Candidates campaign for trustee area positions

Daniel Green, Managing Editor

UPDATE (Oct. 16, 4:01 p.m.):  Alan Burton responded with an interview after publication of this article.

Normal story is as follows:

As election time draws closer, candidates for the board of trustees have started to rev up their campaigns to push their message out to the public.

People who vote will be able to select a candidate for a spot on the board on Nov. 4.

The job of the board is to discuss and vote on issues concerning Cerritos College, such as procedures, school budget and how the college spends it.

This year, three sections are going to be voted on. The districts that are up for election this year are areas three, five and seven.

Trustee area three, which covers parts of Bellflower, Cerritos, Downey and South Gate, has two candidates – John Paul Drayer, the incumbent, is being challenged by Dawn Dunton from Bellflower.

Drayer is a former Cerritos College student and is the first board member who served as a student senator for the college.

One of his main priorities since taking the position has been trying to make the board more transparent for students and members of the community.

“I want everyone to know it’s OK to ask questions, it’s OK to know where money comes from, how the process of things happen. It’s a good thing to ask questions,” Drayer said.
“I don’t believe in a rubber-stamp board. I believe in asking questions. I believe in understanding what’s going on and getting the facts.

“I want the campus to be run more like a business so we can save money and put it back in student services, and for employee pay and benefits.”

Since taking his spot on the board, Drayer has worked with students to help increase class sizes and find ways to help students gain access to expensive school materials, such as textbooks.

His opponent, Dunton, from Bellflower, was motivated to run after the Accreditation Committee for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) issued a warning to Cerritos College after its accreditation review last school year.

“When the accreditation report came out, a lot of people in the community were concerned about the direction the board was taking,” she said.

Dunton has held spots on her children’s PTA, and has 28 years of managing experience running a business with her husband. She was also president of the Mayfair High School and Lindstrom Elementary School Site Council.

She said, “I guess my name popped up in people’s heads because when my kids were in K-12, I was always very involved in their education and I think I’ve held every position in PTA there is. I was on the citizen’s task force, I was secretary for that site council, I was president for Mayfair High School and Lindstrom Elementary School Site Council, so from the student-parent part of education, (I’m used to) how it affects the end-user.”

Dunton’s main goals are to help the college figure out how to improve its accreditation and improve cohesiveness on the board.

“I see a lot of positioning for higher office, a lot of politics; I think that’s the main drag on the board. I think President (Linda) Lacy has done a magnificent job, and the board needs to have confidence that (it’s) doing what she’s telling (the members) to do, and not spend or waste a lot of time second guessing or wanting to micromanage either the teachers, or the president or the administration.

“That doesn’t mean you rubber stamp everything and go with it. But you have to have confidence in your staff, that (the staff) knows what (it’s) doing, (it’s) well-educated and (it) knows how to do (each) job.”

The next area up for grabs is area five, where Armin Reyes challenges the current trustee Dr. Shin Liu.

Dr. Liu’s main focus is to help prepare students for the future and provide the tools they need to survive in the changing workforce.

“As a professor of computer science at Rio Hondo College for 15 years, I understand the competitive edge that students will have if they are instilled with technological skills to achieve,” she said.

Liu was elected to the board of trustees in 2009 and has worked to build close ties within the community.

“Having held the position for five years, I have established a strong working relationship with the current members of the board, the students and the community. And I am well equipped to take on the issues that face the future of Cerritos College.”

Her opponent, Armin Reyes, is a veteran who has served on the ABC School District after first being elected in 1999. He was re-elected in 2003, 2007 and in 2011. Reyes served as board vice-president in 2004 and as president in 2005.

He received his Bachelor’s Degree in political science from California State University Fullerton and his Master’s Degree in behavioral science from California State University Dominguez Hills.

Reyes was not able to be reached in time for this article. Running for area seven are two residents of La Mirada – Alan Burton and Zurich Lewis.

Burton is a father of two college-aged students who are currently attending community colleges. He describes himself as a business owner, former law-enforcement officer and a veteran.

Burton said, “I saw that a lot of these kids had to stay longer than the two years and they’re willing to do the hard work. Talked to a lot students there before I even knew of the election and they weren’t happy.”

He added that that was one of the reasons he decided to run.

“I started doing a little bit of homework, I saw a policymaker to see what how I could do to help out and I decided now was the time to to give back to my community.”

Burton’s goals include making budget choices that benefit students, supporting the employees of Cerritos College and limiting special interest groups.

He is supported by board members President Carmen Avalos, Vice President Sandra Salazar, and Trustee Drayer.

Lewis is a life-long resident of La Mirada and a student at Biola University.

His website states that his priorities on the board would be an emphasis on fiscal stewardship, maintenance of accreditation status, strengthening ties with K-12 school districts and supporting the best programs for students.

Lewis has helped with many campaigns and worked as field director for La Mirada Councilwoman Pauline Deal.

Lewis is being endorsed by La Mirada Mayor Larry Mowles and Norwalk Mayor Marcel Rodarte. He is also endorsed by Trustee Liu, as well as former mayor and current trustee Bob Hughlett.

Lewis was reached, but did not respond in time to be interviewed for this article. Elections will take place on Nov. 4.