In the upcoming November elections, there is only one Board of Trustees seat for which two candidates are competing. Currently holding the Sutter County position, Leela Rai is being challenged by Dr. Ernest Garcia, a local dentist in Yuba City.
Students may want to take note of their candidates’ campaign because the Board of Trustees is in charge of allocating funds to different Yuba College areas such as salaries, new hires, special programs, and campus maintenance. Rai states, “We are the representatives of the community. They are the ‘owners’ of the Yuba College institution, so student success is in everybody’s best interest.”
From her 7 and a half years on the board, Rai has noticed changes in the local education system’s teaching process itself. “The movement now is, instead of being teaching-oriented, it’s learning oriented. That takes the student’s whole person into account. Instead of being taught to, you bring the student into the process of facilitating learning.” Rai also mentioned the more modern learning tools available to students over the past few years, such as having a mentor program and the most recent achievement of the smoother transfer process in connection with CSU Sacramento and UC Davis. “The greatest noticeable change is the advance of technology concerning registration and online courses, and it took a lot of resources to get there.”
Garcia’s motivation to run for the seat was inspired by raising his own children. He said, “I believe that when you raise children, you raise them not to make the same mistakes we have made; I also believe in education being focused around the idea of life-long learning for our students because once you stop learning, you stop growing as a person.”
For Yuba College, Garcia sees “a huge potential for improvement in all areas. Information technology is our future, and we have to embrace it. I envision Yuba College becoming completely digitally integrated.”
When prompted about the recent statewide budget cuts, Garcia stated, “Anything that cuts funding from education is short-sighted and will have serious repercussions in California. We need to make a better connection between the Yuba College and the community because there are a lot of resources that can help overcome these government shortfalls.”
“If we can create new programs feeding off existing programs so more people will stay here to go to school, said Garcia. “Many resources would pay to keep (special programs) here in this area.”
Garcia believes the college can help the community grow by producing knowledgeable employees for local businesses.
Rai said, “The statewide budget cuts have not hit community colleges as much as it hit other programs; but it still has affected us. I think that what it tells us is that we need to move in a different direction as far as being dependent on state money.”
According to Rai, the board has brought up talks on the idea of a possible bond measure to counteract any actions against state funding cuts. She also said that programs and special classes would be the last in line to be cut if they had to start a process of elimination because of a lack of funding.
“Passion of purpose” is what Garcia said he hopes to bring to the board. “We need to focus on what’s important. Faculty should be nurtured, facilities should improve, students should be kept in the community.”
“I want to be a student advocate first and a faculty advocate second because the two cannot survive without each other,” continued Garcia. “I have a passionate desire to improve the college experience and improve the institution for the students.””The priority is to put students first,” agreed Rai. “We need to make sure Yuba College stays abreast of trends in the state and community to stay competitive. Quality of education should be top notch and stay in the framework of the vision and mission statements, and we must constantly re-evaluate those and prioritize student success. “We are living in dramatic times and things are drastically changing,” continued Rai. “We have a responsibility to keep up.”
Rai notes one of the ways the current board notices they are doing a good job is when students speak about a positive experience when they leave Yuba College. Garcia said he is already gaining so much positive energy from his campaign experience by connecting with the young people. “It is very stimulating,” said Garcia, “They are our future leaders.”
Also up for election, running unopposed, to the Yuba College Board of Trustees are Alan Flory (Woodland County), Mark Bredt (Lake County), and George Nicholau (Yuba County).