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Debate stirs strong opinions

David Mirhadi

ROCKLIN – Incumbency breeds complacency, or at least that’s the message to voters from two challengers seeking seats on the Sierra Community College board of trustees.

With less than a month until the November elections, challengers Aaron Klein and Scott Leslie pledged at a forum Tuesday to bring power back to the students and teachers at the Sierra Community College District’s four campuses by changing what both see as a bureaucracy heavily laden with administrators too far removed from the needs of the system’s rank and file.

Klein, a 25-year-old software developer from Colfax, is seeking the seat held by 21-year incumbent David Parker for one of two Nevada County-area seats. Leslie, 37, is seeking the seat held by one-term incumbent Robert Tomasini to represent the Roseville area.

Trustee Jerry Simmons is running unopposed.

Both challengers said greater weight should be given to those who toil daily in the classroom. They also criticized the incumbents for relying on $6.2 million of borrowed money for renovations on the Rocklin campus while purportedly raising administrative salaries.

“If I’m elected, I’m not going to wait four years to talk to the faculty and the students,” said Leslie, the son of longtime state legislator Tim Leslie.

Klein said changes should be made to the makeup of the college’s strategic council. The council is made up of administrators and staff members who forward proposed policy changes to the board of trustees.

Klein said he favored a council made up of more students, faculty and staff.

“I don’t see how you can honestly say you are getting collaboration when you have a majority of administrators at the table.”

Parker said the strategic council has worked well and has led to increased staffing, course offerings and a smooth-running organization. Bringing in outside members of the college community would add to the college’s appeal.

“The truth is, Sierra College is a marvelous place to work,” he said, noting that hundreds of potential professors often apply for a single job opening because of the quality of life enjoyed by faculty at Sierra College.

Parker said he’s worked hard to improve course offerings for students at the Nevada County campus, including distance learning classes. He pledged to increase student-based revenue streams on the Rocklin campus, as well.

While the two challengers were diametrically opposed to their incumbents in nearly every area, all four agreed to support ballot measures G and H, bond measures that will pay for expansion of the Nevada County campus and help build the Truckee campus, respectively.

The challengers, who have established http://www.BringAccountabilityBack.com to run as a team, railed on both incumbents for being out of touch with even the most basic needs.

Leslie, who gave out his cell phone number during the debate, said he’d even work to see Rocklin’s lunch choices improved.

“I’d like to see us start with the cafeteria. I think it sends a message if they have to eat in a place that’s worse than Denny’s, that they’re not valued,” he said, eliciting laughs from the half-full Dietrich Theatre on the Rocklin campus. “We have some great plans for the college, and I don’t think we should have to wait four more years for a good cafeteria.”

Tomasini, a veteran educator with the Roseville Joint Union High School District, said it takes years of collaboration to implement the plans suggested by his challenger. After the debate, he hinted that both Leslie and Klein might be using a seat on the Sierra College board for bigger prizes later.

“They have a clear political agenda,” he said.


WHAT: Candidate forum for Sierra College board contenders

WHEN: 7 p.m. tonight

WHERE: Center for the Arts, 314 W. Main St.

INFORMATION: League of Women Voters, 265-0956

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