The two candidates vying for a seat on the Cuesta College board of trustees say the coming years will require a focus on the budget, the careful selection of a permanent president and the repair of its accreditation.
Two of the five seats on the board are up for re-election, but voters will only elect one candidate.
Charlotte Alexander and Peter Sysak, both former Cuesta College employees, are seeking the open seat.
Incumbent Patrick Mullen is running uncontested and will keep his seat on the board. He represents District Area 3, which includes Avila Beach, Grover Beach, Shell Beach and part of San Luis Obispo.
Incumbent Marie Kiersch, who represents District Area 4, which includes Oceano, Nipomo, Arroyo Grande and portions of southern San Luis Obispo, is not seeking re-election.
In addition to the main campus north of San Luis Obispo, Cuesta operates a North County campus in Paso Robles and offers classes in the South County.
There are currently 11,707 total students enrolled for the fall semester.
Trustees serve on the San Luis Obispo County Community College District board for a four-year term. They are elected by voters from across the district, which includes nearly all of San Luis Obispo County.
Alexander, 54, of Nipomo, is currently an administrator for the San Luis Obispo County Emergency Medical Services Agency.
She served as the director of public affairs and community relations at Cuesta College for eight years until 2000. She also taught communications and journalism there.
Two key challenges facing the college in coming years, according to Alexander, are the budget and selecting the college’s next president.
Current President Gil Stork was hired in January by the trustees to lead the college until a permanent replacement was found. The trustees recently extended his contract through 2011.
“The most important single decision the board will make in the next four years is the selection of a permanent president,” Alexander said, “who must have exceptional vision and leadership skills, an understanding of the serious issues facing the college and the community and the ability to bring local and state resources to bear on solving those problems.”
Sysak, 65, of rural Arroyo Grande, is the former police chief of Cuesta College. He retired in 2007 after holding that post for 17 years.
Accreditation and the budget are the two issues Sysak says deserve immediate attention.
The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges placed Cuesta on probation in February, saying it was not satisfied with the progress made on several recommendations it gave the college in 2009.
According to the commission, needed areas of improvement include an updated strategic plan and long-range financial and capital planning strategies to ensure the college has enough money to continue its operations.
“Accreditation is the number one issue facing the college right now,” Sysak said. “The credibility of the college is at stake.”
Sysak said that the trustees should be held accountable.
“The board should be pretty aware of the processes that need to be done to get back on track,” Sysak said, adding that stability amongst key college administrators is needed.
Both candidates said they would try to avoid reducing staff while tackling future budget reductions.
Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.