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Finalists for Community College Post Interviewed

May 16, 1996|JOHN CHANDLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two college administrators from Texas were among the finalists interviewed Wednesday for the top job in the troubled Los Angeles Community College District, the largest in the nation.

Trustees of the nine-campus, 98,000-student district spent hours behind closed doors interviewing at least three, and possibly more, finalists for the post of chancellor. Two known contenders are Charles Green, former chancellor of the Houston Community College system, and William Segura, president of the multi-campus Austin Community College.

Los Angeles district officials refused to publicly comment on the search process. But several district sources said some board members and others were concerned that no Asians and only one woman among the 16 to 20 candidates filed applications.

The search is an outgrowth of a 4-3 vote by the Los Angeles district's Board of Trustees in September to not renew Chancellor Neil Yoneji's two-year contract when it expires in October. District officials reportedly are hoping to choose a successor as early as the board's May 29 meeting in Van Nuys.

The Los Angeles community colleges have been in a downward spiral in recent years, losing nearly 40,000 students from the peak enrollment of 140,000 and running into budget shortfalls. State funding for community colleges is tied to enrollment. The state chancellor's office recently placed the district on a financial watch list.

After his interview, Green, 56, said the Los Angeles district needs an effective leader because its size and stature reflects on community colleges nationwide. "Lots of people look to Los Angeles. So goes the Los Angeles Community College District, so goes community colleges," Green said.

Green resigned under pressure in mid-1995 from the Houston district, which has six colleges and about 34,000 students. Green blamed his ouster on a dispute with his district's governing board over plans to downsize what some there called a top-heavy administrative structure. Green, who is African American, recently has been doing consulting work.

After his interview Wednesday, Segura, 48, who oversees an Austin system with about 25,000 students at seven locations, said he was intrigued by the challenge of the Los Angeles job but wasn't sure he would remain a candidate.

Unlike Green, whose only prior time in Los Angeles was a stint in the military in the area, Segura, who is Latino, grew up in the East Los Angeles area and has family here.

In a district increasingly populated by Latino students, the ethnicity of the district's new chancellor is a subject of some internal debate. The district's only three chancellors have been white, black and, most recently, Asian. Some board members reportedly feel pressure to choose a Latino.

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