Yolanda Salcido looking forward to the future at Southwestern College
When Yolanda Salcido first decided to run for office, to represent the South Bay community on Southwestern Community College board, it was because of the college’s plan to build a shopping center, -in front of the college-, an appreciation of the college that she attended, and a love for a community that she grew up in. It was for these reasons Salcido was first elected in 2002.
“The college is very special to me. I graduated from Southwestern Community College and from there it was an easy transition to obtain my law degree at Western State University,” stated Salcido. “And as a community member, a graduate of Hilltop High School, and a proud Lancer, I have always been dedicated to the best interest of South Bay education.”
Since ’02 the college has traversed through an economic tsunami, changes in administration, scandals, political upheaval, and now an accreditation issue. Yet, despite all this the college has moved forward and achieved many triumphs that have taken a back seat to the political brouhaha that has surrounded the college.
“When I was first elected I came in during a time when there were several issues, there was the shopping mall issue, we were going into hard financial times, and there was political strife within the college itself,” stated Salcido. “The college had just passed Prop. AA Bond, and our president was involved with some issues regarding the allocation of college monies.”
This was the beginning of a major shake up at the college coupled with a grand jury report that chastised the college a for cross pollination of school boards, between Southwestern College and Sweetwater Union High School Board with employees at Southwestern serving on the board at Sweetwater and Sweetwater employees serving on the Board at Southwestern.
While not illegal, this cross pollination did create special interest groups that were focused more on political benefit then focusing on the best interest of the college.
College president Serafin Zasueta was fired from his position and later convicted of using college funds for political purposes. The college would then go through four college president in four years before finally hiring Raj Chopra, after Norma Hernandez, who is now running to unseat Salcido, quit before completing her contract.
For Yolanda Salcido, from the very beginning it was a political baptism by fire. With a drastic financial situation faced by all and the deep budget cuts imposed on the colleges in particular, Salcido did not wilt under fire but rose to meet the challenges and has led the college, the past two years as Vice-President and now President of the Governing Board, through these difficult times maintaining financial stability and continued growth.
As an example of their economical integrity, despite the state going through a record number of days and months without a budget the college has enough in reserve to continue paying the bills without having to go through the costly move of borrowing.
“My biggest accomplishment in the first four years was in stopping the development of the shopping mall on the corner lot,” continued Salcido. “That was huge because it paved the way for us to now move forward today and give this community an educational, high quality, complex for the students and the community in general. I also fought hard in Sacramento for our fair share of State funding.”
While the college has succeeded in navigating through the economical tsunami there is the issue of accreditation. While some of the issues with the accreditation are older, dating back to 1996 and 2003, other issues are in dealing with newer standards established by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). The four main areas of concern are technology, shared governance, student accountability, effectiveness of teaching and programs.
“We have been working very hard addressing the issues and we are ahead of schedule in addressing the WASC recommendations. We have a draft already in place for our Oct. 15 report that we need to provide,” stated Salcido. “Of significance, however is that the College continues to be fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). Our students continue to take classes that are accredited, their units still count, they can graduate, and they can transfer to other colleges and universities.”
Salcido continued, “I am also proud to say that we have already met one of the recommendations. On July 8th, our substantive change report addressing the on-line learning program deficiencies was approved by WASC, and we are making every effort to ensure that we are meeting the other WASC recommendations.”
She continued, “the good thing is that the board has set a million dollars aside to be able to invest in the upgrade of our technology, which was something that was needed a long time ago but did not take place. So it is all coming into place and it was this board that really pushed that and accomplished that. So we have made significant strides.”
“This past four years has been a term of achievements. I am very proud to say that there has been no layoffs, no furloughs, we have kept our contract employees – faculty as well as staff,” noted Salcido. “We have been able to serve more students than the state has funded.”
As to the future Salcido believes that due to long term responsible fiscal planning that there will be stability at the college for the future generations.
“Future goals will be to provide access and affordability of a college education to our region. That is going to take partnerships and working very closely with our legislatures, to be able to bring resources to our community colleges, stated Salcido. “It is also extremely important for the college to start thinking outside the box of state funding. We need to build strong partnerships with our business and industry communities here locally in order to open the opportunities for our students.”
“I am a strong supporter in work development to be able to train our workforce of displaced workers, and to be able to provide them with programs that will give them higher paying jobs and better opportunities in the workforce, and that needs to be done through partnerships. I am proud to say I have been instrumental in that.”