Forum showcases trustee hopefuls battling to get union endorsement


Perla Lara

A crowd consisting of mostly Cerritos College professors gathered at the Cerritos College Faculty Federation Forum for the Board of Trustees election candidates. The forum was held at Cerritos College on Tuesday Aug 16. With ongoing contract negotiations between current Board of Trustees members and faculty a change in the elected Board of Trustee members could lead to finalizing a contract. Photo credit: Perla Lara

Karla Enriquez, Managing Editor

For the incumbent trustees and their challengers, the future holds an upward battle as the November election process kicks off with four chairs up for re-election.

The Faculty Union hosted the first of two forums to get to know the incumbent and challenging candidates before the Committee on Political Education makes endorsement recommendations.

The first forum took place on Tuesday, Aug. 16 with members of the faculty present to ask the candidates questions pertinent to how their election would affect the campus community.

Cerritos College Faculty Federation President Solomon Namala stated that the final authority that endorses is the executive board of the faculty union, but the forum was open to all, so faculty had a chance to give feedback.

The candidates present the first day were:

  • Luis Melliz, Area 2
  • Martha Camacho-Rodriguez, Area 1
  • Tammy Ashton, Area 2
  • Catherine Godinez, Area 1
  • Sandra Salazar, Area 6 (incumbent)

The forum gave the candidates 30 minutes each to speak, consisted of questions from C.O.P. E. and an open forum for the public.

Area 2 Challengers

Melliz, who was a student at Cerritos College, stated that he is running because “there are issues and I’m concerned and I would like to address them.”

The Area 2 challenger was a mentor to troubled youth in his community of Bellflower and at Cerritos College through the Puente Program.

He listed transparency and accountability as two important values.

Melliz is challenging Carmen Avalos, who he claims is not doing her job.

“I’ve been to more board meetings than the incumbent,” he said to some laughter.

Avalos said, “For him to discredit me that is just politics.”

She said that the board is diverse in part because of her and has always been about supporting students. She credited the board with doing everything it knows and mentioned the extended library hours and counseling as improvements the board brought about.

Melliz credited himself with having helped elect a sizable amount of the board, “I helped elect half of that board, I was involved in the process, I won’t tell you exactly who I helped […] I have relationships and they know who I am because of my involvement, I’ve walked in this type of heat supporting candidates.”

He later revealed he helped Area 4 Trustee Marisa Perez, Area 3 Trustee John Paul Drayer, and Area 6 Trustee Sandra Salazar get elected.

“I think I was duped,” he said of campaigning for Perez. “but that’s just the way it is.”

He added, “I don’t want to make it about ideology, because I could potentially be sitting with these folks, and I don’t want to burn any bridges, but I do know that we’re not always going to see eye to eye,” he said.

He also noted, “I was also part of the coalition that was able to finalize the new president of the campus.”

Melliz stated that he wants to stray from making decisions based on ideology but on what is best for students and professors.

“Without good professors there is no good student and without good students we don’t have a good work force,” he said.

Melliz stated he is a proponent of open-door policy and engagement in order to work together with faculty and listed higher transfer rates as one of his goals as trustee.

Also running for Area 2 is Dr. Tammy Ashton, also a Cerritos College alum with a legal background and PTA member involvement for Imperial Elementary, Old River Elementary, Stauffer (West) Middle, and Warren High School in Downey.

She believes in open communication with faculty and stated she has questions about the finances of the college.

According to her promotional pamphlet her goals include using more technology for teaching, listening to the concerns of the community and “promoting fiscal excellence.”

Avalos said she is running again because “there is work to be done.”

She expressed that the board needs someone with experience and went on to cite Cerritos Complete and K-12 Bridge Program as products of the current board.

“Been there done that,” Avalos said referring to her experience and why she’s running.

Area 1 Challengers

Camacho-Rodriguez running for Trustee Bob Arthur’s seat is an educator for the Compton Unified School District.

She noted that if elected she would want to have open dialogue with faculty members.

Camacho-Rodriguez weighed in on reliance on adjunct labor.

“If the board of trustees votes to have more labor or less labor and as faculty you know that we need more labor […] every student generates a dollar amount and as educators we need to know those exact numbers.”

She went on, “Because if you know that your classroom generates an x amount of dollars and you keep getting an overload […] and we’re not looking to meet student needs now we’re looking as a Wal-Mart mentality that we’re going to save money.

“The purpose of education is not to profit from budgets,” Camacho Rodriguez said noting that as a trustee transparency should be at the forefront.

Her opponent, Godinez is a community volunteer who currently runs the Youth Cheer and Football Organization in Downey.

New to the process but willing to learn Godinez stated, “I’m here for the faculty and I’m here for the students, I am not here to follow people. I’m here to make a change […] make progress.”

“[…] I know what some of the struggles are from going to junior college, I know that going to a classroom where there is 120 students for one teacher should not even happen.

“There are a lot of changes that need to happen that can happen here at the school,” she concluded.

Area 6 occupant

Salazar, the Area 6 incumbent, who spoke of her positive relationship with the faculty union, noted that she prides herself in being available, although not everyone present agreed with her availability.

Salazar stated that she understands she needs to make herself more visible and spoke of the importance of open communication.

She listed herself as a progressive labor friendly candidate, “I do fight for fair wages, benefits, working environment.”

The trustee stated her disappointment with how long wage negotiations between the faculty union and the district dragged on.

“I think it’s bittersweet, I think it is good news, but at the same time I wish we wouldn’t have failed mediation be at the heels of fact finding […]

“I don’t think it is a win for anybody because there’s still ‘how do we move forward as a board, as administration, as faculty, and move on to the next round in bargaining, where do we go from here?’ There’s still a lot of work to be done and that trust needs to be rebuilt.”

Salazar expressed that her biggest accomplishment is the collective effort in student completion, which was boasted in the largest graduating class for the college in spring 2016.