unedited Tahoe Mt. News Sept. story
LTCC incumbents face challengers
By Kathryn Reed
Four people are vying for two seats on the Lake Tahoe Community College board of education. Voters on Nov. 6 must choose between incumbents Ken Rollston and Fritz Wenck and newcomers Karen Borges and Bill Burns.
The five-member board is responsible for setting policy that affects the nearly 4,000 students the college teaches each quarter, as well as the 49 full-time faculty members, hundreds of adjunct instructors, throngs of classified staff and administrators.
Each candidate was interviewed by the Tahoe Mountain News. In alphabetical order, they are:
The 50-year-old chiropractor is making her first foray into politics.
“I have new ideas to bring to the board and new enthusiasm. I want to see the college flourish,” Borges said. “The whole demographics of South Lake Tahoe is changing. We need to be ready to meet the needs of the population that is here and the population we can attract to come here.”
With declining enrollment being a factor at the college for the past several years, Borges believes it is time to promote the college, professors and support staff so the public has a better understanding of what is going on off Al Tahoe Boulevard.
She says this needs to be done so “a population other than just the high school age would have an interest in utilization of the college.” Borges believes a promotional campaign would lead to the college being held in “higher esteem.”
She is not certain if the college should employee a full time public information officer to spread the word.
To combat declining enrollment she wants to attract more adults to departments other than the popular physical education, build on what the board has done as well as offer more online classes because their proven popularity.
Student housing is another concern of hers. She expressed enthusiasm for the Alder Inn project that is in its first year. Hotel rooms have been turned into condo units to be shared by two people.
Borges is married with a daughter who graduated from South Tahoe High and another who attends the school.
“I think the college has been running and operating well. I have been an advocate for the college,” Borges said.
When it comes to talking about last year’s vote of no confidence for President Guy Lease, she said, “That circumstance has passed and we need to go forward.”
The owner of Articulate Media, a multimedia production and performance company, earned his associate of arts degree in computers from LTCC. Burns, who turns 49 this month, started taking classes in what is now the Value Inn Motel before the college moved to its current, permanent location.
“From having worked in the college environment, having attended and graduated from the college, I understand the challenges the college has,” Burns said. “I understand the dynamics of the college environment and the dramatic changes in our community in the last 10 years.”
When he decided to run for the board he resigned as a computer technician at the college to avoid any conflicts.
“The biggest challenge is ensuring a quality student experience. It can be quite challenging because technology is advancing at such a rapid pace, it’s hard to keep up with that,” Burns said, adding that he believes the college has done well in that regard.
The 26-year South Shore resident lives in Meyers with his wife. His only child is a graduate of South Tahoe High.
“Their experience is being a board member. My experience is being involved on a weekly basis at the college,” Burns said of what sets him apart from the incumbents. “I have no experience as a board member, that’s why I devoured the board manual. Being a business person I don’t foresee there being any problems working on a professional level with any of them because that’s what we do in business.”
(The board manual is available at www.ltcc.edu.)
He said communication skills are important for being a board member, with listening being the most critical.
“I have been told before by co-workers at the college that one of my strengths is to explain complex issues in a more simplified way,” Burns said. “As a computer guy, I have to take technical stuff so a person who is not technical can do their job.”
As for the issue with Lease and the faculty, he said he doesn’t know enough about the situation to comment and that as classified staff he wasn’t privy to what was going on.
The 62-year-old was first elected to the board in 1983, having been appointed in 1982.
When it comes to challenges for the next four years, he said, “The most important one is one I’m not going to talk about. It’s personal and confidential. I’m not going to talk to you.”
With that said, the attorney who lives in Meyers with his wife and has two grown children said he welcomes the additional names on the ballot.
“We have done a lot of things over the years. This is an opportunity to find out if we are headed in the right direction or need to go in a different direction. I think that’s what the election is going to be about,” Rollston said.
He is proud of how the college has grown. The size, he said, is uncommon for a town this small.
The trustee said much of the staff’s displeasure with Lease last year stemmed from the impacts to the college from declining enrollment.
“If you are not filling positions and not having funds available to do anything other than maintain, people become unhappy,” Rollston said. “I think we are beyond that now.”
Despite enrollment dipping at the two K-12 districts on the South Shore, the college gained slightly last school year, he said.
He said the board is always looking at ways to increase enrollment and improve the school, while maintaining funding.
The 68-year-old dentist is one of two original board members still serving.
“There always remains unfinished business. We need to get the enrollment up, we need to get some student textbooks online, we need to get some storage facilities, we need to get some classrooms built,” Wenck said.
Wenck, who is married with several grown children, is thrilled that after 10 years of trying to get motel owners in town to convert their property to student housing, that the Alder Inn is doing so.
He believes the issue with Lease last year stemmed from issues related to declining enrollment. A physics instructor was laid off because not enough students were in the program. The financial stability of the college necessitated such action, he said. He went on to say that he would renew Lease’s contract without hesitation.
Wenck points to the success of programs like the Spanish Institute that he helped start as well as the Fire Academy which is in its second year.
“One of my philosophies is you have to protect the college, then look after the students, then take care of faculty and administration,” Wenck said. “I continue to be an active participant on the board and I feel like I’ve done a good job. I take pride in the affect the college has had on the cultural life of the community, providing students in the community a chance for education and for many adults to go back and relearn.”