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Texas Man Named to Head Community College District


VAN NUYS — The troubled Los Angeles Community College District, beset by plummeting enrollments and money shortages, Wednesday night picked a veteran educator who grew up in East Los Angeles as the new chancellor of the nation's largest community college system.

The Los Angeles district's board of trustees emerged from an eight-hour closed-door session to announce it had unanimously given William Segura, 48, president of the multi-campus Austin Community College in Texas, a four-year contract and a hefty pay increase to become the district's first Latino leader.

"He is an outstanding educator, a man of great vision who is more than capable of leading this college district into the 21st century," said trustee Lindsay Conner. Segura will prove "more than equal to this challenge" of running the nine-campus, 95,723-student system, Conner said.

"I'm very excited to be the new chancellor," Segura said by telephone from his home in the Austin area shortly after signing a tentative contract agreement. "I feel very positive about the prospects for the Los Angeles Community College District."

Segura, who describes himself as experienced in "organizational transformation," won praise in Austin for helping the college there link its programs with local high-tech industries. He also reportedly was the favorite among the Los Angeles search committee that sent reports on a handful of finalists to the board of trustees.

But he also has had problems with his own governing board in Austin, and said publicly last year he wasn't sure he'd seek renewal of his contract amid disputes over alleged board interference. That dispute led the Austin college's accrediting agency to issue the college a mild sanction this year.

Segura will become the fourth chancellor of the Los Angeles district since its creation in 1969. Students and community leaders alike had been pushing for a Latino chancellor because the district has never had one, although Latinos now make up 39% of the students, its largest ethnic group.

But Segura also will inherit a district saddled with aging and decrepit facilities, enrollments that have dropped 17%--nearly 20,000 students--since 1991, and failing finances that have placed the district on a state watch list and led to seven of its nine campuses facing budget deficits this year.

Reflecting that turmoil, the district's board voted 4 to 3 in September not to renew current Chancellor Neil Yoneji's original two-year contract when it expires in October. Yoneji was not present Wednesday night, and officials said the likely date of Segura's arrival was still under discussion. Segura said his Austin contract runs until July 31.

Some district officials say Yoneji's quick ouster and the Los Angeles district's increasing reputation for turmoil kept the pool of applicants for the chancellor's job small, less than 20. And most of the finalists, like Segura, were from relatively smaller institutions, sources said.

Thus, the move to Los Angeles will be a big leap for Segura. He has headed the Austin Community College since August 1993, overseeing seven campuses, but a student population of only 26,000, about one-fourth the size of the Los Angeles district.

Previously, the 26-year veteran educator was president from 1983 to 1993 of Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Ore. He served as an administrator at the University of Oregon from 1981 to 1982. He held various other positions at Chemeketa, where he began as a counselor in 1975.

Segura holds a doctorate in educational policy and management from the University of Oregon, a master's degree in counseling psychology from Western Oregon State College, and a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Linfield College in Oregon. He also worked as an educator in Pakistan from 1970 to 1974.

To lure Segura, Los Angeles trustees also opened their pocketbooks. Both Segura and Yoneji now earn base salaries of $125,000 a year. But the board agreed to start Segura at $140,000, and Segura said he also expects to receive a $1,600-a-month housing allowance and possible incentive raises.

In what Los Angeles district officials called a first for their system, Segura said he will be eligible to receive an extra $15,000 for any year in which the district's full-time-equivalent enrollment increases at least 2.5%.

The other finalist for the Los Angeles job was Charles Green, an African American educator and former chancellor of the Houston Community College system. One source said the third finalist was former University of Northern Colorado President Herman Lujan, although he could not be reached for confirmation.

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