Los Rios Community College District, like all community college districts, suffered during the 2008 economic crash.
Budget cuts led to reductions in course offerings and programs at Sacramento City, American River, Folsom Lake and Cosumnes River colleges. Thousands of students were unable to get the courses they needed to transfer to four-year colleges, and thousands of them fled for private, nonprofit colleges that cost substantially more than the publicly funded community colleges.
Six years on, Los Rios still is recovering from the effects of the Great Recession, restoring courses and growing enrollment while adapting to the ever-changing demands of education, the workforce and technology.
On Nov. 4, three of the seven seats on the district’s governing board are up for grabs. In two, the incumbents – Robert G. Jones in area 2 and Deborah Ortiz area 6 – are running for re-election, and deserve it. They have been solid leaders of this well-run community college district, the second-largest in the state.
In the third race, four men are competing to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Trustee Terry Cochran in February. The winner will serve the remaining two years of Cochran’s term representing area 3.
In that race we recommend Leroy John Tripette, an executive at Intel who would add valuable real-life experience as the district continues to develop ways to prepare students for jobs in the technology sector. His background lends him authority when he says the district must do a better job of providing remedial math classes.
Tripette has spent the better part of two decades at Intel, starting as a software engineer and then moving into corporate affairs, a job that involved building relationships with the community. Six months ago he took on a new position within Intel as the worldwide director of the Computer Clubhouse Program, which works with nonprofits to create digital innovation centers in underserved communities around the world. His work in the private sector dovetails nicely with this position in the public sector.
Tripette is running against Marc Allaman, a high school teacher, and Brad Trimble, a school improvement coach for the University of California Office of the President. A fourth candidate, John R. Knight, appears to have stopped his campaign, if he ever had one.
As for the two incumbents, Ortiz likely will cruise to victory for her second term on the board. And she should. The former legislator and Sacramento City Council member is experienced, intelligent and thoughtful. On the board, she has been a champion for the most vulnerable students. Her challenger, John D. Taylor, an adult education teacher at Folsom Cordova Unified School District, will have a tough time persuading voters to dump her since he didn’t submit a candidate statement in the county ballot.
Like Ortiz, Jones, a retired administrator at California State University, Sacramento, is a solid board member who has a deep understanding of public higher education. His opponents include Timothy Loree, the former Los Rios trustee who lost re-election in 2006 to Jones and wants his old job back. The other is Jayna Karpinski-Costa, a veterinarian and former Citrus Heights City Council member who resigned from that job in 2012, six months before her term expired. She is married to Ted Costa of People’s Advocate, who has gained notoriety as an initiative promoter and for helping launch the effort that led to the recall of Gov. Gray Davis.
We worry that Karpinski-Costa, who has shown little interest in education as part of her years of community activism and volunteerism, sees this as a launching pad for higher office and would politicize the job.
The Los Rios Community College District has been well run. Its campuses are important engines for Sacramento’s economy. The system requires professional, intelligent and thoughtful leadership to help navigate through the next few years. Tripette, Ortiz and Jones will provide that stewardship.