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(Dan Carino
LA Community College District Board of Trustees
Think of the community college boards of trustees as school boards that govern community colleges instead of K-12 schools.
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Los Angeles County has 13 community college districts, with 21 colleges among them. Each district has its own board of trustees.

This guide focuses on the L.A. Community College District. Depending on where you live, you might instead see the Santa Monica, Rio Hondo, North Orange County, Compton, Antelope Valley, Citrus, Long Beach, or Cerritos Community College District on your ballot, or none at all.

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This explanation of what the board of trustees does and what to consider when voting applies to any community college district.

What do I need to know about LACCD?

The Los Angeles Community College District is huge. Its boundaries cover 882 square miles that include the city of L.A. as well as dozens of other incorporated cities, such as San Fernando, Culver City, and Montebello. The district’s nine colleges enrolled 229,793 students in the 2019-20 academic year. LACCD is the largest community college district in the nation — by budget, student enrollment, and geographic area served.

The colleges don’t turn away applicants, so their students range from those who want a vocational certificate that will improve their job prospects to students who plan to transfer to the nation’s top research universities.

The colleges are a blue-collar educational engine for the region. More than half of LACCD students earn an income at or below the poverty line. More than three-fourths of its students are people of color. More than two-thirds of LACCD students are enrolled part time; many of them juggle work and home responsibilities.

What does a community college board of trustees do?

Boards of trustees set the vision, mission and goals for their district. The seven-member elected board of trustees:

  • Makes sure community members’ needs are reflected in district priorities. For instance, if a trustee hears that prospective students are having trouble figuring out how to register for classes, they can bring that concern to the rest of the board and chancellor;
  • Is accountable for how money gets spent and for making the necessary shifts and changes that help students succeed. The district had a $5.5 billion budget for 2021-22;
  • Hires and fires the district’s top executive, the chancellor. The current chancellor, Francisco Rodriguez, has held the job for eight years (chancellors are essentially the CEOs of community college districts);
  • Can push for certain policies such as establishing campus food pantries,working with agencies for free transportation, and finding money to help students pay for housing

Even if you don’t attend or work at a community college, there are plenty of reasons to care about what these boards do. Their work extends to much more than academics. They oversee district budgets, which go toward all kinds of projects beyond academics — think new buildings, land development, and construction, all of which affect the surrounding community. Community colleges often offer events and other opportunities that are open to the public, as well.

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One of the most consequential decisions boards had to make in recent years was how to help students continue to pursue their education while also keeping staff, students, and faculty healthy from the COVID-19 pandemic. Decisions to shut down campuses for remote-only learning, buy and distribute laptops for students, and implement vaccine mandates for in-person instruction — policies adopted at community colleges all across the state — all required approval from local district boards.

What’s on the agenda for the next term?

Students are the lifeblood of the colleges, not only because it’s the mission of the colleges to educate students but also because a big chunk of the money the campuses use to pay employees and keep things running depends on enrollment. LACCD lost tens of thousands of students during the pandemic. Community colleges throughout the state lost students, too, but LACCD lost students at a higher rate. State community college funding laws give the campuses several years to recoup enrollmentbefore the state reduces enrollment-based funding.

Are LACCD employee cuts inevitable? “If by 2025 we haven’t recovered our enrollment, yes,” current LACCD board member Andra Hoffman told LAist.

Along with LACCD’s campus presidents, and the chancellor, the board of trustees has been coming up with programs and approaches to get students back so that their state funding isn’t cut. Examples include reducing the costs of textbooks and transportation.

Another challenge: rising living costs are driving out the colleges’ core demographic.

Recent notable lawsuits against the district include accusations of corruption in the building of a new performing arts center at L.A. Valley College, and failure to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Where do they go from here?

Some community college district boards are unexpectedly popular springboards to higher office. Among those who started their political career as trustees: former Gov. Jerry Brown. He was elected governor of California just five years after his term as a trustee ended. More recent examples include Mike Fong and Sydney Kamlager, both LACCD board members who were later elected to the state legislature.

What can I consider in a candidate?
  • If you’re unsure what to consider as you decide who to vote for, here are some qualities that experts say are important for this role.

    • Campaign finance. You can look up campaign contributions for anyone running for a board of trustees seat. If the vast majority of their funds comes from the same interest group, that can be a red flag, said Dr. Larry Galizio, president and CEO of the Community College League of California. “If there's a board member who's only interested in his or her constituents, and only a particular interest, they're likely to not work in the best interest of the college and the district and the community as a whole,” he said.
    • Ability to work in a team. Having a good working relationship with other board members and the chancellor or superintendent-president of the district is critical to doing the job effectively. Members may disagree on issues, but they ultimately have to be able to work together in order to accomplish anything.
    • Understanding of the community. Communicating the concerns of a community back to the board is a big part of a trustee’s job. It helps to look through their background to gauge how well they understand their local community, and whether they’d be an effective liaison.
    • Big-picture thinking. “You don’t want a micromanager,” Galizio said. A trustee is not in charge of day-to-day operations, and they’re not supposed to get into the nitty gritty of how programs are run. Instead, they have to stay focused on the larger questions of how policies fit in with the district’s vision, mission, and overall sustainability. 
    • A well-rounded board. Trustees need to use a lot of different skills in their job: financial savvy, an understanding of educational policy, community relationships, knowledge of legal, real estate and health care landscapes. It’s tough to find one person who has it all, but you can assemble a board that can bring some of these different skills together — and some of the best boards have members from a whole variety of professional backgrounds and interests, Galizio said. 

More reading

  • Community College Boards Lose Power, Stature As System Changes (Reveal): This 2013 article delves into how community college district boards have lost local power over time and details some of boards’ distinct powers.
  • Community College League of California - Resources: The Community College League of California is a nonprofit organization that supports board trustees, school chancellors and presidents. They have a wealth of data and information about trustees and college districts across the state, including budget and enrollment trends, trustee demographics, details on how board members’ roles differ from those of school CEOs, and more.

Who we spoke to for this piece

  • Mona Field, former LACCD board member
  • Larry Galizio, President and CEO, Community College League of California
  • Fernando Guerra, Professor of Political Science and Chicana/o Studies, Loyola Marymount University
  • Sydney Kamlager, California State Senator and former LACCD board member
  • Tatiana Melguizo, Professor of Education, USC Rossier School of Education
  • Andra Hoffman, board member, L.A. Community College District

The Candidates

Each community college board member is elected to a four-year term, with elections staggered and held every two years. Unlike K-12 school district races, seats are at-large, meaning that everybody who lives in a given community college district will vote for all seats up for election, rather than just voting for one that represents a specific geographic area.

The board job is listed as part-time work and each member is paid about $24,000 a year.

Board Seat 2

Jason R. Aula

Aula is listed on the ballot as a news reporter and business owner. Aula didn’t reply to a request for an interview. Here’s a bit about him based on his website: One of his top campaign goals is to create an NCAA football team at L.A. City College and L.A. Trade Tech. He says he believes in “free enterprise, small government and individual liberty.” He’s an NRA member and a graduate of CSU Long Beach who has worked as a Republican political consultant and paralegal.

Campaign Website: jasonaula.com
Endorsements: None listed
Contributions: No filings listed with California Secretary of State

More Resources:

Steve Veres

Steven Veres is the LACCD Board Seat 2 incumbent. He has served two terms in this seat. He’s currently on staff with California State Sen. María Elena Durazo and has worked for L.A. area politicians Cindy Montañez and Kevin de León. Veres grew up in L.A. and completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UCLA. He tells LAist he’s supported policies that help undocumented LACCD students, as well as programs to increase basic needs help. The quality of that support is uneven throughout the district, he says.

“What we do well in one college,” Veres says, “we have the students at another college that have the same expectation of success or service.” For him as a board member, he says, that means working to bring successful approaches to student enrollment to all nine campuses.

Campaign Website: steveveres.com
Contributions: No filings with California Secretary of State
Endorsements: List of endorsements (Campaign website)

More resources:

  • Read more about Steve Veres' priorities and experience on Voter's Edge

Glenn Trujillo Bailey

Bailey’s profession is not listed in the county voter guide. He did not reply to a request for an interview. It appears he ran for the state Board of Equalization as a member of the Green party and lost.

Campaign website: No campaign website
Contributions: No active profile with California Secretary of State
Endorsements: None listed

Glenn Trujillo Bailey provided no information on Voter's Edge, but you can request that he provide it.

Board Seat 4

Sara Hernandez

Hernandez is listed as attorney/teacher. Her day job is as a land use and environmental attorney for the law firm DLA Piper. She teaches constitutional law at Valley College, one of LACCD’s campuses. She tells LAist that she’d like to use her professional experience helping developers of affordable housing to guide LACCD to build housing for students. She was a middle school teacher in L.A. for three years, beginning as a Teach For America member. Turning around declining enrollment is a big deal for the board’s next term, she says.

“For me, success looks like rising enrollment numbers, rising completion and transfer rates,” she says, “and I think that that needs to be tied directly to the Chancellor's evaluation.”

Campaign Website: sarahernandez.com
Contributions: No filings listed with California Secretary of State
Endorsements: List of endorsements(Campaign website)

More resources:

  • Read more about Sara Hernandez's priorities and experience on Voter's Edge.

Christine Lamonica

Christine Lamonica is listed as a university lecturer. Lamonica did not reply to a request for an interview. Per Voter’s Edge, her priorities include expanding access to trade school training; addressing homelessness; and promoting critical thinking and writing skills.

Campaign website: No campaign website
Contributions: No profile with California Secretary of State
Endorsements: None listed

More resources:

  • Read more about Lamonica's priorities and experience on Voter's Edge

Ernest Moreno

Ernest Moreno is the LACCD Board Seat 4 incumbent. “I was with the district when it was first established in 1969” as a clerical worker in human relations, Moreno tells LAist. Moreno has held numerous jobs at LACCD. He was president of East LA College for 17 years, a district vice chancellor, and a district chief labor negotiator. This would be his second term if re-elected. He’s an LACCD insider waving a big red flag about student enrollment and funding.

“We should begin the process of recognizing the decline … we know that we need to cut our costs,” he says. And that means cutting employees. He’s in the minority on that issue among the current board members.

There’s a $5.3 billion building modernization bond measure on the same ballot as these races. Moreno doesn’t believe the bond measure adequately addresses the college district’s new needs after the pandemic.

Campaign Website: No campaign website, but you can read their bio on the district's website.
Contributions: No filings with California Secretary of State
Endorsements: None listed

Moreno provided no information on Voter's Edge, but you can request that he provide it.

Board Seat 6

Gabriel Buelna

Gabriel Buelna is the LACCD Board Seat 6 incumbent. Buelna was a leader in the Chicano student movement in Southern California in the 1990s. He’s a practicing attorney and teaches Chicana and Chicano studies at CSU Northridge.He’s also a YouTuber whose topics include Chicano foodies. Buelna believes that increasing programs such as ethnic studies classes that reflect the life experiences of LACCD’s people of color will go a long way toward bringing students back to campuses.

Buelna provided no information on Voter's Edge, but you can request that he provide it.

Robert Payne

Robert L. Payne is listed as a writer/researcher/educator. In an interview with LAist, Payne describes an unconventional work history that began in the San Fernando Valley. “I'm a kid from Pacoima. I saw education as my way out and I took it,” he says. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from CSU Northridge. He’s worked as a cameraman on independent films, is a self-published author, and has taught as an adjunct at LACCD’s Mission College. He says his writing has provided enough money for him to cover his living expenses. He says if elected he'd work toward reducing the debt students go into to cover college costs (though that’s mostly an issue for university students, whose tuition is much more than community college students).

Campaign Website: payneforlaccd.info
Contributions: No active profile with California Secretary of State
Endorsements: None listed

Payne provided no information on Voter's Edge.

Board Seat 7

This is a special election to fill the remaining term of Mike Fong, following his recent election to the state assembly.

Mark Dutton

Mark Dutton is listed as a producer/writer/teacher. He grew up in Fullerton and was majoring in psychology at UC Irvine when he made a major life decision. “I told my parents, to their dismay, ‘I do not want to finish college, I want to take my music seriously, and we're going to tour the world,’” he says. He’s played a lot of rock and roll since then. Here he is with the Chris Robinson Brotherhood. Dutton now calls that lifestyle narcissistic, a realization that led him to sign on to manage Elisa Avalos’ L.A. city council campaign earlier this year. He saw it as a way to get involved in civic life. She lost. So now here he is, making a case to voters that there’s a place for a rock musician and producer on the LACCD board. Dutton's proposals are broad: improve education and watch the spending of tax dollars. “I'm an honest person, I'm going to do what is logical and what is right,” he says, “and I'm not going to fall into the trap of the toxic political swamp that we have in Los Angeles.”

Campaign Website: Via Facebook
Contributions: No listings with California Secretary of State
Endorsements include: Elisa Avalos

Mark Dutton provided no information to Voter's Edge.

Kelsey Iino

Kelsey Iino is the LACCD Board Seat 7 incumbent in this race — sort of. The LACCD board appointed Iino to Seat 7 earlier this year after board member Mike Fong’s election to the state assembly. Iino has a doctorate in higher educational leadership from USC. She works full time at El Camino College, which is not in the LACCD district, as a counselor. She leadsa program on campus that counsels Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students.

She tells LAist she has experience helping colleges with the accreditation process, which is coming up for LACCD. She’s aware of the big enrollment loss and proposes a major change in the formula that bases state funding mostly on enrollment. “So if our funding is based off of head count, then we really need to look at that and find better metrics,” she says, “and it shouldn't just be butts in the seat. It should also be success metrics.”

Campaign Website: kelseyiino.com
Contributions: No listings with California Secretary of State
Endorsements: List of endorsements (Campaign website)

Iino provided no information on Voter's Edge, but you can request that she provide it.

Nancy Pearlman

Nancy Pearlman is listed as a college educator/environmentalist. Pearlman is running for the LACCD board because of some unfinished business: She served on the board for four terms starting in 2001, until Gabriel Buelna unseated her.

“I wish to regain a seat on the board of trustees for the Los Angeles Community College District to continue to lead in the programs that I helped start,” she says. Those include green building and sustainability programs. Pearlman says the current board is wasting funds and doesn’t believe the board would properly oversee the building renovation funds that are proposed on the ballot.

Campaign Website: nancypearlman.net
Contributions: None listed with California Secretary of State
Endorsements: None listed

More resources:

  • Read more about Nancy Pearlman's priorities and experience on Voter's Edge.

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