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Budget Critical Issue Facing El Camino Head

February 08, 1987|TERRY SPENCER | Staff Writer

El Camino College is not accustomed to change in leadership. Having had only three presidents in its 40 years, the nation's largest community college must now choose a new leader for the second time in five years.

Some school officials say the transition may be made even rockier by the governor's proposed budget.

"Some people at this institution have the attitude that some things are going to stay the same forever," said Sam Schauerman, vice president of instruction for the school, which is in an unincorporated area just north of Torrance.

"We had the same president for 24 years and then he left and then bang, five years later, another turnover," Schauerman said. Forrest G. Murdoch was president from 1947 to 1958; Stuart Marsee from 1958 to 1982.

"It's going to take some work to make the transition as smooth as possible," Schauerman said.

The college's Board of Trustees voted last week to hire an outside firm to search for candidates to fill the presidency when Rafael L. Cortada leaves in August to take the same position at the University of the District of Columbia. The board will select a specific firm at its Feb. 17 meeting.

Cortada believes the school could be in for some rough times if Gov. George Deukmejian's proposed budget is passed by the Legislature.

"I think the new president is going to have to take a look at the situation in Sacramento," Cortada said. "He or she will find increasing challenges because of decreased funding."

Enrollment at El Camino has hovered around the 30,000 mark for several years, but the number of "certificated" employees--faculty, librarians, counselors and nurses--has fallen from 352 in 1982 to 310 today. The budget provides $45 million in spending for this fiscal year, having been increased about $1 million in each of the last three years. Of that money, $27.8 million comes from the state.

Don Sorsabal, vice president of business, said that under the governor's proposed budget, the school will not get the $1.8-million increase in state funding that it expected under a formula adopted last year. The governor has proposed only a $493,000 increase.

"That won't even support the salary schedule to which we're committed," Sorsabal said.

Sorsabal said El Camino's share of a $400-million bond issue approved by voters in November also will not be forthcoming soon.

The money, earmarked for capital improvements at public colleges and universities, will not be released until July, 1988, when the bonds have been sold. Normally, according to Sorsabal, the state's general fund would advance the money but Deukmejian has recommended against that.

The governor has said the cuts are necessary to avoid a $900-million state budget deficit.

The budget uncertainties have put a crimp into contract negotiations between El Camino's faculty and the board. The teachers have been working without a contract since Jan. 1.

According to the American Federation of Teachers, the board has not offered a pay increase, while the faculty has been seeking a 7% raise. An administration spokeswoman would not comment on any figures.

"Where is the money that we are going to need to increase teachers' salaries, which is a very real issue in society today, and also bring in new technologies?" Cortada said.

Trustee Stanley Dunn agrees.

"Even though I'm a Republican, from the looks of the governor's budget we're going to have a hard time maintaining a quality program," Dunn said. "This is going to be the biggest crunch for the new president when he comes on board."

Candidates Apparent

Several people are expected to apply for Cortada's job.

Of the college's three vice presidents, Schauerman and John Renley, who is in charge student and personnel services, have expressed interest. Schauerman had been a candidate when Cortada got the job.

"I think that the vice presidents, by the nature of the job, have to at least consider the possibility," Renley said. "I'll be giving it serious thought."

Sorsabal said he would not apply because he has been in his current position for only a year.

One prominent outsider said to be considering the job is Dale Parnell, president of the American Assn. of Community and Junior Colleges in Washington, D.C. A Washington source said Parnell, who headed community colleges in San Diego and Central California before taking his current job 10 years ago, has made inquiries about the position.

Parnell, however, said he is not seeking the job and does not expect to apply for it.

Schauerman said the job should go to someone with California experience.

"I frankly think with what is happening in California--the political climate, the kind of funding we're receiving, the financial turmoil--a Californian might give better leadership in the short term."

Union Leader Comments

Merrill Jones, a photography professor and chapter president of the AFT local, said a more immediate challenge for the incoming president is going to be a growing morale problem among the faculty.

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