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Two Vie for College Board Seat

Faculty members forced the mail-in election for a short-term seat on the South Orange County Community College District board.

March 22, 2004|Joel Rubin | Times Staff Writer

In an unusual election forced by faculty members, two retired educators are vying for a short-term seat on the board of trustees at South Orange County Community College District.

Voters will select either William "Bill"Jay or Gary V. Miller to fill the post in a special, mail-ballot election. Ballots must be received by the Orange County Registrar of Voters by 8 p.m. on March 30 and may be mailed or hand-delivered.

The vote will fill the post only through November, when the seat will come up for regular election.

Jay, 68, claims strong ties to the district, which oversees Saddleback and Irvine Valley community colleges. For 24 years, he taught math or held an array of administrative positions at Saddleback, including president. He retired in 1999.

"I am eager to get back in the harness," Jay said. "Education has been my life."

Similarly, Miller, 61, comes to the race with a educator's background. After working for 12 years as a special education instructor, including in the Pasadena Unified School District, the California native served as a trustee at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut from 1985 to 1993.

Both men pointed to unresolved contract negotiations with the teachers union that have left instructors without a salary agreement for more than a year as the district's most pressing issue.

"My gut feeling is that if it takes this long for negotiations, then the district's bargaining procedure has broken down somewhere," Miller said. "We might have to go back to square one and start again." He said that he would push for an agreement within three months.

The candidates also echoed the need to renovate and expand the aging campuses, using district reserves and state funds.

The election comes after trustees appointed Eric Norby in October to replace Dorothy Fortune, who resigned amid allegations she had moved out of the district. Her seat expires in November.

Faculty members gathered more than 6,500 signatures to remove Norby and force the election. While not targeting Norby specifically, teachers said they were angry that the board did not give them and others in the community college district greater consideration in making the appointment. Norby decided not to seek the seat.

The faculty union endorsed Jay; Miller said he did not seek the group's support.

County election officials have said they could not recall another time an appointment was nullified in favor of an election. Donald P. Wagner, president of the board, defended the manner in which Norby was selected and expressed frustration over an election that will cost taxpayers between $400,000 and $500,000.

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