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Six Community College District Seats Are Up For Election — Why It Matters

San Diego Community College District Trustees Rich Grosch and Peter Zschiesch...

Photo by Megan Burks

Above: San Diego Community College District Trustees Rich Grosch and Peter Zschiesche laugh on the San Diego City College campus, May 1, 2018.

Whomever voters elect to the San Diego Community College District Board of Trustees this year could have a big choice ahead of them. Although district Chancellor Constance Carroll says she plans to stay on "for some years to come," outgoing board members Peter Zschiesche and Rich Grosch said she could retire soon, and the new trustees may help choose her successor.

Why does that matter for San Diego voters? Zschiesche said the district’s campuses play a major role in staffing San Diego industries.

“We have about 100,000 students each year and, actually, statistics show about 95 percent of our graduates stay in San Diego,” Zschiesche said.

Video by Katie Schoolov

SDCCD includes City, Mesa and Miramar colleges, as well as San Diego Continuing Education campuses, where adults can obtain high school-level degrees, participate in job training and take language courses. The district's budget is nearly $730 million.

Another reason voters should care: Districts are sometimes developers who might impact neighborhood character and traffic and spur community revitalization.

SDCCD has transformed downtown San Diego’s eastern edge and other parts of the community with $1.5 billion in construction bonds since 2002. In 2015, it opened a continuing education campus steps from the historic Chicano Park in Barrio Logan — a project Grosch said required a lot of community input.

“We’ve completely rebuilt the district,” said Rich Grosch, who, like Zschiesche, is retiring after 16 years on the board. “We’re going to have over 50 buildings, all multimillion-dollar, state-of-the-art buildings. But what’s really phenomenal is they’re all sustainable.”

Like K-12 school boards, the SDCCD board also negotiates with faculty and staff unions and holds the chancellor accountable for student outcomes.

The three board seats representing the city’s coastal and uptown areas are up for grabs this year. The top two candidates in the primary will compete in a citywide runoff in November.

The race for Trustee Area E has gained the most attention so far, pitting three candidates against San Diego City Councilman David Alvarez, who is terming out of his current role. He announced last year he plans to run for county supervisor in 2020, two years short of a full term on the SDCCD board. Entrepreneur Allan Candelore, Cuyamaca College professor Rafael Perez and nonprofit policy director Sean Elo are running against him.

Also up for election are three seats on the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College Board of Trustees, which governs Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges in the East County. Those elections don’t go to an at-large runoff, meaning they could be decided in June if a candidate receives more than half the vote.

For information on all of the candidates, visit the KPBS Voters Guide.

Six community college trustee seats are up for grabs across San Diego County this election. What do the trustees do and why should you care?

Editor's note: This story has been updated with Chancellor Constance Carroll's statement that she plans to stay with SDCCD for "some years to come."

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