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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

October, 2007



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CUT THE FAT AT COM:
By Stephen Simac for MCC Board of Trustees

Cut the Fat at COM is my campaign slogan and my plan. The College of Marin board of trustees awarded their president an enormous raise this spring, reportedly so she wouldn't be hired away by another community college. The president then gained large raises for her assistants to keep them from being lured away. Yet the Marin County Grand Jury report on COM found this administration had not closely monitored building projects, allowing them to take longer and cost significantly more than projected. Their "green" designs and the number of buildings to be modernized have been reduced because of this. The board must control the ballooning costs of buildings that voters approved expensive bonds for.
Enrollment has declined for 20 years without effective actions to attract more students. There are many programs, activities and classes that attract few users, although more than half a million dollars has been spent to increase enrollment. With no review of results, the Grand Jury described this as "just throwing money at the enrollment problem." COM has been on an academic accreditation warning for three years, after ignoring WASC recommendations for ten years and they have drawn down financial reserves. COM spends more than twice as much per student than California community colleges, without achieving stellar results. This kind of performance is not in demand.

The board's cavalier attitude towards spending taxpayers' money without consideration of utilization and community benefits extends into other sectors of the College of Marin. I graduated from a community college and went on to a state university, eventually earning a Masters degree in counseling psychology and health education. I appreciate the value of community colleges. Residents are provided affordable academic education, trades and skills, career enhancement training or health and lifestyle improvement through classes, special events and certification programs. These are valuable resources for a community.


Community Needs, not Board Desires
The academic track must be promoted to area high school students and older academic returnees as an affordable, convenient alternative to beginning higher education than state and private four-year colleges, with classes of equivalent academic rigor. COM should ensure that these students are prepared and empowered to pursue higher degrees after leaving COM. A certification track must provide residents with professional training in trades and fields that are in demand to enhance their earning potential. There are more childcare than elder care classes at COM, when the demographics of Marin County have trended the opposite way for decades.

Marin is a magical place for consciousness raising and a nexus for societal changes, not just economic opportunities. COM education and practice can lead Marin towards a health and wellness oriented, environmentally sustainable society.

A community college needs to be financially responsible to the community. Unless more students begin to use Indian Valley Campus it must be sold, possibly with some area returned as a Native American sacred site. There is no shortage of accessible, affordable office or warehouse space along the 101 corridor or in west Marin that can be used for classrooms in outreach programs. Many Kentfield buildings are not fully used.

The Marin Community College District board presides over a country club type fiefdom. Cut the Fat at COM will use the savings to improve and promote classes, programs and events to attract people the current catalogs are not. The fees charged for classes are reasonable, but fees are only a small part of an affordable education in Marin. Housing and transportation are budget busters for students and potential students.

Providing training certification in construction methods, designs and materials that create less waste, use sustainable materials and cost less to build and maintain over their lifetime will do more to make housing affordable and increase income for graduates.

Transportation costs are tied in with the traffic and parking problems at the Kentfield Campus. Cut the Fat at COM will use some savings to subsidize mass transit fees and improve bicycle and pedestrian access for students, administration and faculty. Encouraging them not to drive to campus will reduce traffic and parking congestion and significantly reduce their transportation expenses.

Re-focusing health services for students and staff to provide more health education and wellness promotion, with the campus clinic providing preventive services and affordable medical treatments, while offering low cost group insurance rates for more serious injuries and illness will be a major benefit of enrolling as a student or working at COM. Cut the Fat at COM is my campaign slogan and my plan. As a trustee I would lobby for these and other changes to improve our community college, increase enrollment, save money, and gain greater benefits for the community. My complete platform is online at 2020Vision.be

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