An exciting future for Sierra College
First, I’d like to thank The Union for the opportunity to contribute this guest column, and I’d like to thank the people who supported me in the campaign, as well. About 90,000 people voted for change, and I am profoundly grateful for the chance to serve my local community.
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m the son of middle-class parents who grew up in the still-small town of Weimar. I started working for my dad in our family business when I was 12. In 2000, I had the chance of a lifetime to start a software company that has grown tremendously and now employs 10 people in Auburn.
I have to say that my first three months as a trustee have not gone the way I thought they would. I think it is unfortunate that the recent settlement agreement with former President Kevin Ramirez forbids trustees to tell the facts of what actually happened while some newspapers continue to imply something else entirely.
I ran for this office because I knew that Sierra College needed new leadership on the board of trustees. The college had been doing some great things for the community, but its direction for the future was dead wrong.
Cutting course sections. Raising administrative pay. Borrowing money for routine maintenance. Massive unfunded liabilities. Political money funneled through a foundation. A budget shrouded in secrecy. A facilities plan that would saddle the college with operating costs far too high for far too little new classroom space.
These problems are why I know and am confident beyond a shadow of a doubt that every single action I have taken as a Sierra College trustee has absolutely been in the best interests of Sierra College, its students and the taxpayers.
Now it’s time to move on and look to the future, and I’m very excited. We have just appointed Dr. Morgan Lynn as our new president. She is a gifted educator and a strong leader, and she is committed to bringing all of the options and information to the board of trustees, not just the information that supports the administration’s recommendation.
Let’s think about where we are as a region. Our area has rapidly rising housing prices, and that isn’t going to change. So how do we attract new jobs? How do we make our region the perfect environment for starting new businesses and building old ones?
We do it by turning Sierra College into the best community college in America.
That may sound like a far-reaching goal, but it can happen. Here’s what I will be working to do over the next year to lay the foundation for reaching that goal.
It is important to increase the input of our faculty, staff and students directly to the board of trustees so we can make better-informed decisions that increase the quality of our educational services.
Second, to ensure that we can attract the best faculty and staff to Sierra College, the trustees have ordered a compensation study to determine whether our employees are paid competitively.
Third, we need to reform our budget process to increase transparency and accountability so we can cut wasteful spending out of our discretionary budget and redirect more of that money toward education.
Fourth, we need to invest in our future with the facilities we need for growth. As our population doubles over the next 10 years, we need to build full-service campuses like the current Rocklin facility that provide a full set of course offerings with our highest educational quality while keeping our fixed overhead and operating costs much lower.
Fifth, and this is a real passion for me, we need to increase access to college for our high school graduates. I’m excited about the prospects for what we call “middle colleges,” which offer college course offerings to high school juniors and seniors.
I want to see us work on building an endowment fund that might someday be able to make community college education far cheaper or even free for our community’s students.
We are working toward those goals with many advantages – quality students from excellent high schools, some of the best teaching faculty in the state and probably the nation, a hard-working staff, and today, great leadership at the top of Sierra College.
As you can tell, there are folks who don’t like this agenda. They don’t like being challenged to achieve greatness. As one faculty member told me, bureaucracy has a way of allowing even great, innovative educators to just fall asleep.
We need to create a new culture of progress and innovation at Sierra College. And with your help, we will do that and we will make Sierra College the best community college in America.
Aaron Klein is a Sierra College trustee.
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