Editorial: Talansky, Shwarz and Mandelkern for board of trustees

Over the past several weeks, The Skyline View editorial team has had the opportunity to interview candidates and cover the election that is currently underway. After careful consideration and discussion, we would like to publicly announce our endorsements.

We feel that incumbents Dave Mandelkern and Karen Schwarz should be elected to continue their work on the board. They have both played roles in setting the stage for innovating infrastructure and course offerings throughout the district, while also supporting simpler but equally impactful measures throughout the district, such as the formation of the Veteran’s Resource Center and the Middle College program.

We feel that Alan Talansky has the most concrete ideas and plans of the candidates seeking first-time election and the experience necessary to follow through. With the passing of last year’s bond measure, there is a large sum of money on the line, and we feel that Talansky’s background has prepared him to manage it and to address immediate concerns facing students in the district.

We also feel that Talansky’s focus on innovation combined with student engagement and retention is something we need. According to the most recent data available in the district factbook on smccd.edu, student retention and completion rates dropped dramatically from 2000 to 2009. Completion rates at all three districts were above 40 percent in 2002 before declining to below 20 percent in 2009. Transfer rates also suffered during this time, falling from more than 25 percent in 2002 to below 20 percent in 2009.

Completion rates at Skyline rose back to slightly below the state average during the 2013-2014 academic year, according to its most recent Student Success Scorecard. However, the state average of 46.8 percent still means more than half of students aren’t completing their education, and it’s not something to strive for. Skyline was approximately 10 percent above the state average in both transfer and completion rates in 2000 and has yet to regain its competitive edge.

Talansky’s initiatives to increase accessibility to students by offering transportation, expanded online courses and more continuing education are all necessary to make the schools available to as many people in the community as possible. Not doing so would be a disservice to the taxpayers who voted for last year’s bond measure to fund the district. We hope that this focus, in conjunction with his initiatives to create more targeted degrees and foster creative programs through things like his Innovation Center Initiative and plans for faculty housing, will help Skyline and its sister schools stick out from the pack of struggling community colleges statewide.

One of Talansky’s action items is to create a shuttle service to and from campuses in the district, an idea that is long overdue. Public transportation has proven to be an ongoing struggle at Skyline, and the more remote campuses of Cañada and College of San Mateo face an even bigger challenge. As it stands now, students who don’t drive are lucky to even make it to their home campus, facing crowded buses and intermittent schedules. The three schools in the district all have strong programs and much to offer, and it’s a waste that students who don’t drive are faced with such accessibility challenges.

Action items listed on alantalansky.org as goals in working with other members of the board include partnerships with corporations and industries in need of workers. This includes a plan to work with corporate executives to create and possibly teach coursework directed at honing skills needed in their companies. This plan could streamline the process for students who want to prepare for a specific job as quickly as possible, and it could be a good way to ensure employment after graduating.

However, it could raise some concerns if not executed properly. We hope that this plan to partner with companies won’t be at the expense of good education or programs that are less lucrative but equally valuable. This is particularly important for those of us at The Skyline View. It’s our hope that Skyline students will always have the option for a well-rounded, quality education from experts in a range of fields with a range of backgrounds. We hope that new, tailored vocational programs will be an option, not the norm, and that programs like ours will continue to be supported. We also hope that the district won’t let transparency to the press fall by the wayside in these partnerships.

We hope that the board, regardless of who is elected, lives up to their “students first” mission.