Letter to the Editor
I thank you for the opportunity to respond to the unsigned editorial for The Sun’s Summer Edition 2016.
I find three main themes that attempt to paint a picture of secrecy and an adversarial attitude toward
student journalists from my administration. These perceptions are false.
The first theme of an “adversarial attitude” toward student journalists is not based in fact. In the four
and a half years I have served as Superintendent/President, I have been open and accessible for each
student interview requested of me. I have been honored consistently in the past with an A rating for
accessibility to student journalists by your editorial board. Additionally, the editorial board in Issue 4 this
year gave 14 of my administrators an A for their consistency in showing a “willingness to talk to the
press, respond to emails and do not make gathering information a chore.” Interestingly, the editorial
board gave me a B this year, although I have had numerous interviews with Sun reporters this year and
my open door policy has not changed.
Regarding the release of documents under the California Public Records Act: I have never, nor has this
Governing Board ever, shied away from being open and transparent with media. One of my first orders
of business upon my arrival was working with the Governing Board to hold a press conference and a
series of reports and media releases to explain how we were placing Proposition R projects on hold to
get the College’s financial house in order. Hundreds of California Public Records requests from media
throughout the region were answered in a manner that addressed media requests while still preserving
the College’s core mission of education. For my efforts demonstrating a commendable understanding of
the need for candor regardless of any potential negative outcomes in the media, the Public Relations
Society of America, San Diego/Imperial County chaptered named me the Diogenes Award winner in
The editorial’s allegation that it took a letter from a national First Amendment organization to take
action on the nine Public Records requests made by The Sun in April is also untrue. The student
journalist received a response within the 10 days required by the California Public Records Act.
Additionally, because of the sheer volume of records requested (more than 32,000 emails) your reporter
was informed that responses would be provided on a rolling basis as they became available, and that
has happened. We have been so committed to fulfilling these requests, we hired a consultant to
complete the requests as quickly as possible.
The second theme of a “culture of secrecy” is not based in fact. There have never been more
opportunities for stakeholders throughout the district—both internal and external—to be involved in
College decisions. More faculty, students and staff than ever are involved in shared governance through
standing committees of the Shared Consultation Council (SCC). Each of the nine standing committees
meets monthly, with eight of the committees meeting at least twice a month. Each of the SCC meetings
is open to the public, and the SCC meetings have been safe places for employees to bring forward
suggestions and challenges. Throughout my tenure as co-chair of the SCC with the Academic Senate
President, we have seen the SCC leadership grow in inclusivity and transparency.
The awareness of Southwestern College’s positive impact in the community has also grown over the last
four and a half years. I and Trustee Norma Hernandez are members of the South County Economic
Development Council, and several administrators are members of chambers of commerce throughout
the South Bay. We have strengthened the membership of our Southwestern College Foundation and the
Proposition R Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee. Participation in each of these organizations has
allowed our College to inform key communicators throughout the region of the academic achievement
of our students and the status of their financial investment in the College through Proposition R.
Coupled with ongoing presentations made to community groups and service organizations, and well-
attended community forums on campus, awareness of our excellent educational opportunities
continues to grow. Two independent polls conducted this academic year—one of SUHSD parents and
the other of community members—give high marks to Southwestern College for its value. We are
thankful for the community’s continued support of the College and our students. That widespread
enthusiasm for Southwestern College demonstrates openness—not secrecy.
Regarding perceived secrecy of investigations: matters surrounding investigations of any Southwestern
College employee or student will continue to remain confidential. All our employees and students have
a right to privacy regarding personnel or disciplinary actions, and the College must continue to honor
The third theme of a “cover up culture” is not based in fact. A final point in the editorial “With that
much money on the table, there is little standing in the way to prevent more fraud” is inflammatory and
maligns the efforts of the entire College. Since the College conducted the Proposition R Focused Special
Review in 2012, we have received clean financial and performance audits every year. We have
implemented all 20 of the action steps recommended by the Focused Special Review. The final updates
to all of the policies in the 6000 category (Business and Financial Affairs) are making their way through
our review process and will be finalized before November of this year. We refinanced our Proposition R
bonds in 2015 for a savings to taxpayers of $3.69 million. We expect to refinance the bonds again this
year for a potential savings of $13 million to taxpayers. We have achieved AA bond credit ratings from
Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s. We present Proposition R updates at each of our monthly open, public
Governing Board meetings, and we’ve provided ongoing updates regarding Proposition R and the
potential for a new bond at our Planning and Budget Committees, Shared Consultation Council and
Institutional Facilities Committee. Our Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee is very involved in the
Proposition R program. To imply that I or my team have not been open and inclusive about our current
bond is irresponsible and harms the College and its employees and students.
The facts demonstrate that Southwestern College, this administration, and this Governing Board have
restored integrity to the Proposition R bond program and we will continue to do so. I am proud of the
great strides we have made in improving our college culture to be far more transparent and inclusive of
our community as a whole. And, we have steadfastly supported the Sun and the student journalists who
are learning how to present a fair and balanced source of information for our college community. My
thanks to the editorial board for sharing my viewpoint with you.