Education

Jill Stearns sworn in as Cuesta College’s seventh president

Cuesta College President Jill Stearns is sworn in by Chair of the Board of Trustees Dr. Barbara George during the board's monthly meeting Wednesday, July 11, 2018, in San Luis Obispo, California.
Cuesta College President Jill Stearns is sworn in by Chair of the Board of Trustees Dr. Barbara George during the board's monthly meeting Wednesday, July 11, 2018, in San Luis Obispo, California. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

New Cuesta College President Jill Stearns was officially sworn in during the Board of Trustees monthly meeting Wednesday afternoon in San Luis Obispo.

Stearns, who served as the Modesto Junior College president since 2012, takes over for outgoing President Gil Stork, who officially retired June 30 after more than five decades in education.

Cuesta conducted a nationwide search and ultimately selected Stearns to serve as the school's seventh president.

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Cuesta College President Gil Stork spoke as the community college hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new $31 million North County Campus Center on Thursday, June 21, 2018, in Paso Robles, California.

In March, Stearns said her new job is a homecoming; both she and her husband, as well as their two sons, are Cal Poly alumni and they've lived in four different cities in the county — San Luis Obispo, Grover Beach, Paso Robles and Atascadero.

Stearns takes over after a somewhat challenging year on campus.

In January, Cuesta predicted a shortage of $551,000 in its ongoing unrestricted general fund resources, citing a drop in enrollment and increases in mandatory spending as the two main factors.

School officials also were locked in a pay dispute with the faculty union that eventually resulted in a 4 percent salary increase over two years.

Stearns said she plans to start her job by listening.

"My first step is going to be spending time getting acquainted with the Cuesta College community," Stearns said. "I will be spending lots of time listening and getting to understand the Cuesta way."

One of the more positive developments over the past six months was the expansion of the Promise Scholarship, which now provides San Luis Obispo County high school graduates with two years of free education.

When the scholarship was created in 2013, it offered students one year of free education with all tuition and fees covered.

Beginning with the Class of 2018, the only requirement for the second year of funding is a 2.0 GPA and the completion of at least 50 percent of college credits taken.

Stork called the Promise Scholarship's second year "the last thing on my bucket list."

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