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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS | ELECTIONS

Faculty Union Backs 2 for College Board

November 03, 2000|KATIE COOPER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A push by the county's community college faculty union to gain a majority on the college district's board of trustees has dominated the race for the two seats in Tuesday's election.

Driven by its dislike of current hiring policies, the American Federation of Teachers Local 1828 has endorsed two candidates and devoted its time and money to their campaigns. Also, by recasting some of its long-held grievances into broader themes, the union has controlled the discussion on the quality of education in the district.

In the three-way race among incumbent Bob Gonzales and challengers Ruth Hemming and Jeffrey Ketelsen for the Area 3 seat--covering Santa Paula, Fillmore, Ojai and Camarillo--the union has launched an aggressive effort to oust Gonzales, who sided against the union in the last round of contract negotiations two years ago.

With a new round set for early next year, union leaders and members have contributed heavily to Hemming, an Ojai resident who has raised $47,172, a near-record amount in a district board race.

"I wouldn't consider running without the support of faculty," said Hemming, 61, who is the chief budget officer at Moorpark College. "If the faculty doesn't support a candidate, then you should be concerned. Faculty are critical to the success of the district and students."

Union leaders say Gonzales, like most sitting district board members, has encouraged hiring lower-paid part-time faculty instead of full-time instructors, a long-standing union grievance.

The union also argues that the students are shortchanged by having so many part-time faculty members--instructors who rarely have office space and who are not paid for tutoring students outside of class.

Students at the county's three community colleges--in Ventura, Moorpark and Oxnard--are taught fewer hours by full-time faculty members than students in most other districts in the state, figures from the state chancellor's office show.

Gonzales, who is police chief of Santa Paula, defended the heavy use of part-time faculty instructors, but said he agreed that the district should move toward hiring more full-time teachers "if the enrollment was such that we needed more."

Gonzales, who has raised $19,336, including a $14,000 loan he made to himself, has been endorsed by state Sen. Jack O' Connell (D-Santa Barbara) and Assemblyman Tony Strickland (R-Simi Valley). He said helping restore the fiscal health of the district was one of his proudest accomplishments during his first four-year term.

Hemming said, if elected, she would push for more full-time hires. And echoing another long-time union goal, Hemming said she planned to get more of the district's budget spent on education and less on administration.

"Hundreds of part-time faculty are trying to piece together a living by working for two, three or four college districts . . . and they spend so much of their time just driving to class, they're not accessible to students away from the classroom," Hemming said.

Ketelsen, a part-time traffic engineer for the city of Oxnard, said if elected, he would push for more full-time hires and more funding for Oxnard College.

Ketelsen, 39, has raised less than $1,000 in the race.

In Area 5, covering Oxnard and Port Hueneme, the mid-term resignation of former trustee Pete Tafoya last May opened the door for the faculty union to push for a majority of seats on the five-member district board. Current board member John Tallman has generally been sympathetic to union issues.

In the three-way race in Area 5 among Art Hernandez, Sylvia Munoz-Schnopp and Kalani Jose, the union has endorsed Hernandez, the president of the Oxnard Union High School Board of Trustees.

Hernandez, 43, said one of his top priorities if elected would be to prepare the community colleges for the large enrollment growth he expects once the planned Cal State Channel Islands opens in 2002.

He also said he will delve into the issue of part-time instructors.

"Always going from one campus to another to get to your teaching job--that's got to get old over time," said Hernandez, who has raised $15,692, including a $5,000 contribution from the faculty union. "We want dedicated faculty."

Munoz-Schnopp, 41, said she would work to ensure that the majority of the district's money is spent in the classroom. An executive at AT&T Wireless, Munoz-Schnopp said she would also help students get financial aid for higher education. The Port Hueneme resident has been endorsed by Tafoya, County Supervisor Frank Schillo and Sheriff Bob Brooks. She has raised $4,869 for the race.

Jose, an Oxnard chiropractor, said he was mainly running to bring attention to what he said is inadequate funding for Oxnard College, the smallest of the county's three campuses.

"I'm doing it for the students," said Jose, 34, who has raised about $3,000. "I have no personal or professional gain. If the trustees don't resolve the problems at Oxnard College, they can expect to hear from me in two years."

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