Six candidates are vying for four open seats on the Santa Monica Community College District board of trustees.
The only incumbent in the election Tuesday, November 7th, is board chair Nancy Greenstein after longtime trustees Carole Currey, Dorothy Ehrhart-Morrison and Herbert Roney decided to retire from the board.
Trustees serve four-year terms and are elected by voters in Santa Monica and Malibu. The board has seven members elected by the general public and an eighth member, a student trustee elected by Santa Monica College students.
SUSANNA KIM BRACKE is a financial advisor with Citigroup and a former Lehman Brothers investment banker.
She graduated from Harvard College magna cum laude and was a Phi Beta Kappa member before going on to Harvard Business School.
“I am running for the college board to support high-quality, low-cost college education with a superior record of transferring students to four-year institutions,” Bracke says.
“I will bring my liberal arts education and professional financial experience to the table to help keep Santa Monica College a great institution of higher education.”
Bracke says the world has changed since she attended college.
She is the daughter of an immigrant and went to San Francisco public schools. She asks herself whether she could attend Harvard today with her background.
“The competition is fierce, both for college and for careers afterwards,” Bracke says. “I have interviewed high school students planning for college for the past ten years, and I believe I understand their struggles and dreams and the high-paced, high-pressure, high-tech society in which they must make their way.”
Her campaign platform also includes support for programs for senior citizens, continuing education and extension programs.
TOM DONNER spent 30 years as Santa Monica College’s chief business officer, including two terms as interim superintendent/ president, before retiring this year.
He and his family have lived in Malibu for more than 20 years after living in Santa Monica. His son graduated from Malibu High School and is attending Santa Monica College this fall.
Donner has a Bachelor of Science in finance and a Master of Business Administration from California State University-Long Beach, and a juris doctorate from Southwestern University.
He says some of his career highlights include winning numerous state and national awards for college business leadership and leading the team that rebuilt Santa Monica College facilities damaged by the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
Other highlights are that he established Emeritus College for senior citizens, satellite campuses for vocational programs and University of California transfer requirements, developed 30 balanced Santa Monica College budgets on time and obtained untapped state funding.
“It has been my privilege for 30 years to be part of the team that built Santa Monica College into one of the top ten community colleges in the country,” Donner says.
“A vote for me will put decades of administrative, financial and teaching experience to work for the community as a college trustee on behalf of students of all ages.”
If elected, he promises to create a report card for the community to show results of student services and instruction, develop new business, community and school partnerships that enhance education, expand energy conservation programs to lower costs and protect the environment and work with the community, students, faculty and staff to build consensus so that all voices are heard before a decision is made.
“I thoroughly enjoyed being at Santa Monica College, seeing it progress and make it possible for people to do things,” Donner says. “As a trustee, I can be involved in making policies rather than be an administrator who puts out fires. I can have the time to look at policy and priorities.”
DAVID B. FINKEL is an adjunct political science professor at Santa Monica College, retired judge and former Santa Monica City Councilman.
He served on the Santa Monica City Council from 1986 to 1990 as a councilman and mayor pro tempore before he left to serve as a Santa Monica Municipal Court judge.
He was the local court’s presiding judge and went on to become a Superior Court judge.
Finkel has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Chicago and a juris doctorate from the University of Southern California.
At the Santa Monica Municipal Court, he was in charge of the Settlement Court Division, where he attempted to settle civil cases before those cases ended up in expensive litigation.
“I settled 95 percent of cases,” Finkel says. “Most disputes should be resolved through mediation instead of litigation. I know how to listen.”
He says he would be a good Santa Monica Community College District trustee because of his experience as a mediator and arbitrator.
His years providing community services to Santa Monica has enabled him to have friendly relationships with the three local governments: Santa Monica City Hall, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) and the Santa Monica Community College District.
As a councilman, he was the liaison to the community college district and the school district.
“I know everybody and worked with them before,” Finkel says. “I could improve Santa Monica College’s relationship with its faculty and staff, Santa Monica City Hall and SMMUSD.”
If elected, he hopes to encourage and prepare students to think independently, support continuing education programs and programs for senior citizens, reduce the dropout rate in some programs and maintain Santa Monica College’s high transfer rates to UCLA and USC, find parking for the Bundy Campus that does not impose on neighbors and “promote respect and fairness” among faculty, staff and administration.
“My priorities are to help students achieve their academic and/or vocational goals, be a good neighbor, solve parking problems and solve shuttle problems.”
NANCY GREENSTEIN has been the director of police community services at the UCLA Police Department since 1997 and a Santa Monica College trustee since 2002.
She received national recognition for community policing programs and strategies for bringing together diverse groups and agencies to resolve various issues.
Greenstein has also worked as a West Hollywood public safety administrator and is the current City of Santa Monica representative to the Los Angeles County West Vector District.
Previously, she was chair of the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corporation and the Santa Monica Charter Review Commission, and also a Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau board member.
She is co-chair emeritus of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights, a current board member and past president of the Southern California ACLU and active in a number of other community organizations.
“I am dedicated to upholding Santa Monica College’s tradition of excellence — its outstanding teachers, valuable community programs and mission of student success,” Greenstein says. “Over the past four years and, most recently, as chair of the Santa Monica College board of trustees, I have provided successful leadership.”
She says her community service affiliations help her as a trustee to bring a larger world vision and broader perspective to Santa Monica College.
The highlights of being a trustee, she says, are when she has opportunities to meet students of various backgrounds, see them progress and succeed toward graduation.
She congratulates the three retiring board members and says the 2006-2007 term would be a “significant and challenging time” for three new members.
She says she can work with all of the other candidates and is eager to see new people and their new ideas.
Greenstein’s goals for a second term are to advocate for equitable community college state funding, continue workforce development programs that include opening new learning centers for nursing and early childhood education, ensure the college district has excellent faculty, provide fiscal management of the district’s rebuilding programs that are responsive to local communities and the environment and establish a permanent site for Emeritus College programs.
One new idea she hopes will be implemented is to have trustees act as liaisons to neighborhood associations and councils in Santa Monica, Malibu and surrounding communities.
“I have a lifelong commitment to education, community service and human rights,” she says. “I will maintain Santa Monica College’s commitment to education while strengthening its partnership with neighbors and the community it serves.”
She has a bachelor’s degree in education from Boston University, a master’s degree in social work with a community organizing specialty from UCLA and a doctorate in education from UCLA.
LOUISE JAFFE works in film, television and education. She is also a coordinator and supervisor for many community service organizations.
She helped create the Santa Monica Lifelong Learning Community Project, which fosters working relationships between various government, education, health and social service institutions.
She is also a founding member of the political action committee Community for Excellent Public Schools and has memberships in the Santa Monica Childcare and Early Education Task Force, SMC General Advisory Board and SMC Associates.
Jaffe served as past president of the Santa Monica-Malibu Council of PTAs, the Will Rogers PTA and Santa Monica High School PTA.
“I support high-quality public education and lifelong learning, and am committed to strengthening Santa Monica College,” Jaffe says. “I have experience, ability, knowledge and commitment.”
She says institutions in Santa Monica and the Westside should not be considered separate interest groups and can work together to education resident from early childhood to senior citizens.
“I can have candid conversations with a lot of different people because I know them and, if elected, expect to have a lot of meetings to identify issues related to Santa Monica College,” Jaffe says.
If elected, her priorities are to continue Santa Monica College’s record as the top transfer school to four-year colleges, expand vocational options and job training, expand dual enrollment opportunities for high school students, support Emeritus College and the Pico Partnership, build partnerships with stakeholders, ensure tax dollars are spent wisely and solve parking and traffic problems.
“We need to use ongoing communication to build constructive, respectful relationships with faculty, employees, students, residents, local businesses, the City of Santa Monica, the City of Malibu, the Santa Monica- Malibu Unified School District and nonprofit organizations,” Jaffe says.
She has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Antioch College and has, since graduation, taken classes at UCLA Extension (and taught there), Santa Monica College, West Los Angeles Community College and California State University Northridge.
She has lived in Santa Monica for more than 20 years, most of those years in Sunset Park three blocks from Santa Monica College.
ANDREW WALZER teaches humanities at Los Angeles City College, after having taught English and history part-time at Santa Monica College from 1989 to 2005. He has a doctorate degree in American Studies and 15 years of teaching experience.
His priorities, if elected, are to make community colleges more affordable by lowering student fees, make board of trustees decisions more transparent and accountable to the community and develop vocational programs at Santa Monica College that can enable graduates to find jobs in the community.
“I know firsthand the importance of providing students with a wide variety of educational and career enhancement opportunities,” Walzer says. “However, just three years ago, students suffered as courses were cut and important vocational programs were eliminated because of the state budget crisis.”
He also says Santa Monica College’s policy on hiring part-time professors forced him to leave and accept a position with Los Angeles City College.
Walzer says 70 percent of professors at community colleges throughout California work part-time and receive slim benefits.
The solution, he says, is to lobby the state for more community college funding and to have an effective lobbying campaign by putting together a more united coalition of administrators, faculty and classified staff.
If elected, Walzer would also expand recent efforts by Santa Monica College to improve its relationship with its neighbors by establishing an open process on all development projects.
“I recently assisted in negotiating with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to provide subsidized bus passes to community college students in Los Angeles to encourage students to use public transportation,” Walzer says.
“I will work to implement a similar program at Santa Monica College, thus helping to alleviate traffic congestion in our neighborhoods.”
Walzer would also like to see Santa Monica College have proper financial reserves in case of a state budget crisis, a responsible budget process and use tax dollars wisely.