Voter Guide: Seven run for community college board seats


Three seats are open on the governing board of the San Mateo County Community College District in the Nov. 3 election. Seven candidates are competing for the opportunity to oversee operations of the county's three public community colleges.

In the 2014-15 school year, the colleges -- Canada College in Woodside, Skyline College in San Bruno, and the College of San Mateo in San Mateo -- enrolled about 25,000 students, according to state Department of Education records. Almost three-quarters of the students were younger than 30; the same percentage were high-school graduates without a college degree.

Mark J. De Paula

Ramiro Maldonado

Dave Mandelkern

Alan Talansky

Anthony "Fel" Amistad

Maurice D. Goodman

Karen Schwarz
In the previous year, about 64 percent had income levels that qualified to have their fees waived.

White and Asian students each made up one quarter of the district's student population, and about a third were Hispanic, state data shows. About one third were the first generation in their families to go to college, and about 70 percent completed their 2014-15 coursework with grades of C or better.

A five-member board governs the higher education of these students, including the physical and intellectual environments where that education takes place.

In ballot order, the candidates are Mark J. De Paula, a retired businessman; Ramiro Maldonado, a nonprofit director; incumbent Dave Mandelkern, a philanthropist and entrepreneur; Alan Talansky, a business executive; Anthony "Fel" Amistad, a professor at a for-profit college; Maurice D. Goodman, a nonprofit director; and incumbent Karen Schwarz, a retired businesswoman.

What are the issues, as the candidates see them?

Access, finances, focus

Several candidates noted the difficulty many students have in getting to the college campuses, and said alternatives must be considered. All three colleges are located atop the foothills that form the spine of the Peninsula. Getting there is easy enough with a car, but maybe not so easy if the student's car is unreliable or a gas guzzler, or if the student has no car.

Bus routes connect to the campuses from downtown locations in Redwood City, Daly City and San Mateo. But what about residents in East Palo Alto, Belle Haven in Menlo Park, San Bruno, San Carlos, Pacifica or Half Moon Bay? Getting to those transit stations can mean a bus transfer, and a significantly longer trip.

Traveling by bicycle is physically demanding, including hill climbs to each campus of at least 600 vertical feet.

As for finances, several candidates said they would keep a close watch on them. The 2008-09 recession is over and the deep cuts to the college district's operating budget are now a memory. With property tax revenues up, a few years ago the district advanced to "community-funded" status: property tax revenues are high enough for the district to no longer rely on supplemental aid from the state to reach the minimum per-student funding levels and the district can keep tax revenues that exceed that minimum.

The voters in November 2014 approved a $388 million bond measure for capital improvements. Several candidates said they considered a focus on capital improvements as secondary to the other needs of students.

Candidates also noted the importance of improving student achievement.


Mark J. De Paula

Both San Francisco and Santa Clara counties have schools in the California State University system. San Mateo County should convert one of its community colleges into a CSU, Mr. De Paula said. And funds used to provide district employees with subsidized housing would be better spent on financial aid for students, he said. "I'm sorry that it's an expensive county to live in," he said. "Let the market decide. We're not a socialistic country."

● Experience: He retired from Akzo-Nobel Corp. in the chemical coatings division after working in telecommunications for Nortel Networks on PBX systems.

● Education: He has attended all three San Mateo County community colleges and has more than 100 units of credit.

● Profession: Certified building inspector.

● Age: 60.

● Family: Married with two sons, one of whom attends the College of San Mateo


Ramiro Maldonado

Alternative transportation to campus is key for Mr. Maldonado, who said he has an 18-year-old son who takes the bus. The daily trip can take more than an hour one way; on weekends, the bus runs are four hours apart. He would advocate for more routes, specifically for residents who take two buses.

He defines fiscal stewardship as a focus on students. Board members big on capital improvements new buildings and "purchasing plots of land and things like that" have it wrong, he said.

● Experience: 10 years in nonprofit fundraising, marketing, and public policy. Positions on nonprofit boards in San Francisco and San Mateo counties.

● Education: Bachelor's degree in political science from St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas; master's degree in public administration from the University of Texas Pan American.

● Profession: Director of development for a nonprofit.

● Age: 35

● Family: One daughter and one son


Dave Mandelkern

In his third term on the board, Mr. Mandelkern said he was "still passionate about the challenges facing our students and our District and still have goals that I want to accomplish."

His ideas include transit shuttles to cover the "last mile" problem in getting to the campuses, and more partnerships with high school districts.

A lack of data is inhibiting personalized education plans for all students, he said. Closing that gap would inform the board more precisely on students outcomes.

● Experience: Three terms on the college district board. High-tech entrepreneur who created two publicly held software companies. Nonprofit leadership.

● Education: Bachelor's degree, with distinction, and master's degree, both in electrical engineering from Stanford University.

● Profession: Educator, philanthropist, entrepreneur

● Age: 56

● Family: Married, no children


Alan Talansky

Transportation to college is a problem for regional traffic-congestion agencies, Mr. Talansky said. He is an advocate for free shuttles from transportation hubs, emphasis on car-pooling and dedicated parking for shared-car services.

He chairs the citizen's committee that oversees the district's capital expenditures, and said that costs have gone "well above" estimates. With no appreciable increase in costs for materials, labor or project management, "We need to seriously ask why," he said. "We must get more competitive bids."

● Experience: Adviser on real estate development and financing; planner for large-scale projects, including reuse of a military base and urban-infill redevelopment.

● Education: Attended Ohio Wesleyan University.

● Profession: Real estate development executive.

● Age: 70.

● Family: A son who placed 11th in the 2015 Tour de France.


Anthony "Fel" Amistad

Students without their own transportation should not be experiencing major problems getting to and from campus, Mr. Amistad said. Shuttle buses are a solution and would include environmental benefits on congestion and air pollution problems, he said.

Capital improvements are less important than having high-demand courses online to increase student access, he said. "The need to expand the campuses will have to be reviewed," he said. "Costs are out of line."

● Experience: Professor of business administration at International Technological University in San Jose; part-time online professor at California Pacific University in Pinole.

● Education: Bachelor's degree in human biology from Stanford University, master's degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix, and juris doctorate from California Southern University.

● Profession: College professor.

● Age: 55.

● Family: One daughter studying dentistry.


Maurice D. Goodman

Mr. Goodman said he is familiar with governing with fiscal prudence -- as a board member of the South San Francisco Unified School District during tough economic times.

"We were able to work with labor to tighten our belts by making cuts across the board, and even two volunteer furlough days," he said. As a district graduate with children now attending, he said he sees himself as representing continuity of experience and leadership. "I believe I would need little to no learning curve. I would be ready to serve and on day 1," he said.

● Experience: Consistently deep involvement in education as former president of many education-oriented panels, including the South San Francisco Unified School District Board and student associations. Former chief executive of a "small clothing company."

● Education: Associate's degrees in administration of justice and paralegal studies from Skyline College; bachelor's degree in criminal justice from California State University, East Bay.

● Profession: Substitute teacher and youth development.

● Age: 42.

● Family: Married with seven children, including two at Skyline College.


Karen Schwarz

The challenge to the college district's currently healthy fiscal situation, Ms. Schwarz said, is figuring out how to best disburse the funds. "I think we're doing a fine job," she said.

The board is now working on a strategic plan that includes an initiative to reach a broader swath of the community with a greater selection of enrichment courses, she said.

● Experience: Five terms on college district board, former president of San Mateo County Board of Education, leadership on PTA for South San Francisco Unified School District.

● Education: Graduate of Northwestern School of Commerce in Portland, Oregon.

● Profession: Retired owner of a painting contracting business.

● Age: Not provided.

● Family: Married with two children, a daughter in special-education administration and a son who is an attorney.

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2 people like this
Posted by Anthony Fel Amistad
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 14, 2015 at 10:43 am

Dear Almanac Editor:

I am submitting a required correction to my biographical information published online today regarding the 7 candidates for the San Mateo County Community College District. I am Anthony "Fel" Amistad and the error is my college for the Juris Doctorate Degree. It was conferred in 2002 from CALIFORNIA SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY. In addition I was conferred a PhD Honoraria Causa (Honorary) from California Pacific University for Community Service and Humanitarian Work in 2013. I am also receiving a Doctorate Philosophy from California Pacific University Fall 2015.
Many thanks for this correction request. Readers will appreciate this clarification.

Candidate SMCCCD

Like this comment
Posted by Tom Devine
a resident of another community
on Nov 1, 2015 at 12:00 pm

Thank you for this excellent article about the candidates and issues in this election. I have found it very helpful in researching my decision.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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