford to go directly to a four-year college.
Elvia Díaz is an editorial columnist for The Republic and azcentral. Reach her at 602-444-8606 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter, @elviadiaz1.