Eric Kaljumagi for Citrus College Board of Trustees
Eric Kaljumagi is running for the Citrus College Board of Trustees on the ballot as Measure Y this election season. It’s part of a special COURIER Q&A with each one of the three candidates.
The Citrus Community College Board of Trustees may not be as well known as the other local races, city council and school board. What would you like voters to know about the board and why it is important to Claremont?
Mr. Kaljumagi: Claremont voted in the 1960s to be included in Citrus College’s service area. That means that we’re partially supporting the college with our property taxes, and second, that we have a voice in how the college is run through the Board of Trustees.
Citrus College is governed by a board of elected members where each board member comes from a defined geographic area. Claremont, along with portions of Pomona and La Verne, forms trustee area 2.
Citrus College, like the other community colleges in the region, offers training programs and degrees, but the other California Community Colleges don’t officially serve Claremont. That means that they will generally not offer courses within our city, meet with our high school students, or consider the needs of Claremont’s businesses. Citrus does do those things.
What is your position on Measure Y and what would you say to voters to support your position?
Mr. Kaljumagi: I support Measure Y. In the last fourteen years only one (Prop. 51 in 2016) has passed. Proposition 51 will probably fund 100 or so new buildings and significant remodels somewhere in California, but there are 116 colleges in the system. At best Citrus will be given money for one building from this fund.
Therefore, public K-14 schools look to their community for facilities projects. Measure Y will allow Citrus College to build needed facilities. The Citrus College Facilities Master Plan calls for a new Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) building, a Career and Technical Education (CTE) building, and a modern library/learning resources center. Measure Y will also allow for more mundane repairs such as repairing roofs and improving electrical service.
The last bond passed to support Citrus College was in 2004. While that bond did a lot of good, Citrus cannot improve or modernize its facilities any further without a new bond.
Please share what will be your number one priority should you be elected to the Citrus College board.
Mr. Kaljumagi: There are a number of items that all have to be given high priority, so my “number one priority” as a board member is to ensure that the shared governance structure at Citrus College remains strong. Community colleges are designed so that interested community members, students, staff, and faculty all have a representative voice in college matters. If this structure is in place, those who guide the college’s plans will work with those who will implement the plans and those who will be affected by the plans. The Citrus College Board of Trustees is only one part of this structure.
High priority items for 2021 include the following:
Pathways – In recent years community colleges have been encouraged through legislation to create connections both from high school to community college and also from community college to four year schools. Citrus College is building these pathways, but much work remains to be done.
Social Injustice – Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are dominant social issues in California. The State Chancellor’s Office’s Vision for Success Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force has generated nearly 70 recommendations for local colleges to adopt. In addition, Citrus College has its own task force on these issues.
Safety – We need to plan for responsible safety, including the emergency supplies classrooms and offices need during a lengthy lockdown event.
Facilities – Should Measure Y pass, Citrus will need to move rapidly so that drawings are finalized and construction completed in a cost-effective manner.
Finance – California has deferred $1.5 billion from the 2020-21 educational budget. That’s $16.7 million due to Citrus between February and June 2021 that will not be arriving until later, if at all. If the California State Budget is weak next year, we are going to have to plan how to allocate reduced resources.
Moving public colleges to online instruction has been challenging for teachers, students and families. Is there anything positive or have we learned anything new from the process?
Mr. Kaljumagi: There are many teachers at Citrus who have been teaching online courses for years. However, the majority of teachers and students were suddenly thrust into online education this past spring with few options and little time to plan. It’s been a lot of change in a little time.
So far, we’ve learned that nearly everything can be taught online, but some topics work far better than others. We’ve also learned that both teaching and learning styles differ when online. Quite a few previously successful teachers and students have found the nature of online work to be a challenge.
Most important, we’ve learned that we can pivot an entire college in an emergency. I’m proud of the work done by employees of Citrus College to maintain instruction, and I congratulate the students for staying with us. I suspect that there will be more online courses in 2022 than there were in 2019, at least in most disciplines.
What unique skills will you bring to the board and why did you decide to run?
Mr. Kaljumagi: I am a community college math teacher, who nearly 20 years ago joined my first committee and started to understand the shared governance approach used by colleges and the roles faculty, classified staff, students, community members, and managers play to create an inclusive, student-centered college.
As part of this work I have served on many college committees that directly relate to the work of the Board of Trustees, including accreditation, budget, curriculum, facilities, and student preparation and success. I’ve reviewed planning documents and wordsmithed board policies that would later head to the Board of Trustees for approval.
I’ve served as my college’s Academic Senate president for two terms and as a union president for two terms as well.
In short, I’m the only candidate who has ever worked at a community college and the only one who has deep experience with collegial shared governance processes, including work on the sorts of policies and plans that go before a college Board of Trustees. I’m the only candidate who has talked to thousands of college students, and I’m the only candidate who raised a recent CHS graduate now at Citrus College.
My focus the last decade has been community college leadership and advocacy. When my daughter Amber decided to attend Citrus at about the same time that the board position became available, it occurred to me that my skill-set and position in life as a father, teacher, and advocate would make me an excellent board member. I am excited about this opportunity to serve Claremont.