Governing Board Vice President Humberto Peraza was appointed last August during a time of turmoil and controversy. He said he decided to run for election to the board to continue his work to reform SWC and clean up the college’s reputation following the “pay for play” scandal that led to numerous felony charges against former college administrators and board members. He is a small business owner, and formerly policy director for San Diego City Council President Ben Hueso, regional director for Senator Barbara Boxer and district chief of staff to Congressman Bob Filner.
Married with two young boys, Peraza said he has coached soccer, football and Little League baseball. His wife is also a professional.
“We are a family that is constantly on the move,” he said. “That is a full-time job in itself. My parents, my aunts and my wife’s parents all live here so our family is a South Bay family. This is our home and I want to make sure that the education is good for our kids.”
Peraza said he brings experience and knowledge of the community to the college and this has fueled his efforts to reform old policies and demand transparency.
“Ultimately, I want to do something that leaves something for our children,” he said. “I am running so that the board stays on the right track. It has pushed in the right direction and hired a new superintendent. We have done more things in one year than most boards and governmental entities have done in three or four. You have instructional, ethics and campaign reform. We started the community benefits agreement. Countless things in between are happening and have been accomplished.”
Peraza said community members still have concerns about accreditation, Proposition R and past corruption. He said the current board majority is reforming the college and that “house cleaning” continues. “(The previous) board has been completely wiped out,” he said. “There is a new superintendent in town and she wiped out the (corrupt) staff. We continue to push and create reforms.”
Peraza said it takes people of courage to stand in the face of adversity.
“I have enjoyed working with this board and the superintendent to continue changes,” he said. “It has been my honor and I would consider myself lucky if I can continue to do it for four more years. We are still in the tunnel but we can see the light at the end. Perception is important. Doing the right thing, being a transparent, open government creates trust on campus in the community. I am running to continue to make those reforms, see that finished and see Southwestern College become the shining example for the rest of the region.”
Peraza said budget is the biggest challenge today and if Proposition 30 fails SWC faces “devastating” cuts to classes and programs.
“My hope is if that Prop 30 passes, that gives us a little more flexibility to stay within the budget, to be able to handle the services for the people and the students that we service right now,” he said. “That is important to make sure that we can actually educate people and that we have the faculty, staff, teachers and counselors. I don’t think anyone can come up with a sweeping solution and if they say they can, they are lying to you. If someone has a solution for a $10 million budget cut, I would love to hear it. I think that our solutions have to be looked at long term.”
Peraza said he has advocated for revenue generation as an alternative to constant cutting. He said the stadium is an example of an underutilized college resource and could generate revenue hosting local and international professional soccer, rugby and concerts.
“I have heard from experienced educators that up to 25 community colleges will close and cease to exist if the tax initiative does not pass and that is a very scary thought,” he said. “Things (in California are) getting worse and worse.”
Peraza said Senate Bill 1456, based on the Student Success Task Force Recommendations, has good ideas but is also troubling. Passed last month, the legislation narrows the mission of community colleges to transfer and certificate attainment. It will require all incoming freshmen to declare majors and have an educational plan aimed to get them through community college in two years instead of the current average of four.
“The whole thing about having people coming in and deciding what their major is going to be and turning it into almost like a factory, you are in and out in two years, not everybody works that way,” he said. “There are many students that do not know what they want and they come to community college for exactly that reason.”
Working students have it much tougher these days, Peraza said, and cannot take as many classes as the new legislation will require.
“Some will be left out in the cold and that is my biggest concern,” he said. “Not everybody is the same. It cannot be this cookie cutter ideal that everybody fits into this one box. It doesn’t work that way.”
Speech and press freedom are essential, Peraza said. He pledged to always fight for First Amendment rights for all while he is on the board.
“Student reporters (in colleges have) freedom of the press,” he said. “To me, the free press is untouchable. It should not be impacted in any way or influenced by anyone on this campus, including myself, and the administration. There should never be a time, like the (past) administration that tried to block printing of the newspaper just because they do not like what you write.”
Peraza said he is working to introduce a local hiring process that helps veteran and disabled-owned companies.
“One of the reasons is to ensure that local people get (college construction) jobs,” he said. “People that are paying for those bonds should be the ones (who benefit). If we can do that we can revitalize our local economy rather than money going somewhere else.”
Peraza said he is able to make tough decisions.
“We need the people with the most courage,” he said. “I am not worried about where else I am going to go, or where I am going to be. I am here to make sure that students get educated when there are cuts. What is the most important thing on this campus? Educating students, period.”