Monday, June 25, 2012

Special "trustee replacement" board meeting, live and direct! (CONTROVERSY, WRIGHT GETS NOD)

3:05: Just got here. Two people made public comments. Saw the first guy, now it's Bob Cosgrove, who is speaking in favor of Jim Wright's application. He's his usual direct and to the point self.
     Now we're turning to interviews of applicants.

     First up: JOLENE FUENTES. (Evidently, we're waiting for Jolene Fuentes to join us.)
     Trustee Dave Lang asks: will the other applicant be in the room for the interview? Yep.
     ...Still waiting for Jolene. Sounds like a country song: "My wallet's mighty lean as I sit waitin' for Jolene..."
     --Nancy Padberg explains how Marcia Milchhiker will participate from afar, I think. Via telephone, it seems.
     Lang asks: this special arrangement for Marcia Milchiker--this hasn't been afforded to trustees in the past.
     Nancy: sure it has, bean-boy. Shut up.

     3:12: "Miss Fuentes" has arrived.
     Nancy explains how this will work. "We'll now start your interview." It is timed. 1st Trustee Jay will ask question #1 (these questions have been available for weeks on the district website):
Jay: He speaks: "familiarize us with your background. Have you worked in any school or community college." -- Padberg interrupts, tells Jay to stop winging it and just read the goddam question. Jolene jokes: she's ready for anything.
Jay again: he reads the darned question. Blah blah blah. Describe experience in financial management, etc.
Michelle Fuentes
Jolene: is member of Lake Forest homeowners association, has had leadership positions ... $3.1 million budget. Pennies compared to yours, I know. (She is reading her prepared answer.) Also I'm the President of another homeowners' association. Bottom line: work without debt. That's my philosophy. (Sounds like a well-crafted answer.) Need to avoid cuts in the classroom, she says.
Meldau: #2: What is the role of special interest groups? How to respond to community member who asks you to take up his concern?
Jolene: listen to everyone, consider all ideas. Need to work on one interest group: students. (Slick!) What's best for constituents and students. Fairness is paramount.
Pendergast #3: If you are appointed, what will be your style working with others? Give evidence from previous work experience.
Jolene: I enjoy partnerships. I listen. In most groups, I've been elected to leadership positions. I'm interested in doing the right thing. (She's reading, of course.) I don't have an agenda. Not a teacher, a lawyer, janitor(?) ...

(Evidently, the trustees are scoring. Scribbling away.)

Padberg: needs of typical students?
Jolene: provides a long list, ending with "good parking" (a joke). She seems to read well, good eye contact. Short answer. She seems accustomed to being before groups. Not easily rattled.
Lang #5: what role have you played in the SOCCCD? [I think that was the question. Not sure.]
Jolene: was the a wife of trustee, so saw first hand programs, how the colleges help the community. Was on a foundation board. (Essentially a slick, well-prepared answer.) Was even judge at IVC's daffy "astounding inventions." I would use my contacts and friends to further (the interests of the colleges)....
Student trustee Park: #6: your philosophy of comprehensive community college?
Jolene: all inclusive services.... consistent with mission. Goes through list: ... academic, basic skills, technical, fine arts, etc. (Jokes: have I missed anything?) (Another slick answer, Perfectly decent. But she does read from a prepared statement, though she reads well.)
Padberg #7: anything you'd like to add?
Jolene: I was a community college student in Mesa College. My children have taken courses at SOCCCD colleges. I have a sense of the pulse of what the community is looking for. Responsiveness, responsibility. I believe I can provide this. (She pauses for some time. Odd. Then continues:) voters told us in June, by defeating change in Public Administrator [!!] to an appointment, that they'd rather elect than have someone appointed. I wasn't here last month when you made your decision about an appointment with regard to replacing Tom. The board should find a way to use elections, if that's available (in her opinion). That's what your "former colleague" would want. (Oooh.)
Padberg? That it? (She seems surprised.)
Jolene: That's it. (She seems confident.)
     Jolene gets up, removes her glasses, walks soberly up the middle. She joins her son TJ, sitting in back. They remain in the room.

Board Prez Nancy P
Nancy: 2nd applicant, Dr. JAMES WRIGHT. "Would you come forward?"
Nancy: welcomes Wright. Interview will be timed. Can use full fifteen minutes. Questions before you. The board will decide on appointee afterwards. Etc.

Question 1 (Jay): Again, asks, experience in financial management?
Wright: Thanks the board. "I'm honored." (Starts with his experience in financial management.) In last 30+ years, was responsible for..... (He says exactly what one would expect. Pretty dry but earnest and impressive. Eventually gets to his Air Force experiences. Responsible for a budget of over $8 million on last job there. Also ran a lab, spending $14 million budget.)
     They eventually declassified the nature of the "mission." (He seems to be less anchored to his notes.) "Wise and prudent use of all public resources." (He cranks up the charisma a bit. Seems to really mean it, whatever he's saying.)


Meldau #2: Role of special interest groups?
Wright: as a member of BOT, you have rules, responsibilities. Would encourage groups to come forward. We'll listen to them. We need to share what we learn with other board members. We need to determine whether any of these concerns relate to our misison, etc. (A good answer, well- composed. He reads most of this. A short, strong statement.)
Prendergast (#3): What will be your style of work, working with others?
Wright: Discusses teamwork. Believes in open dialogue. I'll be new, so I'll listen at first. But will express my own views. I understand faculty concerns, but also the perspective of administration. (Lists committees he's worked on. Pretty impressive list, covers much ground. He's obviously very richly, widely experienced. He reveals that he is knowledgeable about issues in the CC system.) In the 1980s, was asked to put together a team of high school students--chemistry Olympics. In Germany. We brought in the best students in the U.S. Ran the program for three years. Very involved in that and in Boy Scouts (Assistant District Commissioner, merit badge counselor, etc.) Local church. Did much working with other people. (Pretty impressive. Not afraid to list his virtues and accomplishments. Very to the point.) "Outstanding" career in the U.S. Air Force. Have been a team player. Can do same here.
Padberg (#4): nature and needs of our students.
Wright: we need to focus on students. Students need to complete the degrees, certificates. (Shows that he is knowledgeable about these larger issues. A soft-spoken guy, but serious. Gets to the point. I won't go into the details here; you can imagine.) "Greater efficiency." Students need to take remedial courses. Need to focus on basic math and English instruction. [Nancy: you need to watch your time, dude.] A lot will be required of us to meet these goals.
Lang (#5): how use the position to positively impact the community?
Wright: again lists experience, offices, roles. Mentored students. Thorough knowledge of district, college operation. "I have the experience and enthusiasm to make a positive contributions.") Short and sweet.)
Student trustee Park (#6): philosophy of comprehensive cc?
Wright: high quality courses, programs. Meeting student objectives, degrees, employment. (Sometimes gets hung up a bit while reading his prepared stuff. But very solid. Says just what you'd think he'd say; knows the issues, the buzz words, terminology.) We cannot be all things to all people.
Padberg, final question (#7): anything you'd like to add?
Wright: I have the experience. I've done all these things, been a team player. I'm thoughtful, care about people, etc. Desire to excel. Students need to learn how to study. They need a plan, to organize. They need to make a commitment. [That all sounds on target.]
     He's got some "Be's" on his wall or something at home: Be positive, be cheerful, be complimentary, be non-condemning. [Padberg winced at that last one.]
Nancy: Is that it?

Next a 15 minute break to gather up "our scores." It's 3:49. Come back at 3:55.

TJ Fuentes
     It's 4:00. Things could get started soon. My sense of how things have gone: very well for both applicants, I think. Neither would be an absurd choice, Wright would likely be an uncommonly propitious choice--with regard to knowledge, experience, being a known quantity as a "team player" and such. Smart, earnest, experienced guy.
     Jolene actually seemed perfectly reasonable, and I could detect no negatives, aside from the fact that she has virtually no experience in school or community college affairs. But she has had some experience, it seems, working with others in organizations. She certainly has an interesting presence as a person. Strong person, it seems. No apologies. Here I am, take it or leave it.
     I would be very surprised if JOLENE got the nod. Don't know where those votes would come from. Lang will vote for her, I think, because he sold his soul at the crossroads years ago, and that dead chicken had an F written on it. If he does and she isn't chosen, he'll likely make some comment about how wonderful she is.
     But what do I know.
     Bill Hewitt is up there jawin' with the trustees.
     Just looked at the back of the room. I see FRANK MICKADEIT there. (He's the OC Register columnist who seemed to be a Fuentes sychophant.) Jolene seems to have stepped out again. Maybe she's got a bladder the size of a pea. Dunno. Nothing's happening here, for some reason. It's 4:08. Sheesh. (I think I see FUENTES' DAUGHTER as well.)
     Burnett, and Roquemmore, and Peebles, and Fitzsimmons are crowded together in the center of the room, gossiping. They seem to be enjoying themselves.
     Any bets out there? I think it's gonna be 5 to 1 in favor of Wright. If it's Wright, well that's likely great news for the future of the SOCCCD. If it's JOLENE, well then, at least I've got a great story!
     I expected Jolene to come across as nicer. I just assumed that, Tom being the

     4:13 They've restarted. Waiting for Trustee Jay, evidently. Where's Bill?
     Nancy's announcement: There was some miscommunication from district to candidates about questions to be asked. They were told would be same questions as on applications. Because of this miscommunication, we'll have to reinterview the applicants!
     Nancy now explains to Jay, who just wandered in: miscommunication. So will have to redo interviews! This decision made based on attorney advice. Go through again but with questions on application.

TJ Fuentes makes public remark.

TJ: I'm the son of Tom and Jolene. Just wanted to say, very disheartened by decision of board to appoint an interim trustee.  [Nancy asks him to repeat his slam] Just 3 days after he passed, made announcement. As son and former student would like to make the statement that the people should vote. Not appointment.
Nancy: the people will vote. Will be an election in November. Asks, does everyone understand what we're doing.
Dave makes comment: I was adamantly opposed to appointment. We are close to the election. Not had a funeral yet, and already started process (last meeting). Precipitous, disrespectful action (three days after his death). We have two candidates. Either one, would be honored and privleged to serve with. But any candidate would be advantaged and tainted by this appointment. And one applicant (Wright, evidently), if appointed, wouldn't even begin serving until June(?)--he must've said "July"--(owing to retirement just occurred). So he makes plea not to do this. The incumbent advantage is the issue. The electorate strongly values right to elect officials. A majority of the board is acting in a way that slants in favor of appointee. Thanks all members for "hopefully reconsidering."
Padberg: the board has decided. Lang tries to interrupt, she cuts him off, yelling into the mike, asking that Jolene come forward yet again.
     There's some dialogue, and Jolene indicates that she would rather go second this time. That's OK with Wright.

So Wright comes up. The first question is asked. (Board Prez Nancy Padberg now asks all questions.)
Wright: gives the same sort of answer. Goes through list of things he's done, committees he's been on.
#2: other activities
Wright: Veterans memorial, scholarships, chemistry events, etc. A very long list. I won't bore you will details. Adds "and local church group."
#3: why do you want to be a member?
Wright: team player, blah, blah, blah.
#4: basic purpose of CA ccs
Wright: provide quality lower division...... Blah, blah, blah. This second round seems strictly pro forma.
--I'll wait until the end of this nonsense.

     It's 4:27, and it's been pretty wild. The first round of interviews (of two applicants) now being redone owing to some "miscommunication" about the nature of the questions. Weren't the same as questions on app. Something like that.
     Lang pipes up with plea to reconsider this whole course: appointing a replacement. That replacement would have the strong INCUMBENT ADVANTAGE come November. Not right. Should leave this matter to the voters in November. Then Tom's son TJ comes up to make the same plea. During her remarks, JOLENE also suggested that she would not have made the decision to appoint. Leave it to the voters; that's what TOM would have done.

     4:29: now JOLENE comes forward for the rest of this absurd excercise. Evidently, the trustees are now "rescoring". That is, scoring this round. Student trustee has questions about what they're doing. Nancy tries to explain.

Ron Caspers the friendly ghost
#1: ever participated in activities...
Jolene: I've always been involved. Served at "several levels" in public education. She seems even better prepared for these questions than for the last round! Perhaps, then, she is the one who got the wrong idea in the "miscommunication," and this is her chance to shine. Dunno.
She seems very well prepared.

Jolene: again speaks about homeowners group. She's reading her answer, which is slick, well-written. She does a good job speaking, eye-contact, etc. She seems at times to give exactly the same answers as before. Her little asides seem effective.

Jolene: again, does a good job. Seems highly prepared. Reads her answers, but reads well. Sings the praises of CCs. Their importance. Came to realize impact of CCs with Tom's dozen years on this board. Professors, I learned, worked diligently, not only teaching, but mentoring students. Our last child graduated from high school this year. He'll likely be going to one of these CCs. I have no agenda. I want to cultivate the community's growth.

#4: basic purpose of CC
Jolene: skilled workforce, etc.

#5: role of trustees
Jolene: set policy.... Oversee hiring.... Adopt strategic planning. Working with other trustees.

#6: relationship between BOT and administration
Jolene: should be based on trust, mutual communication. Proper channels. Open communications between BOT members is important.

#7: strengths of the SOCCCD?
Jolene: three campuses offer wide..... high transfer rates. Commitment to basic education, etc. commendable. Utilizing basic aid is "fiscally sound." Greatest strength: good people. Good administrators, teachers, staff, students. SOCCCD colleges successfully prepare students.

#8: areas most needing improvement.
Jolene: comments I encounter are generally positive. Parking and class availability come up, but that comes up everywhere. I will be careful listener, learn at first. "Our clients are constantly changing." We should ask them what they want.

#9: Is anyone in your family employed with the district?

#10: three people to contact. (1) Marian Bergesen, (2) Tony Rackaucas (OC DA), Pat Bates (one of the supes)
"Wish you well on your deliberations."

Nancy declares another 15 minute break.

5:09 we're back. Tally of points per questions

1st round:
Fuentes: 145.5 points,
Wright: 187

Second round:
Fuentes: 218
Wright: 267

Grand total: 367.5 for FUENTES,  454 for WRIGHT.

     Student advisory vote: did not go into tally.
     Now open, says Nancy, for any comments.

Lang: I'd like to motion, not appoint either, let the voters decide in the November election.

     Any second? None.
     Anyone else?

Meldau: I'd like to move that we appoint Dr. Jim Wright, effective July 1, 2012.
Jay seconds.
     Any comments? None.
     Vote: Roll call vote (electronic not working)

yes, no (Lang), yes, Milch: yes, yes, yes, student trustee: abstain.

So that's 5/1. (Abstention counts as yes vote, but student vote doesn't count)

5 to 1 in favor of James Wright.

Nancy: Congratulations. Thank you Mrs. Fuentes for applying. Meeting adjourned.
     I see the Fuentes group in back. They look grim. Mickadeit is still with 'em. We can expect a column in the OC Reg tonight or tomorrow morning. Won't be positive.


Rebel Girl said...

Hello comrade! Greetings from 6,200 feet!

Anonymous said...

This is great that you're doing this. thanks. Hi Rebel Girl.

Rebel Girl said...

Hello. yes, Roy provides a public service with this live blogging of board meetings. Wonderful stuff too. Fine writing.

Anonymous said...

Dead chicken with an "F" - ha ha ha!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Incredible. Glad you were there to witness this spectacle.

Anonymous said...

Sitting here as well. How can the district expect the colleges to pass civility policies and act civily when they are the LEAST civil group I have personally witnessed!

Anonymous said...

This is, actually, a Monty Python sketch, is it not? Please say it is.

Rebel Girl said...

Amazing. Did HR have a hand in this?

Anonymous said...

Fuentes - just another dirty name in politics. Looks like David is biased.

Anonymous said...

Yay. There is hope in the world. Congrats Jim, you'll do an amazing jobsnd put faith back into the education system. Thank you Roy, too.

Anonymous said...

Excellent! (Thanks so much for the coverage.) Overdeveloped sense of entitlement some people have.

Anonymous said...

Good choice.

Anonymous said...

Giving the widow or the widower the seat of an elected official never made sense of me. Seemed like it was part of an antiquated process of nepotism and cronyism, designed to consolidate power in the status quo. I appreciate the board's decision.

I fear no fish said...

Thank GAWD.

Anonymous said...

So Lang has really sold his poor, tortured, flabby little soul.

Anonymous said...

Roy, thanks for a wonderful coverage! It's just like being there.

Anonymous said...

Hit piece is already up !
Frank Mickadeit is a kept man, wholly owned subsidiary of the GOP. The SOCCCD board is there to do the work of the taxpayers. That seat is in my district I do want to be represented during budget discussions and management issues at the SOCCCD.

Tashunkewitko said...

One lazy quiet Friday afternoon, a few years back, Dr Wright called campus police for assistance in dealing with a ("Crazy Woman" [his description]). By the time campus police arrived to the MSE building the woman had vanished. When queried as to the circumstances of his call for assistance Wright responded by saying the woman was displeased with the answers Wright's administrative assistant provided her. When Wright appeared the woman demanded to know his name. He responded, "Dr Wright." He then said she allegedly snorted in response, "No your not Dr Wright! You're Dr Wrong!" And with that she stormed off into oblivion. I see "Dr Wrong" is now an esteemed member of the BoT. WOW!!! Now all we need is for Romney to get elected and we'll see a new building at Saddleback named after Joseph Smith.

No Will

George Will, Having Left Republican Party, Urges Conservatives to Vote Against Donald Trump (Fortune)      George Will, a longtime pol...