Three seats on the Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees in the Daily Planet’s coverage area will be filled by newcomers.
In Area 2 (East Oakland) currently represented by Lynn Baranco, Area 4 (Albany, Emeryville, and the western portions of Berkeley) currently represented by Darryl Moore, and Area 6 (North Oakland the eastern portions of Berkeley) currently represented by Susan Duncan, the incumbents are not running for re-election.
Peralta operates four colleges—Laney, Merritt, College of Alameda, and Vista—with a combined student population of 27,000, 70 percent of whom are minorities.
The district operates on a $90 million budget which Chancellor Elihu Harris, former assemblymember and Oakland mayor, says is “underfunded” by between $8 million and $10 million. Prior to Harris’ selection as chancellor earlier this year, this district was often described by local media as “troubled.” The district is currently embarking on a $67 million project to build a first-time, 165,000-square-foot campus for Vista College in Berkeley.
The Area 2 Trustee race pits two public school employees against each other: Hayward Unified School District teacher Marcie Hodge against Castlemont High School counselor Johnny Lorigo. Area 2 takes in the extreme southern tip of Oakland, roughly from Seminary Avenue to the San Leandro border. Incumbent Lynn Baranco, the outgoing Peralta Trustee president, is not running for re-election. Both candidates are graduates of Peralta colleges.
In her candidate’s statement filed with the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, Hodge said that one of her goals as trustee is to “demand better fiscal accountability. Every dollar should be used to improve classroom instruction and for student financial aid so that college is an affordable option for everyone.” Hodge also said that she would “work to expand the number of course offerings to ensure students graduate on time” and “expand vocational training programs so students gain the skills they need to get good jobs.”
Hodge owns MLH Psychotherapy Group and is the sister of Oakland School Board member Jason Hodge, who has endorsed her candidacy.
Hodge lists Oakland Councilmembers Larry Reid and Henry Chang and Peralta Trustees Lynn Baranco [the outgoing incumbent], Darryl Moore, and Susan Duncan as her endorsers, as well as East Oakland political powerhouse pastors J. Alfred Smith Sr. of Allen Temple Baptist Church and Bob Jackson of Acts Full Gospel Church.
Lorigo has worked in both the Oakland Unified School District and the Peralta Community College District and served for 10 years on the Laney College Educational Opportunities Service advisory board. In one of his campaign leaflets, he says that he wants to “bring fiscal solvency back to the district through a shared decision-making process,” but stresses that he wants to do so “without sacrificing quality education to students [or] the livelihood of our committed faculty and staffs.”
“The students are my top priority,” Lorigo adds. “I’m real concerned about the playing field being more level. We need to go above and beyond what the state is giving us to subsidize books and tuition and child care. If you just settle for what the state gives you, you’re always going to have a bare minimum.”
Among his endorsers, Lorigo lists State Senator Don Perata, Oakland City Attorney John Russo, Peralta Trustees Linda Handy, Darryl Moore, Bill Riley, and Amey Stone, former Black Panthers David Hilliard and Bobby Seale, as well as the Alameda County Democratic Party, the John George and MGO Democratic clubs, and several local unions.
In Area 4, incumbent Darryl Moore is giving up his seat to run for Berkeley City Council District 2 seat. Running to replace him are DeAnza Community College political science instructor Nicholas González Yuen, Berkeley attorney Kamau Edwards, and Lincoln University Associate Professor James Peterson. Area 4 includes the entire cities of Albany and Emeryville, as well as the western portion (generally) of the City of Berkeley.
“One issue [in this campaign], obviously, is timely completion of Vista,” says Edwards, referring to the Peralta College in Berkeley. “Vista is a college that hasn’t always gotten its fair share of the funds. The number one issue for me is to make sure Vista gets completed on time—January 2006—and trying to make sure Vista gets its fair share of the funding. The second issue is an offshoot of Vista and an offshoot of the Peralta Colleges as a whole: funding—that is, trying to find enough funds for the Peralta colleges to become premier institutions as we move forward.”
He also says that as one of his goals as trustee, he wants to create “custom-tailored classes” for the local business community.
Edwards has taught courses at New College and has served on the state Select Committee on Community Colleges. He lists some of his endorsers as Peralta trustees Lynn Baranco, Amey Stone, Alona Clifton, Darryl Moore, and William Riley, as well as Albany school board member Peggy Thompson.
Peterson is the chief financial aid officer at Lincoln University, as well as the designated school official for the Homeland Security program “In which we monitor and review all foreign students coming into the school.” He was an assistant to former Congressmember Ron Dellums, and ran unsuccessfully for Berkeley City Council District 3 in 2000.
Among his goals, Peterson says he “would work to restore the lost California state funding. [I] shall encourage the governing board and staff to seek funding replacement through direct federal and private sector foundation sources.” Peterson also says he will “work to maintain equality among the diverse college campuses,” and says that he will “support successful on-time and within budget completion of Vista College.”
Peterson is a former member of the Berkeley Zoning Adjustment Board. He includes former Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean and California Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Leland Yee among his endorsers.
Yuen, who worked in 2001 as a congressional fellow to the late United States Senator Paul Wellstone, lists three major issues that need to be addressed by Peralta’s board: access, equity, and excellence.
“By access, I mean that we need to work to ensure the ongoing availability of community college resources to students of modest means. [By equity], we have to make sure that there is a level playing field for people in our society. At Peralta, this means working to insure high success rates for students from groups not traditionally well served by society’s social and educational institutions. Excellence to me means making sure that the quality of education we provide to Peralta students is as good as or better than they can get at any other educational institution in California.”
Yuen lists Congressmember Barbara Lee, local legislators Don Perata, Loni Hancock, and Wilma Chan, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, Berkeley Councilmembers Kriss Worthington, Margaret Breland, Linda Maio, Dona Spring, and Miriam Hawley, Peralta Trustees Darryl Moore [the outgoing incumbent] and Linda Handy, the Alameda County Central Labor Council, both the Green and Democratic parties of Alameda County, the Peralta Federation of Teachers, and the Wellstone, John George, and MGO Democratic clubs among his endorsements.
With incumbent Susan Duncan retiring after 20 years as trustee, the Area 6 race pits psychologist and former Alameda County Director of Mental Health Outpatient Services Melanie Sweeney-Griffith against community college educator and Rockridge News editor Cyril (Cy) Gulassa. Area 6 includes the eastern portion (generally) of Berkeley, as well as a portion of flatlands North Oakland running up into the Montclair area of the Oakland hills.
Gulassa has worked for 30 years as an English professor at DeAnza Community College, and was the president of the faculty collective bargaining unit for 15 years. He says that during his time on the bargaining unit, he “pioneered a concept called shared governance; it’s an opportunity for faculty, staff, and the community as well as all managers and make major decisions regarding allocations. That prevents the kind of collective bargaining games that normally prevail, where they hide the money and you ask for more than you know you want, they pretend to have less than they can give you, and then you go through this ugly game of fighting it out.”
Gulassa says that Peralta’s colleges “need a trustee with classroom and governance experience, not political ambition. Bickering among trustees must be replaced by strategic planning, accountability, financial oversight, and open decision making that includes staff, students, and community.” He also lists ensuring that Vista College receives adequate funding is one of his highest priorities.
Among other endorsements, Gulassa is backed by State Senator Don Perata, Oakland City Councilmembers Igancio De La Fuente, Jean Quan, and Nancy Nadel, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, Berkeley City Councilmembers Miriam Hawley, Linda Maio, and Betty Olds, Peralta trustees Linda Handy and Amey Stone, as well as by the Peralta Federation of Teachers, the Board of the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges, the Alameda County Central labor Council, and SEIU Local 790.
Sweeney-Griffith, a former Merritt College instructor and aide to then-state assemblymember Barbara Lee, says that “as a psychologist, I know the learning process does not begin and end in the classroom. Top-notch facilities, solid funding, appropriate curriculum, legislative action, and strong oversight fuel it.” She says she will bring “15 years of experience in these areas, including leadership skills, policy development, and multimillion-dollar budget management. I will work to ensure that my leadership is student centered, visionary, and inclusive of all partners of Peralta—community, students, faculty, and employees.”
She says that one of her goals is “to be an innovative visionary for Peralta’s growth through creative land use and fostering collaborations with other educational institutions and the community.”
Among her endorsements, Sweeney-Griffith lists Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, County Board of Education members Gay Cobb and Dennis Chaconas, Peralta Trustees Lynn Baranco, Alona Clifton, Susan Duncan [Area 6’s outgoing incumbent], and William Riley, Berkeley City Councilmembers Margaret Breland, Maudelle Shirek, Donna Spring, Kriss, Worthington, and Gordon Wozniak, the Alameda County Democratic Party, the National Women’s Political Caucus, and the Black Women Organized For Political Action.ô