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Appeals for Cohesiveness Mark Community College Board Races

October 26, 1989|KEN McALPINE

Four candidates are vying for two seats on the Ventura County Community College Board in races marked by appeals for greater cohesiveness in the body that runs the 33,000-student, three-campus district.

On the Nov. 7 ballot are Joel Bryan, Gregory Cole, Tim Flynn and Pete Tafoya.

Bryan and Cole, both of Thousand Oaks, are squaring off for the seat representing Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village and Simi Valley. Flynn and Tafoya, both of Oxnard, are running to represent Oxnard and Port Hueneme. The four-year seats were vacated when incumbent trustees Ruth Oren and Julian Tarleton opted not to run for reelection.

A fifth candidate, Gregory Kampf, is running unopposed for a seat representing parts of Ventura, Oxnard and unincorporated areas between the two cities. Kampf, 37, a Ventura elementary school principal, was elected in a June special election called after four trustees deadlocked over a replacement for a fifth member who resigned a year ago. That term expires in November.

The deadlock and the ensuing election underscored a highly publicized divisiveness that led the 1988 Ventura County Grand Jury report to criticize the board for its "excessive parochialism." Although one trustee accused the Grand Jury of mistaking debate for parochialism, candidates agree that factionalism has hampered the board's effectiveness.

"I think that it's time we professionalize the board and get the members working together toward a common goal--which is making the education in the community colleges better," said Cole, 38, a Newbury Park dentist.

Cole said his primary concern is implementation of Assembly Bill 1725, which proposes a broad range of changes for California's community college districts--from providing more full-time teachers to funding and curriculum changes. Cole said he is particularly concerned with developing an effective curriculum to allow students to transfer more smoothly to four-year colleges.

Cole, who serves on the Thousand Oaks Planning Commission as well as several other city committees, ran unsuccessfully for the board in 1981.

Bryan, a 36-year-old Thousand Oaks attorney, said his "personal priority" is to eventually establish a permanent two-year college in the Conejo Valley. Conejo Valley students are forced to commute elsewhere, and the community is deprived of a valuable resource, he said.

"The special mission of the community colleges is not just to serve those kids using the college as a springboard on to four-year educations," Bryan said. "I think where the community colleges have let us down in the Conejo Valley is being a community resource for senior citizens, those in vocational retraining, the handicapped, the disadvantaged and so forth. We get none of those benefits."

District officials have long considered establishing a college in the Conejo Valley. However, officials are quick to point out that construction is almost entirely state-funded. Until state population forecasts show a need for a community college in the Conejo Valley, construction is unlikely, they said.

While the campaign between Cole and Bryan has been quiet, the race for the Oxnard-Port Hueneme seat has been heated, pitting Flynn, a 30-year-old account executive with Pasadena-based Chicago Title Co., against Tafoya, 40, an engineer with the Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory in Port Hueneme.

At a recent debate at Oxnard College, Tafoya accused Flynn of "using his father's name and influence to enter the political arena"--charges that Flynn called "a desperate measure by a dying campaign." Flynn is the son of Ventura County Supervisor John K. Flynn.

The two have taken markedly different approaches in their campaigns. Flynn has been an outspoken critic of the board, saying trustees are "completely out of touch" with student and community needs, repeatedly citing board actions that he says prove his point. Among those was a decision to continue to give longtime board members health coverage after they leave.

The trustees "are classified as part-time employees," Flynn said. "The district's part-time teachers don't get any health benefits, yet the trustees voted themselves and their dependents a comfortable medical package. . . . Coverage while you're a trustee--that's fine--but lifetime benefits are just ridiculous."

Trustees are paid a $400 monthly stipend and are eligible for medical coverage, including dental and optical coverage, while in office. However, trustees voted 3 to 1 in the spring to extend that coverage. Under the present policy, trustees who leave the board at age 50 or older and have served at least 10 consecutive years will receive full coverage until age 65, said Tom Kimberling, district vice chancellor of administrative services.

Trustees who voted in favor of the extended health benefits defended their decision, saying many other part-time employees at the colleges could maintain insurance through their full-time jobs. Several of the present trustees are retired from their jobs.

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