Claremonter joins college trustee board

Since 1999, Claremonter Sue Keith has been a member of the Citrus Community College Board of Trustees, working to represent students of the Glendora community college. With her election this last May to the California Community College Trustees Board of Directors, she is taking that advocacy statewide.

The organization’s aim is to “promote student access and success by strengthening colleges through leadership development, advocacy, policy development and district services. Ms. Keith, who just returned from her first CCCT meeting in Sacramento, took a moment to explain various aspects of this mission.

With regards to leadership development, she said, it’s about trustees and administrators of the state’s community colleges looking at their respective employees and ensuring that they are supporting optimum growth.

There are many openings across California for chancellors, superintendents, presidents, vice presidents and deans, Ms. Keith notes. If California community colleges offer educational opportunities to their middle and upper level management, they have a greater chance of filling their administrative vacancies with one of their own employees, or finding a suitable applicant from another Golden State community college.

While there are many fine administrators across the country, Ms. Keith allowed, she notes that each time someone is brought in from another state they must adapt to the unique rules and academic climate of California.

The CCCT’s emphasis on advocacy—working with legislature to support or oppose bills that would impact community colleges—is especially important to Ms. Keith because it facilitates her personal mission when it comes to community colleges: working to safeguard student access.

Student access was threatened in a very real way in recent years, when the recession spurred wide-scale cuts at Citrus College and community colleges across the state. Community colleges can’t turn students away but that is effectively what happened when, with dozens of sections cut, students began to find it impossible to get classes.

Trustees, administrators and faculty of a college cannot use the school’s resources to campaign for a proposition. Ms. Keith thus used her own time and resources to advocate for Proposition 30. The passage of the ballot initiative, nonetheless, has underscored the impact of political advocacy in the educational realm. With new tax money earmarked for community colleges, Citrus’ schedule this fall will inclue 179 classes that had been cut and are now restored.

“I call it a Godsend,” Ms. Keith says of Prop 30. “179 classes—that’s a lot of opportunities.”

Ms. Keith has a background at the K-12 level as well as at the community college level. She was on the Claremont Unified School District’s Board of Education for 12 years as well as serving as president of the Baldy View ROP Commission.

This experience has shown her the importance of a pet cause: collaboration between K-12 schools and community colleges. There are countless ways the 2 systems can work together to foster a smoother transition between the various levels of schooling.

One example of this cooperation is early college, which is designed for middle-achieving students who have the potential, though they  may not know it, to go to college. These students can begin taking courses at their local community college in junior year, making it possible for them to graduate from high school with a year of college under their belts.

Another area of collaboration is for community colleges to work with K-12 schools to align their curriculum, particularly in core areas such as math and English.

“That way, when a student arrives at community college, you have covered what you need to take in a college-level course, “ Ms. Keith explained.

After a lifetime of educational advocacy, Ms. Keith can get behind the CCCT’s focus: “Our whole strategy is based on student success.”

—Sarah Torribio



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