Joe Salas for Citrus College Board of Trustees
Joe Salas is running for the Citrus College Board of Trustees on the ballot 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?
Joe Salas: The community college is the center of a thriving economy. It is the most effective institution for breaking the cycle of poverty for individuals and families. It is the most cost-effective institution of higher education to deliver a high-quality education for the least cost to college students and the taxpayers of California. Less student debt means workers can enter the economy sooner and the possibility of owning a home increases due to students not being saddled with student loan debt.
What is your position on Measure Y and what would you say to voters to support your position?
Joe Salas: I fully support the passing of Measure Y. The $298 million bond would help Citrus College serve its current students and countless future generations of learners. Claremont believes in the power of education. As CEF reminded Claremont, education gives us superpowers. Our students are worth the investment. Our local economy is worth it. Passing Measure Y is the best way to ensure a well-trained regional workforce. The passing of Measure Y means that the local work force will be the first to be hired. It means creating jobs for you and your family members when construction on buildings begins and classroom renovation start.
Please share what will be your number one priority should you be elected to the Citrus College board.
Joe Salas: An effective trustee will do a lot of intentional and active listening with the students, staff, and faculty of Citrus College. Helping students to actualize their potential is my number one priority. To help students accomplish this, a trustee will have to work with the entire Citrus College family to enact and support unique student services for different populations. I am advocating for building on-campus housing for students who are experiencing homelessness. I want the trades to return to higher education. We need to have a college of ethnic and women’s studies at Citrus College. We need to build cultural centers at Citrus College. We need a dual enrollment program with Claremont Unified that will allow students to graduate with a diploma and Associate degree. Claremont needs to follow the model at Monrovia High School. They have the most robust dual enrollment program in the Citrus College district. The dual enrollment program helped start a plumbing, electrician, or carpentry program at San Antonio High School.
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?
Joe Salas: According to Dr. Arvid Spor, vice president of student services and academic affairs at Citrus College, of the 18,871 students in the 2019-2020 academic year. 54 percent (10,105) of the students met the state threshold for being considered low-income. 55 percent of students who are classified as low income have some type of internet access in California. These are not positive signs. The Citrus College Foundation gave students devices to help soften the blow of the digital divide. However, the private funding is limited. Citrus College may have to reach into the general fund to help students with online accessibility to classes. This pandemic exacerbates an already large digital divide that hurts low income students and communities of color the most.
What unique skills will you bring to the board and why did you decide to run?
Joe Salas: I have all the positive attributes of every candidate in the race. I am a community volunteer. I have almost two decades of experience being involved in philanthropic groups in and around Claremont. I know how to work with diverse groups of people. I volunteered with the Claremont Interfaith Working Group for Middle East Peace as a board member. I was a member of the Claremont Community Foundation. I am an active member of the Claremont Sunrise Rotary. I volunteered for the Claremont Homeless Advocacy Program. I have experience as a union leader. I served on San Bernardino High School Site Council. I was a member of the District Advisory Committee for Special Education in San Bernardino City Unified. Finally, I am the only candidate who has served as a commissioner recommending public policy to elected leaders. I served as a Traffic and Transportation commissioner for the City of Claremont for seven years and serve as a member and vice chair of the Emergency Medical Services Commission for the County of Los Angeles. I know how to work under pressure. I am an ocean lifeguard/EMT for the City of Los Angeles. Working as a lifeguard trained me to be calm, cool, and deliberate with my actions. Yet it has taught to me to react quickly when there is an emergency situation. Higher education is in an emergency—2,000 students from Citrus College have dropped out. I recognize that the current way of doing business in not suited to the help these students to return and be successful in college. Also, I am a teacher who works in an underserved community. We need a trustee who understands the daily struggles of these students. I am that candidate.