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Our View: Fortine, Wilk right for college board

Posted: October 30, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: October 30, 2011 1:55 a.m.

We in the Santa Clarita Valley benefit from a number of outstanding local institutions, and it’s easy to take them for granted when they’re here year after year, quietly offering services that other communities simply don’t have.
One of those institutions is College of the Canyons.

Largely under the current leadership, COC has risen from a small, sleepy institution to what is arguably the premiere community college in the nation. Along the way it has created model programs for fostering a strong business community and a progressive relationship between students and employers.

With an eye on emerging industries, the college built an Applied Technology Center and added certificate programs in solar technology, water technology and geriatrics care.

Though it remains a two-year institution, COC has also built the University Center and partners with four-year institutions so Santa Clarita Valley residents can earn bachelor’s degrees without leaving the valley.

Faced with severe state budget cuts, the college avoided massive class cuts and instead increased classroom efficiency to an impressive 98 percent.

All of this may seem reason enough to return incumbents to office on Nov. 8.

We note COC has made such remarkable strides by being open to change. In fact, it has embraced it. But change by itself is not always successful without continuity, some knowledge of history and people who have a long-range vision when serving the college’s board. That’s why we are endorsing both incumbents for the two COC trustee seats up for election.

Seat 4 Incumbent Bruce Fortine is a founding member of the college’s board. He has been involved in virtually all major decisions that the college has made in the past 40 years and helped establish a fiscally prudent policy and long-range vision for the college. We see no reason to change such a successful formula.

Fortine’s challenger Diana Shaw, we believe, does not offer sufficient reasons why she would be a better choice for Seat 4.

Shaw acknowledges that the college has done a good job with finances and merely says the college should focus on finding ways to save money, something Fortine is already committed to do. Shaw offers no bold new ideas.

Fortine’s length of service to the college is remarkable and his connections to the community make him a strong voice for the college.

Shaw criticizes him for going to too many black-tie galas and benefits for local businesses and nonprofit organizations. But we believe his attendance at these events help raise the profile of the college and give it contact with high-profile decision makers of the community who can help COC.

Shaw, we believe, would also need to be out in the community if she were to effectively do her job. This helps get the word out about the college and its goals and needs.

In Seat 5, Patrick Hill is challenging Scott Wilk, who is looking for his second term on the board.

Hill is a professor at CSU Bakersfield who has lived in the Santa Clarita Valley for just six months. We don’t believe he has the scope of understanding required to lead our community college, which is much more than just a local school district.
As in the case of Shaw, Hill offers no bold ideas that would make us want to make changes in what has been effective representation on the part of Wilk.

Hill is making a campaign issue out of the fact that Wilk announced that he intends to run for state Assembly next year. In that case, Wilk  would be unable to fulfill his term on the COC board and a special election would be required or an appointment would need to be made to fill his seat.

Although we are endorsing Wilk as the more qualified of the two candidates for Seat 5 because of his fiscally conservative position, his commitment and his knowledge of the college and community, we hope that this seat is not being treated as a fallback position in Wilk’s bid for higher state office. Because now is not the time for major changes or disruptions to a winning formula at our community college.

In the absence of knowing what Wilk’s future definitively holds, we cannot speculate and at this time can only endorse him based on his track record to date with COC.


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