Voters in Alamo will help decide the leadership of local community colleges during the Nov. 3 election, with three candidates to choose from for the Contra Costa Community College District (CCCCD) Board of Trustees.
The contest will decide the next office holder for a four-year term for Ward 2 seat -- which represents Lafayette, Orinda, Walnut Creek and parts of Alamo -- with incumbent Vicki Gordon facing challengers Judy Walters and John Michaelson.
The seat's incumbent, Gordon, is a longtime leader in education, serving as a trustee on the Martinez Unified School District for 15 years until her election to the CCCCD board in 2012.
Campaigning on a platform that highlights a need for continuity and experience, Gordon said strong leadership and extensive institutional knowledge is needed now more than ever if the district is to navigate its way through the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic downturn.
"Students and their successful outcomes have always been the cornerstone of why I have been a board member for the past 23 years," Gordon told DanvilleSanRamon.com. "I am running for re-election because the depth and breadth of knowledge and experience that I bring is needed now more than ever in these uncertain and unprecedented COVID-19 times. I am also running to continue the important work that I have started."
Advocating for a continuation of her work on the board, Gordon said her goals revolve around responsible fiscal stewardship, lobbying for stable funding and to continue work with the State Chancellor's Office on diversity equity and inclusion, among other issues.
"My vision for our district is to help ensure stable funding to make sure our students have access to the classes they need and to continue to make our campuses the engine and gateway for students to productively move on into further educational opportunities, into well-paying jobs, and to be successful in whatever they choose to do when they leave us," Gordon said.
Recently, Gordon was accused of ethics violations related to Brown Act violations, attempts to unduly pressure district administrators and harassing colleagues, according to Bay City News Service.
Gordon did not respond to requests for comment about the alleged violations for this story; however, Bay City News Service reported that Gordon denied most of the specific allegations and claimed that the investigation process concerning the complaints were unfair and overly political.
Residents can learn more about Gordon and her campaign online a www.vickigordon2020.com.
A challenger with leadership experience in education, including within CCCCD, Walters previously served as president of Diablo Valley College and Berkeley City College and sat for five years as a member of the Mendocino School Board.
Walters has cast herself as a leader with a wide range of experience in a number of different areas -- experience she said can be used to promote fiscal stability, ensure student success, upholding the social justice issues "upon which the California Community Colleges were built" and the creation of an atmosphere of respect and professionalism on the board, among other priorities.
"The CCCCD board is currently going through difficult times in our/their system of values. At the last board retreat and self evaluation (July 8, 2020), the 'board acknowledged that it was not functioning well,'" Walters told DanvilleSanRamon.com. "Noticed was lack of respect for each other, inability to uphold a code of ethics and support a conflict of interest policy, and not renewing district personnel contracts."
In addition to bringing stability to the board, Walters said one of her top priorities would be to increase the transfer rates of students to University of California and California State University campuses, achieving this through ensuring that students have access to the classes and services needed to attain education goals in a timely manner.
With more than 30 years experience in the California community colleges, Walters resume includes being president of Vista Community College, 10 years working at the State Chancellor’s Office, interim chancellor at Chabot-Las Positas Community College District, and most recently during the COVID-19 era, interim president at Yuba College.
"The district needs a proven, experienced leader with integrity to support our colleges and provide the high-quality instruction and services our students deserve," Walters said on her campaign website. "This is a time of crisis. With experienced leadership, our colleges can rise to meet our challenges."
Residents can learn more online at www.judywalters4communitycolleges.com.
A progressive activist with a desire to serve students not as customers but as "valued constituents," Michaelson is campaigning to provide for students basic needs and to serve as a voice for the most disadvantaged members of the CCCCD.
A former student at Diablo Valley College, Michaelson said his priorities for the district involve expanding student health care, enforcing a more stringent air quality index for school closure, implementing further screening for COVID-19, providing resources for protecting students from violence and expanding workforce development partnerships for career training.
"I’m running for the CCCCD because there is a need for more young people on the board. As a Native American member of the Absentee Shawnee nation, I also see the importance of elevating more POC voices to help address the issues of their communities," Michaelson told DanvilleSanRamon.com.
"Having more responsive leadership in office will lead to better outcomes for all. The community college system should be serving the students above all; not as customers, but as valued constituents and members of the community. I want to help develop better pathways for students coming out of high school, especially in the current circumstances, making community college a more affordable and desirable choice than ever," he added.
In addition to serving in a variety of roles with Diablo Valley College's participatory governance as a student, Michaelson said he has an extensive amount of volunteer experience with different organizations throughout the East Bay.
Through Occupy Oakland he has worked on multiple community projects to feed homeless people and currently works with the Young Democratic Socialists of America at Diablo Valley College about reallocating police funding to programs.
Michaelson further added that as a former student he is "more connected to the needs of young people within the community college system and to the needs of faculty and staff" and that he will work to "maintain open communication with all stakeholders."
Visit www.facebook.com/John4Trustee to learn more about Michaelson and his priorities for the CCCCD.